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Chapter 11

Flexibility

An increase in Millennials in the workplace has brought increased requests for mobility and flexibility.

Flexibility doesn’t necessarily mean working from home; it can mean different shifts, compressed work weeks, or other creative solutions. There are many ways to address these demands, which are ultimately part of a broader trend toward accommodating sustainable work-life balance.

Flex time, where employees work the same number of hours but don’t follow the traditional business schedule, is a popular request. Some businesses say flex time doesn’t work because of the need for facetime in the office. One option is staggering the typical Fridays-off model so that different workers take different days off. Another means of accommodating flex time is to implement core hours during which all employees must be in the office for face-to-face meetings; workers can flex their other hours as it works best for them.

One key to successful implementation of flexibility policies is noting that they can’t be applied wholesale across a company. Performance metrics should be adjusted and scrutinized, monitoring how individual productivity is affected by specific flexibility measures and then customizing how much flexibility is offered to each employee accordingly.

Although implementation can be complex, employee flexibility encourages workers to be similarly flexible with the business—which increases their likelihood to give more to the business at critical times. For example, after the 2013 floods, companies whose workers were accustomed to working from home were better positioned to keep working, business as usual, than were their counterparts who weren’t equipped to work remotely.

With companies becoming more global, many workers take conference calls outside their normal working hours (e.g., at 4 a.m. or 11 p.m.). Allowing workers to take calls from home and then attend to personal matters during the “normal” workday can help significantly with work-life balance despite an unpredictable schedule.

One key driver of the demand for flexibility is a lack of affordable childcare—which is exacerbated by the rise in the number of single-parent families. In Colorado, childcare rates are the eighth highest in the country. Particularly in the state’s rural communities, people are spending up to 50 percent of their wages on childcare. Telecommuting and flexible work policies can help enable continued productivity when childcare costs are otherwise a significant issue.