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The ABCs of Workplace Flexibility

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In honor of National Work and Family Month, the Life Meets Work team collaborated to create the following ABCs of Workplace Flexibility. We went through some tough virtual negotiations deciding which letter ought to stand for what... but it only took a few emails, a group chat, and some online file sharing to duke it all out. Enjoy!

A Agree on the Rules of Flex.
A flexible team agreement helps team members know what to expect from each other. Include guidelines on core hours, meeting frequency, and communication.

B Business Continuity. Don't let the next snowstorm hold up your organization. Mobile work options help companies maintain operations in the face of natural and man-made disasters.

C Commuters Save.
A telework program contributes to the triple bottom line by reducing real estate costs, environmental impact, and employee stress. Some governments even offer telework incentives.

D Deliberate Communication.
Flexible work teams need to make a purposeful effort to stay connected and ensure messages are interpreted correctly. Plus, companies should regularly communicate policy, guiding principles, and flex work options to ensure everyone understands the organizational commitment to flex.

E Employee Engagement.
Flexibility contributes to employee engagement, making them stronger performers who are more fully involved in their jobs.

F Flex. Give employees more control over how and when they work.

G Mind Your Gap. Don't assume you don't need a flex program just because employees aren't asking for it. A flex gap occurs when company culture or manager attitudes prevent employees from broaching the issue.

H Hourly Workers. Innovative organizations are finding ways to redesign overtime programs, implement self-scheduling and shift swapping tools, leverage floaters for last minute coverage, and develop other creative solutions to eliminate schedule rigidity for non-exempt workers.

I Innovate. Help managers learn to think differently about where and how work happens. With a little creativity you may be able to implement new work processes, switch to team-based client services, forward the phone, or make other changes that will enable flex.

J Justify the Investment. Workplace flexibility programs can have bottom-line impact. Build the business case by demonstrating how other companies increased productivity, reduced real estate, improved wellness and more. Then maintain buy-in by tracking your own internal metrics.

K Share Knowledge. Encourage successful flex managers to mentor other team leaders. Share flex work success stories in company newsletters to help all departments envision how flex might work for them.

L Leadership Counts. Get leaders on board from the start. Their support can enable or hinder flex rollout efforts. Help them understand they need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

M Manager Training. Training helps ensure managers are aligned around the organization's flexible work philosophy and that they have the skills they need to lead a flexible team. Effective flex leadership means learning how to create connectedness, manage for results, and maintain communication.

N No Stereotypes. Workplace flexibility isn't just for moms, parents, young professionals, or those who don't want to work as much. It's for anyone who wants greater control over their schedule.

P Pilot.
Start small. Pilot programs lay the groundwork for flex success by allowing organizations to address hurdles on a small scale. Pilots uncover best practices and facilitate smoother change management for the entire organization.

Q Quit Watching Your Employees Work.
Manage results, not activity. Set clear expectations and then use the appropriate amount of oversight to ensure everyone stays on track.

R Reason Neutral Requests. Evaluating an employee request for flexibility based on a personal reason/need is old school and exposes the company to legal concerns and morale issues. Review flexible work requests based solely on business implications.

S Schedule Effectively. Effective scheduling means finding ways to meet business needs while recognizing the realities of today's multidimensional employees. Employers with high turnover and absenteeism should see those as evidence that staffing policies are a poor fit for their workforce.

T Trust. Trust is critical for effective teams, especially when team members are located in different places or come and go on different schedules. Convey confidence in your team and encourage employees to give their peers the same respect. Discourage people who question a team member's whereabouts and call out those who miss deadlines or exhibit other unacceptable behaviors.

U Upward and Onward. Don't let flex become another flavor of the month initiative. Continue to promote flex options, provide ongoing team training, and look for innovative ways to support employees through every life stage.

V Virtual Collaboration.
Technology enables remote teams to collaborate in much the same way they could in a physical conference room. Live chat, virtual white boards, wiki's, file sharing, and remote screen sharing applications help teams share information and ideas, without the expense of travel.

W Workplace Wellness.
Research shows flexible workers eat better, sleep better, and exercise more. And not surprisingly, they experience less stress--a strong contributor to health issues and workplace accidents. This translates into health care savings for flexible organizations.

X eXpectations.
Flex managers need to get comfortable with challenging flex employees who miss a conference call or fail to communicate project status. Set expectations upfront and hold employees accountable.

Y Say Yes Whenever Possible. Help managers open their minds to flex, even when their natural inclination might be to say no. Manager coaching can help build buy-in and improve innovation around flexible work options.

Z Zero In On Performance. Build performance-based job descriptions that identify the outcomes (not the activities) an employee is responsible for achieving. Figure out how to measure progress toward that outcome and the consequences of exceeding or failing to meet those metrics. Once you do that, it's easy to put the employee in charge of how, when, and where their work gets done. And life for managers becomes a whole lot easier as well.