Making a Flexible Work Policy Successful is a Two-Way Street

Companies that want to give their employees a wide range of opportunities may see the benefit of offering flexible staffing and alternative schedules, but developing these unique work arrangements takes effort from management and staff members.

How the two sides find a middle ground that satisfies company and employee needs must be outlined clearly so everyone is on the same page. Clear rules should be set that govern how the workers will meet their obligations, stay in contact with colleagues and supervisors and remain in the loop regarding company initiatives.

For many workers, telecommuting isn’t just the latest trend in how they conduct their professional lives. It’s as much about how they’re able to maintain a less stressful family and personal life while fulfilling their job duties and, hopefully, progressing in their careers.

When companies consider whether to introduce work-from-home options for existing staffers or hire someone who’s a telecommuter from the outset, the issues are the same. 

Try flexibility
Employees and company management teams should be confident that a telecommuting policy will be effective. The best way to do that is to explore different types of alternative scheduling to find out what will fit best with the workforce. Workers whose companies haven’t tried these arrangements should consider introducing the issue in a proposal.

By making such options available, there are also some benefits that employers haven’t expected. People who are allowed flexibility may find their productivity stays the same or increases because they’re able to develop a schedule that they can coordinate more effectively with their personal lives.

Consider the No. 1 issue
The biggest issue in a telecommuting relationship is communication. Companies should work out guidelines on how people at headquarters and the home-based employee will get in touch at practical and useful times. Technology makes this easy, but scheduling also has to be in sync between those at the company and employees who work out of their homes. The telecommuter must be willing to work at least some of his or her schedule during regular business hours. This is particularly important if the home worker deals directly with clients who work normal business days.

Supervisors should be notified if issues arise that cause home workers to be away from their computers or telephones for personal reasons, just as they would be if they worked in-house and needed to take time off during the work day.

While the point of offering flexible work options is to give employees more freedom to blend employment and family life, companies still have to meet their deadlines and project goals. All employees should be aware of the work-from-home policy, which details in writing required hours of availability, when they must check in and any other issues related to how their progress on the job is reported to the company.

Have a Plan B
With the range of electronic equipment available to telecommuters, their supervisors should never have to worry about getting in touch with them – until they can’t. Despite technology, communication may sometimes be an issue. Whether the workers are using their own equipment or company-owned devices at home, they need to plan for the day when the Wi-Fi or cable service isn’t available or if a laptop suddenly dies.

Telecommuting employees and their bosses should work out a contingency plan in case of interruptions that curtail the worker’s productivity. If the problem is solely from the home worker’s side, it should be clear that making up the work or getting back online at a different location is the employee’s responsibility.

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