U.S. employees today are busier than ever – working longer hours and taking less vacation time. In addition, they’re feeling increasing pressures outside of the office – managing their families’ busy schedules, staying active in the community, and keeping up with personal wellness and wellbeing.
That’s why many workplace experts have encouraged a shift from work-life balance to work-life integration. Integration is founded on the premise that employees can work when and wherever they like (with reasonable policies and parameters around accessibility during core business hours), so long as they deliver on their responsibilities. Data shows employees are almost universally in favor: Businessolver’s 2017 Workplace Empathy Monitor reveals that 95 percent of employees want flexible work hours and the ability to work remotely. They believe those offerings are a way for employers to show empathy, which in turn drives retention and greater productivity.
But what about organizations with a non-office workforce – for example, those in manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, and retail – where employees need to be onsite to do their jobs and adhere to specific shifts, making it difficult to offer traditional workplace flexibility? I’ve read several compelling case studies about how organizations in these sectors are meeting the demand – for example, allowing employees to “bid” on shift times, offering a generous vacation policy, and even implementing technology to help employees find colleagues to cover shifts on short notice.
What I came to realize though, is there are a few core strategies that all employers – regardless of sector or workforce – can use to successfully implement workplace flexibility:
1. Commit to communication
Being flexible with employees can bring out their best work, but it can cause havoc if everyone is not aligned. As with any company policy, leaders and HR must clearly communicate to employees their organizations’ approach to flexibility and outline its limits. In return, employees must understand they’re expected to clearly communicate how they’re taking part in the policy. For example, employees should be held accountable for informing their teams in advance if they plan to work remotely, or if they’re switching shifts and who will be covering for them.
2. Lead by example
This is a point I cannot stress enough. Too often, employees get burned out because they’re afraid to take time off or leverage other employer-provided resources. That’s why it’s imperative for executives and managers to lead by example. If employees see senior leaders making time to take vacation, they’ll feel more comfortable doing the same. Employees need to know that the promise of flexibility isn’t just smoke and mirrors, but a legitimate initiative that’s encouraged among every employee across the organization.
3. Get feedback
Even in office environments, the option to work remotely or implement flexible hours isn’t always possible. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways you can meet employees’ needs – the key is to ask them. For example, if many employees are parents, offering onsite childcare could enable greater flexibility by eliminating the extra logistics usually involved with other care options. Or, if your workforce regularly travels, you could consider covering the cost of TSA Pre-Check Certification so employees have a less stressful experience when at the airport for work.
Engage your employees for their input on what matters most and what resources they need to reduce stress and better focus on the priorities in their lives – both professional and personal.
Follow our blog for more strategies and insights on cultivating a positive workplace, and download Businessolver’s 2017 Workplace Empathy Monitor.