I sometimes talk with organizational leaders and human resources managers who are skeptical about the value of workplace flexibility. “What is the real ROI?” they ask. How can allowing people to tailor when, where or how they work reduce employee turnover? Does it really enhance productivity?
In my article, The Key to Unlocking Your Organization’s Potential, I shared some of the benefits employers reap from workplace flexibility. However, it is difficult to realize those benefits if policies and best practices are not properly implemented. Implementing a Workplace Flexibility Program or even adopting more flexible policies may come with obstacles.
Getting “flexible” right depends on how well you execute three key aspects:
Getting People Engaged
Smart companies and organizations understand that people are their greatest asset. Where we sometimes fall short is grasping the idea that flexibility is a culture. To be effective, people must change their habits — which often originate from long held beliefs.
Even companies who have invested in advanced technology to facilitate file-sharing, remote access and video or web conferencing sometimes fail at creating a culture that embraces widespread application of those tools. Employee engagement is one of many challenges that organizations face when transitioning to a more flexible workplace. Training may be required to help managers and associates adapt their way of thinking.
Employee engagement can also be cultivated by keeping people informed and involved every step of the way. When they are left out, people tend to see new policy as another set of rules — imposed upon them. However, when given a voice in policy development, they more readily accept (and perhaps even advocate for) widespread change.
Creating Processes that Make Sense
Another challenge, when implementing flexible workplace policies and best practices, is ensuring productivity isn’t harmed during the transition and initial implementation. Essential business processes may stay the same, but many will be revised to fit the new arrangement.
This is especially true for processes that make sense in a traditional office environment, but don’t easily lend themselves to a flexible workplace. For instance performance metrics previously tied to time must now weigh results. The benefit of course, is that revising outdated processes often resolves inefficiencies. You may find some aspects of certain processes were unnecessary in the first place.
Selecting the Right Technology
Virtual teams are powered by technology. While technology empowers teams to work together more effectively, it also provides its own challenges for organizations transitioning to a more flexible structure. One of the more pressing questions may be, out of the hundreds of available cloud-based applications and tools, which should you use? It’s easy to rule out those not compatible with current systems, but when compatibility is not at issue, the choices can be overwhelming.
Doing Flexible the Right Way
When associates are properly trained and included in the transition, processes are properly re-tooled and technology is used effectively, the return on investment from workplace flexibility is clear. Easier said than done? Probably. Your chances of success increase by getting help from a workplace productivity consultant who has already managed transformations of similar scope and scale. They can help you make the most of your workplace transformation efforts.
How can flexible workplaces and virtual teams give you a competitive edge? In our Flexible @ Work series, we discuss the tenants of flexibility: What it is, why it’s important, how you can determine if your team or company is flexible and if not — what you can do to get there.