An important part of being a manager is anticipating the needs and desires of your workforce and balancing those with the needs of the business. This task can often be easier said than done, unfortunately, especially as new demographic factors take hold and new generations of employees bring their own demands to the table.
The generation in question today is millennials, and as they become the largest demographic in the workforce as of 2015, businesses have some catching up to do to ensure that they are creating millennial-friendly environments. Flexibility and autonomy are the holy grail for these young employees, but many organizations have struggled to effectively implement these policies in the past.
Fortunately, workplace flexibility doesn't have to be out of reach.
Companies struggle with flexible work arrangements
Despite the fact that millennials are the generation that champions flexibility more than any that has come before, companies are having difficulty implementing policies – or even attempting to – that lay the groundwork for this type of development.
Human Resource Executive Online cited a survey in which 379 HR professionals were asked about their flexible work arrangements. Interestingly, while 80 percent of respondents indicated their companies did have some form of flexible work arrangement, only 37 percent stated that there was a formal written policy in place governing it.
Though this discrepancy may actually point to successes in implementing flexible work arrangements rather than failures. For example, the source speculated that a lack of formal written policy may be due to things like telecommuting arrangements being fairly simple to implement and monitor without the need for paperwork and getting bogged down by HR concerns.
Flexible work comes in many forms
Oftentimes when people hear of flexible work arrangements, they think of telecommuting or working from home. While these are prominent – and high-profile – examples of this concept, there are other ways of introducing flexibility into your company.
Another common flexible work arrangement is the establishment of "flex time." This practice empowers workers to effectively choose their own schedules. This is especially valuable for employees who have school-aged children that need to be watched in the early afternoon, for example.
The importance of policy
Even if you think that your thoughts on flexible work arrangements are straightforward and easy to implement, it's worth it to establish a formal written policy as well. This is because, as the source noted, some companies have placed the decision to permit flexible working with managers' noting that telecommuting and other similar issues are available only at the manager's discretion. While seemingly a good administrative move, it also sends a message of inequality to your workforce who may feel like their needs are secondary to what management's plans are.