How To Start a Flexible Work Program

BY: ON TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2012

With the unemployment rate dropping and hiring picking up in 2013, you might be trying to think of ways to attract and retain the best talent. One inexpensive yet impactful idea is to start a formal flexible work program. If done properly, this program will be a fantastic benefit for current and prospective employees for years to come.

Here are three steps to start a flexible work program at your company today.

1) Do Some Research.

Figure out which types of flexibility work best for your workforce, and which jobs at your company are the best match for each type of flexibility. Flexible options include allowing people to work from home (telecommute), work flexible schedules or alternative schedules, choose compressed workweeks, or job share programs.

You may want to survey your employees to see which types of flexibility are most important to them. Different types of flexibility may work best with different jobs. For example, your billing department may be able to work flexible hours, but your customer service team needs to work traditional hours (but could do so from home). Being flexible with your flex program is essential.

2) Start With Volunteers in a Pilot Program.

Not everyone wants to work a flexible schedule or work from home, so to get your program started on the right note, ask for volunteers who are interested in flexible options to test out the program and work out the kinks. And start small. Have people telecommute 1-2 days each week to test out the arrangement, and keep track of the pros and cons of their experience.

3) Make Your Expectations Clear.

If employees who telecommute are expected to work certain hours, be available through specific communication methods (phone, email, instant messenger, etc.), or check in with managers daily, make this clear from the get-go. Likewise, let everyone know what is the company’s responsibility and what is the employee’s. Will you take care of equipping their home office? Which technology, in particular, will you provide - computers, landline phones, printers?

Along the same lines, make it easy to communicate. Take advantage of tools like Yammer, Skype, instant messenger, Google Drive, email, phone, and others to keep teams connected and working together.

Why Should Companies Embrace Flexible Work Programs?

For one, it’s a growing practice every year and companies who don’t will fall behind in recruitment and retention. But the biggest reason is that flexible work is just plain good for business. 2011 studies by Stanford University and the University of Minnesota have shown that people who are offered the chance to work from home or work a flexible schedule are MORE productive their their traditional office counterparts. They work more hours, take fewer sick or personal sick days, and report being more satisfied with their jobs.

Finally, employers who let employees telecommute (work from home) can save millions of dollars on real estate costs and overhead expenses. Flexible work arrangements will quickly become the norm, so start early and create a solid, but flexible, foundation for your flexible work program.

About the Author

Brie Weiler Reynolds

Brie Weiler Reynolds is the Director of Content and Social Media at FlexJobs.com, the award-winning site for telecommuting, flexible schedule, part-time, and freelance job listings. With a background in human resources and career advising, Brie has over 8 years of experience working with job seekers and employers, and she offers career and hiring advice on the FlexJobs Blog and social media.

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