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A New Take On A Flexible Work Environment

“Control leads to compliance, autonomy leads to engagement.”—Daniel H. Pink

Flexibility is becoming a sought-after attribute when people look for a new job. They want to be able to set their own hours, or at least have a degree of autonomy in their lives. The idea of rigid office hours is becoming a thing of the past as more people move to remote working either full-time or decide to spend a portion of their time working from home.

However, employees don’t only look for flexibility in working hours.

Knowing how to create a flexible work environment is one thing. But workplace flexibility can mean more than just flex time hours. It’s really about the autonomy a company gives its employees, allowing them to decide when they will do their work, and where.

This is a massive shift for business leaders. Therefore, when implementing these practices, proper execution is needed to facilitate flexibility that results in success.

What Defines A Flexible Work Environment?

There are many ways a business can implement a flexible work environment. The exact setup you establish depends on the work you do and your organizational culture. However, the definition of a flexible arrangement is one in which there are no set hours constraining the employee to the office, or even to a desk at home.

The idea is that each employee can adapt their work schedule to fit around their lives and any other demands on their time. With that said, it’s important to craft a flexible work policy around the requirements of your team.

Why Is A Flexible Working Environment Important?

The benefits of offering flexibility in an employee’s schedule are huge.

You’re giving an employee autonomy over how their work-life is run and showing them that you trust their judgement and work ethic. This can lead to better morale within the company and employees who have a far healthier work-life balance. The impact of flexible working hours on productivity is well documented and a definite benefit for both employees and employers.

In terms of your business, you may well find that you save money in the long run. Traditional office spaces, which are a major cost to the company, are no longer necessary. You could potentially downsize our premises or move to a more cost-effective location if staff are only coming in occasionally.

What Are The Four Types Of Flexible Work Plans?

Flexible workplace arrangements can take various shapes, including combinations of different methods. These are the top four:

1. Telecommuting And Remote Working

These two setups are very similar. However, telecommuting is usually used when the employees work off site and live close to the office. They’re able to attend in-person meetings when required, so they fall more under the hybrid workplace model.

Remote workers are usually based further afield and can even work from the other side of the world. For both, employees are usually given general times when they must be available online but left to get on with work in their own time.

2. Flexitime

Both on-site and off-site employees can work flex time. This is the practice of allowing employees to decide when their workday starts and ends, as well as when they take breaks and for how long. Employees have a certain number of hours that they need to work in a week or month, and they can choose when to complete them.

Some employers opt for a more formal flexitime schedule where they give employees a window in the morning where they must start their day. This can be between 7:30am and 9:00am, and each employee must then work the required eight-hour day, starting from the time they arrive in the office.

3. Part-Time

As the name suggests, this is a job where you work fewer hours than someone would with a full-time job.

The cut off for a job to be considered part-time is usually 30 hours a week.

Part-time employees can also enjoy flexitime, as well as the option to go remote or telecommute.

4. Shift Work

This option gives you a fair amount of autonomy and flexibility in that you can select the shifts you work. However, once a shift is set, you’re expected to work for the full length of time, and are generally unable to move those hours.

On the plus side, your working life is unlikely to be the same week to week and sometimes even day to day.

How Do You Create A Flexible Working Environment?

A flexible arrangement doesn’t just spring up overnight. You need to know how to create a flexible work environment and have the right tools and setup for your business.

Here are some steps for enabling autonomy in hybrid work:

Establish principles, not policies

Having a flexible workplace is about giving your employees a certain amount of autonomy, so you don’t want to dictate to them what they can and can’t do. However, you need to have some guidelines in place to ensure that work gets done correctly and on time.

While a flexible work arrangements policy is an option, “policies” already seem to remove the idea of autonomy somewhat. Even the best flexible working policies can seem dictatorial and have the opposite effect of making your employees feel trusted.

Additionally, studies show that working remotely has an impact on sleep and other elements of people’s lives, which means a rigid policy isn't always the best option. Workplace principles are a far better idea. They will guide your employees towards making smart decisions around the work that they’re doing while giving them a greater measure of freedom.

Invest in competence and connection

The team you surround yourself with is also incredibly important. You need employees who you can trust to get the job done when they aren’t supervised in the office all the time. This comes down to hiring the right people and giving them the right training.

At the same time, it’s important to ensure that there is a strong connection within your team.

Employees need to collaborate and work well together, even if there is a big distance between them. Leading teams isn’t always easy, and you need strong leadership to retain a solid connection and maintain a collaborative workplace culture. Again, proper hiring, training, and collaboration tools are essential.

Provide the tools to work autonomously, anywhere

Speaking of the right tools, this is vital to ensuring that your employees are working well regardless of when they are working and where. This means you need to provide them with devices that are up to the jobs they do, as well as the right software and technology to properly collaborate with each other on projects.

A cloud-based system for sharing information and working on projects is essential if employees are going to be working at different times and in different locations to each other.

How To Get Started: Implementing Flexible Work Practices

How do you transform your working model from not just flexible but fully autonomous? The answer is simple.

Planning.

Once you know how to create a flexible work environment and what type of work plan you’ll follow, you can set the wheels in motion. The benefits of flexible work will soon become evident as your employees recognize the empowerment and autonomy you’ve given them. This will boost productivity, morale and engagement—all of which drive success.

The bottom line is that a flexible work culture can change your business for the better.

Written by: Kelly Lowe