Staying Flexible: Letting Workers Stretch Out Can Help Business Grow Stronger

By Kate Pavao - Originally posted on Profit

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Today’s executives and managers are operating in a world of increasingly flexible work models. How do you schedule a meeting—or measure productivity—when working with a virtual team across several time zones? How do you share files when employees are all working from their own mobile devices? How much office space do you actually need?

Helping leaders create a blueprint for transitioning to flexible, mobile work is exactly why Emily Klein, founder of consulting and training business Flextime Global, joined up with other experts to write Workshift: Future-Proof Your Organization for the 21st Century. Here, she tells Profit readers how worker expectations are continuing to change—and how smart executives can get the biggest benefits.

On workshift: Workshift is the ability to work when and where employees and managers determine they are most effective, productive, or needed—and in a work environment where employees and managers are supported by the organization’s leadership, the IT infrastructure, and most importantly the corporate culture.

On reality: Now, instead of being seen as a perk, a mobile and flexible work style is being more broadly accepted as the optimal way to work—whether that’s a home office, a flexible workspace, headquarters, or traveling on business. Around 40 percent of employees—both men and women—would actually turn down a job offer that doesn’t include some type of flexible work arrangement.

On benefits: In addition to the reduced talent acquisition cost, companies benefit from real estate savings, as well as energy and maintenance savings. When the US Department of Agriculture expanded its teleworking program, it saved US$2 million by reducing its transportation subsidy costs. For employees, flexible work creates reduced absenteeism, greater job satisfaction, and greater productivity.

On making a case: Executives at healthy organizations understand the importance of developing high-level business cases that demonstrate how workshift helps organizations meet larger HR, IT, corporate real estate, or sustainability goals. That stronger business case will generate greater commitment and sponsorship.

On managers: You can’t underestimate the power of manager resistance to change. Moving from face time to the virtual world requires a different set of manager skills— including learning how employees can be accountable for performance regardless of location. One way to work with that resistance is to engage managers so they help shape what the workshift is going to be. Also, managers need to workshift themselves for successful change to take root.

On shifting back: Research has shown that only 1 to 3 percent of companies in recent years have pulled back their workshift policies. These cancellations should only be for a period of time. To make them indefinite is to bet against the future.

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