Sustainable, effective workplace flexibility is not a pipe dream. It's actually a feasible and straightforward solution to many of the modern workforce's productivity woes. But flex has the best chance at transformative, revolutionary change when it's implemented correctly, and unfortunately, a lot of companies fumble their flex. Here are some of the most common errors companies make on their flex journeys…
They didn't start with data This is a biggie. Companies use data for a myriad of important business decisions—where to expand, what products to introduce, when to make new hires—so why not approach flexibility the same way? Before you implement a new flex policy (or roll back any existing ones), it’s important to identify what types of flexibility your employees actually need (not just want) and the extent to which those needs are going unmet, identify any pockets of flex inequity, and measure the ROI associated with increasing your flexibility performance. If you’re new to flex data, we can help you get started.
They assume only some employees need it False. According to our own research here at Werk, 96 percent of workers need some type of flexibility, with the average employee needing access to at least 2.5 types. But there’s a gap: Only 42 percent of employees can access the flex type they need, and only 19 percent can access a range of flex options.
They believe flex just means working from home We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Flexibility is more than working remotely. While Remote may be the best-known flexibility type, and it's definitely one of the most popular, there are actually five others—including one flex type that is even more in-demand: DeskPlus.
They offer it as a reward or as a quid-pro-quo We've all been there. A supervisor will say, "You did great this week. Feel free to work from home on Friday." But flexibility isn't a privilege; it's a right. Plus, these kind of ad hoc flex rewards aren’t always useful for employees. Keep in mind that not everyone needs or even wants a work-from-home day, and as a result, the long-term benefits of flex like increased productivity, loyalty, and engagement will not be realized. That’s why flex should be structured into the company culture based on actual employee needs—not arbitrary assumptions about what might make employees feel appreciated.
They make employees state their case When we talk about flexibility, we talk about it being needs-agnostic. There's a TMI problem at work, where many employers demand that employees justify their flex needs—or employees overshare personal details because they feel anxious asking for flex. That's not right. Employees should only need to communicate their schedule and their plans for meeting their daily objectives.
They give everyone the same flexibility Wristwatches might be one-size-fits-all; flexibility isn't. The reason we've defined six flex types is that a population as diverse as the global workforce requires a wide range of flexibility options. Every employee has a flex thumbprint based on their personal circumstances, and for that matter, their thumbprint will likely change as their life changes. Don’t forget that the average employee needs access to 2.5 types of flexibility at any given time.
They don't set clear boundaries Flexibility is meant to make life and work more compatible, but when done incorrectly, it can have the opposite effect. An employee who works from home shouldn't be treated as "always on," for example—they should have the same structured hours that their in-office counterparts have. Everyone should have the right to disconnect when they're not “on the clock” and especially when they’re on PTO.
They think PartTime employees want to coast It's a big mistake to count out anyone working fewer than 40 hours a week. We've defined PartTime as a reduction of hours but not a reduction of ambition. PartTime keeps employees on advancement tracks so they can climb the corporate ladder as high as they want.