Thursday, April 18, 2013

How do you work out a feasible flexible work arrangement?

In my line of work, I am constantly asked by employers what type of flexibility they should be offering to existing or new employees. My response is consistently the following: ‘I don’t know’. The same question is asked by employees who are seeking flexible work arrangements and my answer is the same.

The secret lies in the business. Everyone needs to consider what is feasible, reasonable and practical. What are the busiest days of the week? When do customers need you the most? Is everything done between 9am-5pm? What technology do you have available to do the work offsite?

At a flexible work masterclass last week, one of the participants was very sure that her role could not be worked flexibly. She is a relationship manager looking after multiple clients’ needs. After group discussion, she realised that she never receives phone calls from these clients on Monday morning or Friday after midday so there were opportunities in her role to change the way she worked.

Last month, I spoke to a woman who was given the opportunity to work three days a week in her role and she could choose those days. We discussed the importance of her being available and present on the three most busy days of the week. For example, if Monday and Friday are typically the slow days for a business, then it is a smarter to make yourself available on the busiest days of the week (Tuesday through Thursday). It is less likely to become an issue if you are there when the business really needs you and there is a greater chance that the work arrangement will be successful in the long term.

If businesses continually monitor business activity, it becomes clearer how flexibility can be incorporated.

I recently coached a woman who was looking to work. She had been caring for her daughter for 18 months and was ready to jump back in to a senior role. The problem with this scenario was that she only wanted to work two days each week.  I explained to her that this wasn’t feasible, reasonable or practical considering that the role she was aiming for had staffing responsibilities, travel, and senior delegations. She understood the issues with her request after we worked through it and agreed that if she returned to this type of role, she would need to offer at least 4 days each week.

A simple analysis of your workplace and meaningful discussions with your employees can lead to successful flexible work arrangements.


Anonymous said...

Sounds so simple - but you don't mention the third part of the equation - childcare. Is often far easier to get childcare on Monday or Friday (Friday in particular) because most businesses are quieter on these days. It would be great if could just get the days you want and would suit the business most - but that is not often the case - you normally have to put your name down for childcare months before you go back to work or even have a job - if you haven't got a job yet how can you choose which days are going to suit.

CareerMums said...

Hi, thanks for your comments. Yes, such a valid consideration. As a parent of three kids, I understand completely. There will always be compromise to work out a good solution that will benefit the employee and the employer.