Best Practices for Managing a Flexible Workplace
The workplace in the U.S. is changing as the workforce ages and innovation affects how nearly every job is done. Businesses that can adapt to these changes are better able to attract and retain top talent, while businesses that cannot keep up fall behind their competitors. Therefore, managing a flexible workplace is imperative to creating and maintaining a successful business. There is no playbook for business managers to create a flexible workplace. In fact, experts suggest that the most flexible workplaces tailor their programs to the specific needs of their staff.1 However, a flexible workplace must be executed deliberately and strategically. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when managing a flexible workplace:
While allowing unlimited vacation time may seem risky, it is actually an effective technique to create and manage a flexible workplace. This tactic works best in companies that are founded on mutual respect and trust between the workforce and management. This ensures that the policy will not be abused and staff will make decisions in the best interest of the organization.2 Also, all employees are aware that taking advantage of this policy—often resulting in decreased productivity—will likely lead to termination. A flexible workplace must operate on trust, and offering unlimited vacation allows management to show staff the necessary trust is there.
Results Only Work Environment
A results only work environment, or ROWE, was developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson in their 2008 book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It. When implementing ROWE, staff are measured by their performance, results, or output, not by physically being in the office or how many hours they work. It is similar to hiring a freelancer in that business managers are not concerned with the amount of time a project took, but only with the end result.3 In order to operate ROWE effectively, management must create clear and measurable goals that include specific metrics and expected outcomes. In a flexible workplace, employees are evaluated on how they are meeting those goals, which means they must be well-defined to be effective.
Allowing staff and management to work remotely is a great way to create a flexible workplace. Studies show that remote work improves employee satisfaction, reduces turnover, and increases productivity, among other benefits.4 To effectively manage a remote workforce, experts from the best business schools suggest:5
- Getting to know remote workers on a personal level.
- Establishing a set schedule for communication between remote workers and the rest of the team.
- Using video technology to spark spontaneous interactions among the team.
Remote work can make business managers nervous as they are not able to reassure themselves their staff is working by seeing it occur in person. However, with proper management, remote work can create benefits for staff and the business alike.
Time Agnostic Work
Flexible workplaces are also beginning to implement time agnostic work in which they set hours (e.g. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) or allow a flexible start time (e.g. 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.) and end time (e.g. 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.). In order to manage this flexibility, management must again set clear expectations for when staff are required to be working and how many hours they are required to work daily.6 It is also a best practice when providing this level of flexibility to provide the appropriate technology to allow employees flexibility to work outside of the office.
Workplaces are changing rapidly, and it is important that business managers are developing the skills necessary to create flexible workplaces where employees can thrive. Earning a Master of Business Administration online can give you the skills to create and implement flexible workplaces that attract and retain top talent. An MBA program from an accredited online university can even let you choose your learning experience based on your specific learning style. Traditional course-based programs are available, or you can earn your degree according to your unique schedule by combining learning from faculty, your real-life experience, and prior knowledge. Either way, you can earn you Master of Business Administration in a way that works best for you.
Business managers are always struggling to recruit and retain top talent. Offering a flexible workplace is one of the best ways to do that. While it does create some unique challenges, managing a flexible workplace is possible and can create benefits for both the business and the employees.
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