Flexible work environments, hours, and management have been hot-button issues over the last two years. More people are working remotely than ever before, and people are demanding what they want from their workplace. In the middle of a labor shortage, employees are not settling for pre-2020 work conditions. They want flexibility in more ways than just working remotely.
When you search for flexible work environments, images of lounge seating and collaborative spaces will fill your screen. Thinking about your employees and your business, is this what they want? While a couch in the workplace seems like it will make the environment hip and casual, it isn’t what employees are looking for in terms of flexible environments.
An environment is a combination of both the physical space and the culture in that space. Employees want to have the flexibility to work in the way that is most productive for them. This might be collaborative teams for some, but for others it means shutting their office door to be free of distractions. Creating a physical space for this and the culture that allows it is a truly flexible environment.
Flexibility with employee time is easier for some businesses than others. The importance here is allowing your employees to have as much choice as possible. Even if they are choosing to work eight hours within a nine or ten hour window, they will feel empowered by the choice. Some people work better earlier while others prefer to stay late. By giving them this choice you are honoring their preferences while staying true to your business needs. Odds are, if employees feel more productive at certain times, they will be more productive, which is a huge benefit to the organization.
Managing people in a flexible way is all about being empathetic and understanding, within reason. Employees should feel comfortable coming to you with personal issues affecting their work. This allows them to process the problem and brainstorm solutions before it becomes a problem for the business. Of course, repeated issues or behaviors are beyond the need to be flexible with your employees. You can set that precedent up front, or wait until the situation arises. Typically when someone expresses an issue, they want to be heard. If you can be a sounding board, that is more than half the battle.
If you think a flexible work environment sounds intimidating, expensive, or difficult, consider how your actions can create flexibility. These actions are free, but are worth something to your employees. Right now, it is crucial to keep employees happy. Allowing them some ownership in their environment, choice in their hours, and comfortability with management will create a flexible environment without costing you a dime.
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