I recall a time my third grader was participating in a school performance on a Friday at 2pm. I flexed my hours and took a late lunch break to fit this experience into my day. I got there a few minutes early to settle in and switch gears. As I looked around, I suddenly noticed how many parents and grandparents were attending the mid-afternoon event. Almost every kid had at least one family member there. It made me smile to see how many people have flexible job arrangements so they can enjoy things like school plays.
My employer, First Business Bank, has been great at accommodating my personal schedule-related needs. My husband runs his own business with occasional untraditional hours and we have kids. My husband’s schedule allows him to take the kids to school in the morning, while I run in to work. My work arrangement allows me to pick up the kids after school and take them to various activities while he works into the evening. I then work from home while the kids do homework or after they go to bed.
This flexible-employer relationship is a win-win, because a) through technology I can easily work remotely, and b) it creates such a positive relationship with my employer. I don’t mind if I need to un-flex my hours to accommodate an urgent work request or work extra late on a special project to meet a unique deadline.
I’ve worked at First Business Bank for almost 20 years. Early on I was the only person in my department, but as we grew and I became a department manager, I wanted to be mindful of flexibility with my employees, too.
Here are some of the flexibility options I frequently talk about with my team about:
- Environment — Employers try to do everything they can to offer a suitable work environment to their employees. Depending on the job, this might vary. For instance, our credit analysts need to concentrate. They have sound-masking noise piped into their area and a bright and airy office space. Our marketing team, however, tends to work more collaboratively. We work best surrounded by inspiring visuals and opportunities to freely talk to one another. Because our space is more collaborative, it can be problematic if one has to work on a task that requires concentration. I encourage our employees to always feel free to identify if the task at hand requires a different environment than what they’re working in. And to feel empowered to adjust their work setting if it will positively impact their work.
- Scenery — Even with a fantastic workspace, occasionally a task may be better completed with a different backdrop. In marketing, that might mean going to a coffee shop to get your creative juices flowing, or it might mean going somewhere to lock down and accomplish a task that can’t be interrupted. I understand not all employees or situations have this flexibility. If you need to stay in the building, consider taking a certain task to the breakroom or a conference room to achieve a similar result.
- Flexibility — Employees are also people, and they’re most likely juggling personal tasks. As you build trust and rapport, explore what options might be available. This can range from preferring to work out in the morning, coming in a little later, and staying later. This could be coming in early, and taking a longer lunch hour to run home and take the dog for a walk. Or it could mean taking care of a parent, and working remotely one day a week. It could also mean cutting back on hours staying home with young kids one day a week. Employers and managers often find such situations are win-win as the employee’s life experiences are optimized and the employee relationship becomes stickier.
Gallup also suggests that trust is a major factor in successful flexible work cultures along with transparency and accountability, so building and valuing those qualities is important.
Flexible job arrangements definitely require trust. The employer needs to feel they can count on the employee to make wise decisions, be productive, and not take advantage of the company. As a new employee, you may or not feel comfortable negotiating a flexible relationship until you’ve proven who you are as an employee. As a manager, if you’re considering such arrangements, you may want to initially set a trial time-frame where you and the employee will evaluate its success before making it permanent.
I encourage all employees and managers to consider these three elements of flexibility, and see if your employee/employer relationship will strengthen. I believe your employees will be happier, will work harder, and will be more loyal when they feel fully supported personally and professionally.