Flexibility is a hallmark of a positive employee experience, but there’s more to it than just letting someone work from their home or a local coffee shop. Flexibility comes in many forms, and supporting a mix of these options can help any organization build a more satisfied, engaged workforce.

Getting it right means making flexibility a core part of your business, not something you’ll rip away in six months or a perk from which only a handful of employees benefit.

Let’s look at a few flexibility options that are easy to structure and offer when a business wants to become a best-in-class employer.

Try Hubstaff free for 14 days

Get started

5 areas to build greater flexibility

After working remotely for roughly 15 years, I’ve seen and experienced a wide array of flexibility arrangements. Some are expected, especially now that the world has embraced remote work. Others are more elusive, requiring as much flexibility on the part of tasks as employees and managers.

The work that your team does will define what options are available. However, the more flexibility you can offer, the more positive the impact on employee experience and engagement.

1. Location

The simplest flexibility most people encountered due to the pandemic was the ability to avoid the office and work from home. It’s become one of the top benefits employees request in their current jobs and new opportunities.

Managers allowing employees to work where they prefer signals trust and supports autonomy. It’s also a way to hire and keep top talent who need quiet or controlled workspaces or have long commutes. 

It can be a direct method to provide accommodations for employees.

The concern is that remote work wasn’t flexible for many people. Companies needed to keep work happening but faced risks and liability for having employees come into offices. So, they mandated work from home. This is an essential reminder because it highlights that RTO policies are a continuance of mandated locations

Mandates aren’t collaborative or flexible, whether they’re pushing remote or RTO. A sustained benefit requires choice.

2. Time

Time flexibility empowers employees to work when they are best able, generally setting requirements for hours per week or task completion rates per week. Employers get necessary work accomplished while employees can work around their schedules.

Typically, this arrangement works best when work can be asynchronous, so people operate primarily independently while still holding regular meetings.

Allowing people to schedule their time can improve life-work balance by making it easier for parents to take kids to school or engage in afterschool activities. Employees coming into the office can arrive and leave earlier or later to avoid rush hour, which can substantially reduce their travel time.

Night owls can carve out quiet time to tackle knowledge work, and early risers can do their essential tasks starting at 6 AM.

Time flexibility doesn’t need to be a luxury for just a few. Restaurants can allow some shifts to float as long as busy periods are covered. Even manufacturers have introduced multiple shift options to meet hours-worked requirements in fewer days or at different times.

Need to advocate for your ability to have time and location flexibility? Here are some business cases you can send directly to leadership to immediately highlight its value.

3. Sharing

Sharing can be challenging in a world of clearly defined roles and responsibilities. However, companies can introduce employee-friendly flexibility by allowing people to share their workload. Sharing flexibility means a focus on outcomes, not vanity metrics.

The goal is to have your best employees feel comfortable enough to ask for what they need to address work requirements.

Sharing work means being open to meeting company goals with a mix of full-time and part-time staff alongside contractors and freelancers. You give managers and leaders flexibility to accomplish goals while employees shift workloads depending on other needs. Managers assign tasks with a consistent hierarchy, and they are completed in multiple ways or by various people.

Bottlenecks no longer need to break an entire project or workgroup.

Sharing as a flexible work option is a viable accommodation for people with outside responsibilities impacting full-time schedules, such as caregiving. It ensures team members can take breaks or vacations, have time for career development, and work on interdisciplinary projects. Individual tasks no longer set limitations on individuals, roles, or teams.

It’s also a positive signal to potential employees and can expand your talent pool. Before the pandemic, Zurich increased overall applicants and the number of women applicants (and hires) to manager roles by highlighting flexible work and job-sharing in its job advertisements and posts.

4. Interaction and engagement

Employers can also give their staff options for accomplishing work, offering greater employee choice.

This flexibility is one of the best ways to make hybrid successful for teams and build a positive culture simultaneously. Interaction flexibility is about giving people a choice in how they spend time completing tasks and working with others. Here are some options:

  • Allowing people to keep cameras off during meetings if they prefer.
  • Letting people work remotely or go into an office or co-working space depends on their preferences and workload.
  • Supporting teams that decide to do asynchronous brainstorming sessions or work instead of requiring everyone to be present simultaneously.
  • Minimizing required meetings while offering other ways for staff to provide feedback.
  • Creating private spaces or anonymous inboxes for feedback that people may feel uncomfortable delivering in a group setting.
  • Giving people opportunities to meet and engage with co-workers unrelated to a project.

Interaction or method flexibility is all about highlighting employee choice. Employees are empowered to share what methods work best for them, and the organization demonstrates it trusts team members to use these as needed.

What makes it even better than an RTO mandate is that you can introduce positive in-office options. Allow people to use them when they need team building or when tasks benefit most.

5. Tools and methods

Some workplace flexibility involves tools people use to accomplish tasks. Here, you should focus on project-level goals and broader KPIs. This focus aligns employee work directly with company objectives, which increases buy-in and engagement.

Focusing on KPIs and project-level goals can go hand-in-hand with interaction flexibility because it also focuses on objectives, not tactics. One crossover support could be allowing people to create videos to explain steps instead of always requiring a Google doc.

Our Insights add-on can highlight the apps and websites your teams use daily — providing a clear place to look for options. You could allow a scheduling tool instead of requiring your social media manager to log into each service and post in real-time. Your IT team may have preferred analytics dashboards that generate the needed information.

Or a worker can get their idea across better using a report instead of a slide deck. It’s all about supporting those preferences to meet your big-picture aims.

The one caveat is that you’ll need internal experts to set tool boundaries. Rules are essential for leveraging company or customer information; security is still paramount. 

Think about allowing teams to use AI tools. AI can make it easy to complete tasks in various ways and generate different outputs. However, you need guidance on what tools are okay and how to use them safely. A few things for managers to consider here include:

  • What content can be created by AI or generated through automation?
  • What tools can do this without needing company or customer data?
  • For those that do need this data, what companies have a strong reputation for cybersecurity?
  • Are there any restrictions to be aware of, such as some jurisdictions not allowing AI-generated materials to be copyrighted?

See our CTO’s more extensive guidance on remote team management for more support.

Promoting autonomy through flexibility

Enhancing flexibility in the workplace requires a foundation of trust and transparency in your organization. People need to feel empowered to use any options provided, not forced into them. 

Flexibility boils down to autonomy. Trust your people to meet their objectives. Allow them to take many different paths to reach final destinations and then review the successes of each. 

You may discover that a new, flexible method improves a project’s ROI while giving your team what they need to feel happy and secure at work.

Category: Culture