Flexible work options: Are managers losing control?
by Sara Edwards
“In each country, a complex dynamic between logistical, economic, cultural and idealistic factors drive candidate preferences for flexible work arrangements.” Manpower, 2017.
Many organisations, small and large, continue to be challenged by the implementation of flexible work policies. They understand the legalities, but struggle with the potential implications of allowing employees to have control over when, where and how they work.
Common misconceptions about flexible work include:
- It is too costly
- It is too unpredictable
- There will be a loss of productivity (Employees ‘taking advantage’)
- Staff will be unmanageable
- That clients will take their business elsewhere
All of these have an underlying theme of fear and a loss of control, and for some managers even the basic idea of flexibility induces a state of sheer panic.
It is clear that flexible work policies and practices will fail to reach their full potential if there is not enough support, understanding and structure for them to succeed. Research shows that when definitions are vague and there are inconsistencies within the policy implementation cycle, organisations will experience implementation gaps, inconsistent results and the ultimate failure of the Flexible Work approach.
The reality is that there are huge consequences of not closing the gap – those long lists of intended benefits, such as increased retention rates, better work-life balance and meeting gender targets will never come to fruition and in fact your organisation will experience the reverse effects. The implications of poorly implemented flexible work policies can include an increase in disgruntled and stressed employees, fractured teams and a decrease in the quality of collaboration, productivity and employee-client relationships.
Research shows that the main gaps are occurring across three areas of policy implementation:
- Policy Intent – What the policies have been designed to do
- Implementation and Support – How line managers, middle management or team leaders understand and deliver the policies and procedures
- Employee Experiences – Direct and indirect messages of company views – as lived and interpreted by employees.
These areas all underpin the successful implementation of a policy, and if there are any disconnects or inconsistencies then the policy will fail to achieve its objectives.
Just like each employee, every organisation has its own unique needs and conditions that must underpin their flexible work policies and procedures, which is why buying a product off the shelf will never work. Rapid Context offers a range of services for both SMEs and large organisations to assist with the tailored development and implementation of flexible work policies that are suited to your unique workplace. We also offer a range of training specifically aimed at empowering leaders and supervisors and removing obstacles that are preventing your workplace from achieving the benefits of flexible work.
If you are ready to start a conversation on how we can help you to take practical steps in improving your organisation’s flexibility please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our site that provides more details for how we can support your organisation.
Sara Edwards is the General Manager of People and Culture at Rapid Context. She specialises in flexible workforces, organisational culture, and education and training. She works with clients across industries to develop successful flexible workforces, analyse and report on organisational culture and assist with team development.