New research from Catalyst confirms yet again the importance of flexible work arrangements (FWA), and not just for women with children, a common misconception. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the only companies able to consistently attract and retain top talent, regardless of gender, are those offering some form of FWA.
Further, the research shows that the costs of implementing such a program are offset by savings in operational costs—by more than $10,000 a year per person telecommuting part time.
Telecommuting has become synonymous with flexible work arrangements in many minds, but the term encompasses many possibilities. Even companies with hourly employees whose work must be done on-site, such as manufacturing work, can benefit employees—and their own bottom line—with various flex options:
- Compressed schedules
- Flexible start and end times
- Job sharing and/or shift trading
- Voluntary overtime (those who want the extra money can work the overtime, and those who don’t aren’t compelled to)
- Employee-designed schedules
- Sabbatical programs
- Unpaid time off
- Half-day options
- Assignment variety based on availability and skill, not seniority
- Flexible space on-site for employees to use to meet in support groups (such as for people caring for elderly parents; working parents; etc.) or for personal computer use during breaks on long shifts
What works best—for company and employee—depends on many factors. People have different work styles and preferences, and some tasks are best accomplished in particular ways or at particular times and locations.
Collaborating with employees is key. Ask probing questions to uncover what is most important to them and why. Engage everyone in determining how their needs and those of the company can be met. A regular process for review is essential to adjust what isn’t working as well as to meet the changing needs of the organization and its talent.
Ultimately, this is about focusing on results rather than on micromanaging people and process. The belief that the latter is necessary to the former, as we’ve recently witnessed in the actions of Yahoo, among other companies, is contrary to the data.
Paying attention to the facts of flexible work arrangements is, after all, preferable to paying unemployment or worse—losing your best and brightest, and even your business itself, to the competition.
What FWA options might work in your organization?
Featured image by Lhoretsë.