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Flexible work policy - How to successfully implement one at your workplace

Felxible work policy
Nina Janza
Nina Janza
13 minute read

Flexible work has become a new standard all over the world, especially for creative jobs and those that add high-value, be it through formal flexible work policies, or otherwise.

Many employees, for example, have an arrangement with their managers to work from home once a week, or even to leave early for personal reasons and make up that time in the evening hours. These exceptions make the case for companies to formalize their flexible work arrangements.

If, as a manager, you keep these arrangements “under the table” and not as formal policies that all employees can benefit from, then this can lead to feelings of inequality and cause tension among employees who aren’t granted the same privileges.

This blog will guide you through the basics of implementing a flexible work policy and what you should consider at the very beginning of this process. You will also get an insight how a time and attendance tool can help you with successfully implementing a flexible work policy.

Start with the basic questions - why have a flexible work policy?

If you want to successfully implement a formal flexible work policy, you have to start with the right set of questions. There are two basic questions to start with:

  • Why have you decided to implement a flexible work policy in the first place?
  • What is it that you are solving with this policy?

Answering this question will help you decide on the right form of flexible work. Not all flexible work arrangements are suitable for all companies, so before weighing any options you need to think about what you are looking to optimize by implementing a flexible work policy. 

Then, pick an arrangement accordingly. For example, remote work can help you cut down on real estate costs by downsizing office space, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for an organization that mainly works face-to-face with customers.

Decide the scope of the flexible work policy that works best in your case

There are five “dimensions” of flexible work, which can be included in your flexible work policy. These dimensions are:

1. Remote work

If you want your employees to save on commuting time and costs, offer them remote work. There will be fewer parking spots needed and you will lower your carbon footprint. 

You can even cut down on real estate costs if you downsize your office space. Employees gain greater autonomy and experience fewer interruptions, which tends to lead to increased productivity and a better work-life balance.

2. Job sharing

With job sharing you can get more diverse skills and experience in the same position. Having two people work on the same task enhances problem-solving and makes managing heavy workloads easier. 

Job sharing is also useful in terms of continuity and coverage of work during absences. Employees get more free time, while still keeping their careers on track.

3. Part-time work

By offering the option of part-time work, you can attract applicants from a wider employment pool and retain valued employees who may not be able to, or want to, work full-time. 

Employing part-time workers can help you cover busy periods efficiently. This is also a good way to reduce costs without reducing staff.

4. Compressed schedule

A compressed work week is perfect for balancing high peak workloads, because it lets you increase the total staff hours during the peaks, and extends the operational hours of the workplace. 

A compressed schedule also helps reduce commuting time and costs and affords employees an additional day off and a better work-life balance.

5. Flexitime  

Flexitime offers a better fit of working hours with school hours, college hours, or care arrangements. Commuting to work becomes faster and easier because employees can avoid rush-hour traffic. 

With flexitime, you can also extend office hours and allow clients to contact your business later or earlier than usual.

Think about the important issues first

Implementing a new policy is always multidimensional. Make sure to consider every aspect of your business which will be affected by the new flexible work policy. 

You need to consider how it will affect your employees, as well as your clients, your HR department and your management structure:

  1. What impact will a flexible work policy have on your service and your clients?
  2. What are the benefits for your employees and the organization?
  3. Are there any potential pitfalls? How can you deal with them?
  4. How much time, effort and money will it take to make the new flexible work policy successful?
  5. Is training required to ensure managers and employees have the knowledge and skills to make the arrangement work?
  6. What other HR functions will the flexible schedule affect? Are there other departments that may be indirectly affected?
  7. What can your management team support? Streamline your options into an easy-to-follow rule set instead of having 30 case-by-case deals personalized for 30 different people.

Ask employees what they want

Firstly, you will need to identify possible options, and try to figure out what it is your staff needs. Consulting at an early stage will help to uncover individual needs and interests, and help anticipate difficulties.

Ask your employees what they want from a flexible work policy. Conduct surveys and/or focus groups and encourage informal discussions. 

If your colleagues know that their opinions matter, they may suggest innovative options that are not in general use, but may be just right for your organization or a particular work unit. Involving your team also helps to get them on board with the program.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for advice and comments from other organizations, clients, and board members. People love to expose what worked particularly well for them, be it a progressive and complex remote work arrangement or just a simple trick. 

For instance, in our company, we moved all of our longer meetings to after 2 pm, as they used to take up a lot of time in the mornings.

We later found out that this is actually a common problem with IT companies, especially since there is a tendency to introduce daily morning stand up meetings that can quickly get out of hand and last till noon. Our colleagues from different companies loved our simple rule of moving every meeting until after 2 pm.

Run a pilot for a trial period

After you’ve done your research, consulted with your employees, and decided on which options to offer in your flexible work policy, make sure to run a pilot for a trial period and evaluate it with each employee individually.

It may be best to run the pilot program in a particular team or department before including your entire company. 

In the case of smaller businesses with less than 20 people, you will have to include everyone from the get-go. Have employees report on the pilot and provide their feedback. Make modifications or changes to the program accordingly.

Just make sure you always inform your staff of any new processes or guidelines.

Provide a unified proposal procedure

The best way to handle employee requests for changed work schedules is a unified written proposal. The employee’s proposal should make it easier to decide whether to grant the proposal or not, by explaining:

  • The reasons for proposing a different arrangement.
  • A description of the arrangement and the proposed schedule.
  • A description of how they intend to accomplish the major goals of their job.
  • The means of maintaining frequent communication with customers and coworkers.
  • The means of evaluating the performance and effectiveness of the arrangement.
  • The business case for this change: what benefits it offers to their team, office, and organization (e.g., greater efficiency, increased productivity, expanded hours of service).
  • Other things that make sense to include in a proposal.

Keep records of the agreement

Make sure you gather all the necessary documentation (e.g. health and safety details for telecommuting…) prior to the start of the new arrangement. Keep records of any conditions of the agreement, including start and finish dates.

Check whether there are any specific record-keeping requirements in your state legislation that you should be aware of.

Clearly establish goals and objectives

Goals are general guidelines that explain what you want your employees to achieve. They are usually long-term and represent broader visions. 

Objectives define the strategies or implementation steps needed to attain the identified goals. Unlike goals, objectives are specific, measurable, and have a defined completion date. They are more specific and outline the “who, what, when, where, and how” of reaching the goals.

It is absolutely vital that both goals and objectives are clearly established in a flexible work policy. Based on these goals and objectives you will need to agree on measurable performance-evaluation markers and periodically revise them.

When creating a flexible work policy, focus on the quality of your employees’ work results rather than the number of hours worked.

Constantly review and modify

You should always agree on a trial period whenever you grant a flexible arrangement to one of your employees. This way you can easily modify the arrangement if needed, or even call it off altogether. 

The trial period should last at least 2-3 weeks, or could even be for an entire quarter. You don’t want your newfound flexibility to increase pressure, so give yourself and your employees some time to work out the kinks.

After the trial is over and you decide to make the new schedule official, you should still evaluate your employees’ performance and satisfaction every 6 to 12 months.

The terms and conditions of the arrangement should be clear up front. Since implementing a flexible work policy is a business decision, your employees should be aware that it can be modified or terminated if necessary. A flexible work arrangement could be terminated in the following cases:

  • Business needs are not being met.
  • Job requirements change.
  • Performance ratings fall below an acceptable level.
  • Current coverage or staffing needs change.
  • An unexpected staff shortage develops.
  • Valid negative client or co-worker feedback is received.

Keep in mind that the process used in revising or ending a flexible work arrangement should be just as clear and thorough as when initiating one.

Provide guidelines and procedures

A flexible work policy needs to provide clear general guidelines on how these arrangements work. Write down the guidelines and procedures carefully. 

Think about the availability of the employee for frequent communication, required attendance at meetings, the length of time required to respond to communication, etc.

One important thing to consider here are alternative childcare arrangements. Employees who propose a telecommuting arrangement should ensure a safe and suitable workspace that is appropriately confidential and free of distractions and interruptions that may interfere with work. 

Where applicable, telecommuters should be responsible for finding ways to maintain a distinct separation between work activities and personal activities.

Provide the necessary tools

For flexible arrangements to work without disruptions, it’s vital to provide all the necessary tools. The most important thing is to establish great communication channels so your team can work together efficiently.  You should use communication channels like:

  • An internal corporate instant messenger
  • Screen sharing
  • Advanced remote conference tools, etc.

There are numerous services available that your team can use to communicate online: Slack, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, to name a few.

If company files are not accessible remotely, you will probably need to upgrade your filing system. If you haven’t yet moved your data to the cloud, now’s the right time. Consult with your team on which system they prefer. It could be Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, as long as you pick one together. 

Your employees shouldn’t have trouble reaching data at any time and from anywhere in the world in this day and age.

Since this is a website about clocking in and tracking your time, we have to mention this as well: How are your employees registering their work hours currently?

If they are clocking in and out at the company entrance and you are implementing remote work, bear in mind that you should find an online tool for tracking employee attendance, or a mobile time clock so they can register their hours offsite. 

There are dozens of such tools available, but All Hours has been developed with flexible work in mind from the get-go.

Communicate the change

Once you’ve implemented a flexible work policy, communicate the change and promote it. Take time to explain it carefully to your employees. Such measures should improve your employee-retention rate, employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity.

Include this information in your future job postings. It will certainly attract a higher number of talented prospective candidates. Use it in your public relations and present your company as family friendly, flexible and oriented towards employee wellbeing.

You should also communicate such changes to management and clients, just so everybody is on the same page and knows what to expect and why. They might even point out an issue that slipped your mind.

Ongoing support and feedback

Every flexible work policy needs an ongoing evaluation of success. Form a strong feedback loop between manager and employee and continue to evaluate the program on a regular basis. Maintain a two-way flow of communication between management and employees, and between employees in flexible arrangements and their other colleagues. 

Solicit feedback from all participants, then make changes and adapt the plan as required.

Flexible arrangements need to work for the entire team, not just for some people. Colleague feedback can provide useful input for refining the arrangements after a trial period. Confidentiality in this process is of course vital.

Nurture good employee relationships

Try hard to make your employees feel that company procedures and policies are fair to everyone. Achieving fairness for all employees could be your biggest challenge in introducing a flexible work policy. 

Not all arrangements are suitable for all jobs. Find something to offer to each of your employees, engage them in finding suitable options, and always explain your decisions.

When employing remote workers, ensure appropriate orientation for staff that work only in the office. They need to be assured that all employees – regardless of their work location – are pulling their weight equally.

Good employee relationships take a conscious effort, and even more so with flexible work arrangements. 

Promote team building between on-site and off-site employees by inviting employees who work at home to come in for a lunch or training. Organize after-work activities, such as sporting events or celebrations which allow your employees to spend some quality time together.

Thanks for reading, and good luck with implementing your flexible work policy. And don't forget to test our time and attendance tool All Hours for free. The tool will surely help you with the successful flexible work policy implementation.

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