Five ways for employers to overcome anxiety over flexible schedules

Updated: Nov 6

CHIEF OF STAFF FIVE: In a survey conducted by Randstad, out of 1,000 Singaporean employees, 80% indicated that having flexibility in terms of working hours is important to them, while 42% said they will reject a job if it doesn’t offer flexible hours.

While flexibility has become one of the core interests of workers across the globe, more traditionally geared employees may be hesitant about participating.

The main reason being they do not know whether the employees are doing their job.

However, flexibility does not necessarily translate to lawlessness. There are key practices that employers can put in place to offer flexible arrangements to boost employee happiness, all without missing out on productivity.

1. Implement required working hours

The nature of flexible work demands that employees are able to set their own hours, but organisations must still enforce mandatory working hours.

Weekly team meetings will likely see heavier use with a flexible work structure, so they can be conducted within these mandatory hours. How many (or few) mandatory hours are provided will depend on each team.

Setting these hours within the timeframe that clients and business partners are available is an important consideration. Organisations can also consider how much collaboration is required of each role and set mandatory hours based on these needs to foster teamwork.

2. Employee relations training

If the organisation embarks on flexible work schedules for the first time, managers and leaders may have some difficulty figuring out the new work structure.

Therefore, sending key leaders to employee relations training enables companies to be proactive in resolving potential conflicts before they become a problem.

Flexibility requires a more robust approach to employee relations, so the training will provide guidance on how to approach the situation. Employees too will have a better understanding of their roles and trust in their leaders, which can increase job satisfaction.

Employees working flexibly will likely require more support, so having an HR team that is fully trained to help with any concerns is essential. HR teams need to be aware of the best practices to help employees in this new structure.

3. Adapt to individual work styles

When transitioning to flexible schedules, managers must spend more time working around different employees who all have different work styles and preferences.

Providing more flexibility means the manager must let go of a measure of control and try to cater to business needs to the employee’s personality and style of work, all within reason.

4. Communication

Setting expectations and giving feedback must be part of a manager’s repertoire in flexible working structures. Clear expectations established before embarking on a flexible work arrangement will prevent miscommunication and frustration.

Employees must also be given the tools they need to succeed. Digital collaboration solutions like virtual whiteboards must be part of a flexible work structure. Give priority to face-to-face interactions, either in the office or through virtual meetings.

Seeing clear nonverbal indications in face-to-face interactions will help reduce miscommunication.

5. Trust the employees

It may be difficult for managers who are used to the traditional work structure to let go of some measure of control, but the trust of both leaders and employees is crucial to the success of a flexible working arrangement.

Managers can foster trust by offering praise if there is growth within the employee or if they display soft skills that benefit the team. Praise and encouragement can help keep employees motivated and excited about work.

Experts have also recommended that managers focus less on the number of hours worked and prioritise their productivity instead.

For example, if an employee completes their tasks earlier than expected, try to refrain from giving them more work and allow them to rest as a token of appreciation for a job well done.

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