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I was inspired by a TLNT wrap-up written by John Hollon discussing the demographics of people participating in flex work and questioning why there is a lack of women teleworking. For more on what he said- read here.
As someone who considers herself fortunate to work flexibly, I can tell you that merely referring to the arrangement as “fortunate” is part of the problem. You see there are many employers that still see this flex work as the ultimate privilege. It is almost as though they should be crowned best employer and have employees kneel before them for bestowing such an honor. They put unnecessary and onerous hurdles in front of employees that are afforded flex work and in turn it becomes a less desirable option.
Women in particular have been made to disclose every nook and cranny of their home arrangements. Some are subjected to presumptuous questioning regarding whether or not they have a nanny to watch their kids during telework time. While other flex work infractions have to do with being exclusive to a certain subsection of employees- leaving those with other non-familial obligations feeling singled out from the possibility of teleworking.
When the strategy becomes this entitled – all or nothing process, you have to ask yourself are companies really all-in regarding flex work or are they slapping a policy together to appear as though they are a part of the growing trend?
I like what Cali Yost of CEO of Flex+ Strategy Group said in a 2014 press release, “Telework is not a perk and it’s certainly not just for moms and Gen Y. Rather, it’s an operational strategy.”
If you have a flex work option for your employees, is it being treated as an operational strategy or is it a wild-card policy that you pull out of your bag-of-tricks to appease employees?
It needs to be an operational strategy. Your employees both men and women are stretched at home and at work; with or without children. If the job lends itself to some flexibility- give it to them. Like most concepts of giving- try to give flexibility without ultimatums and ridiculous demands in return for this alternative.
Here are some rules of engagement if you are serious about offering your employees more flexibility:
1) Focus on results. It is none of your business who watches their kids, if a nanny is present during telework hours, spouse’s work hours etc. As long as you are receiving their work and it is quality, focus on the results; not how they got there.
2) Trust your employees to do the right thing. If you don’t ask your employees to document what they do every minute of the day in the office, why would you do it when they flex work? Trust your employees to do the right thing unless you find out otherwise.
3) Do not offer flex work unless you believe in it as an “operational strategy”. Everyone wins when trust and flexibility are given. The second you start to micromanage or make your flex work policy an elitist offering it will do more harm than good for the company and your brand.
According to a recent infographic by Flex+Strategy Group, 31% of workers are working from home, a business center or another location. Employers can expect decreased absenteeism and tardiness, less employee burnout, increased employee productivity as a result of offering flex work.
As of 2015, 34% of the working population is considered contingent ( temporary, part-time, freelancer etc.). That number is slated to jump to near 40% by 2020. I think it is time that we accept flex work arrangements as the new norm.
So I ask employers that are still hesitant about flex work- what are you really losing?
*This post was originally posted on “The Aristocracy of HR” blog.