Ensuring Flexibility and Productivity Go Hand in Hand

Ensuring Flexibility and Productivity Go Hand in Hand

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Many managers believe employees want raises and bonuses to keep them satisfied. While they certainly also want fair compensation, many workers prioritize flexible scheduling as what they want most in a job. 

A flexible schedule gives employees the freedom to work when and where they want. This non-traditional schedule lets team members build their own schedules, breaking outside of the traditional nine-to-five, in-the-office mold. 

“Having control over how you work is a key component of job satisfaction. With only about 30% of American workers saying they feel engaged at work, companies that provide flexible structures will likely be rewarded with happier and more productive employees,” writes Susan Price. 

The pandemic has certainly made flexible scheduling more of a reality for many companies, whether they wanted it to be or not. We heard of many instances of micromanagement of remote and flexible workers because companies were so concerned employees would lose productivity outside of the traditional workplace. 

But this isn’t the case. Employees with flexible schedules actually work an average of 1.4 more days a month than those with traditional schedules – for a total of an additional 16.8 additional days each year. 

However, letting employees design completely individualized flexible schedules isn’t ideal either. For instance, if one team member wanted to work a completely opposite schedule from his colleagues, it would be impossible to schedule synchronous project meetings with him. 

So, while employees appreciate flexible scheduling, they also need parameters for their workdays that boost their productivity. 

1. Let your team members choose tools that support their collaboration

Flexible schedules outside of the office can make for communication challenges. Pre-pandemic, too many workplaces may have relied on trickle-down communication, where one employee was expected to let everyone else know about developments in inter-office chats and watercooler conversations. 

When team members are not working at the same time, let alone in the same office space, communication tools need to be more intentional. 

But that doesn’t mean that managers have to choose these tools all on their own. Instead, let team members decide what platforms, apps, and programs work best for them and meet their needs. 

“Provide learning and communication tools and determine which channels are best for innovation, collaboration and communication. Let employees help design the best work environment for themselves,” says Margaret-Ann Cole of Porter Novelli.

2. Set deadlines, rather than worrying about hours worked per day

One of the biggest shifts to accommodate flexible scheduling is a move from tracking hours spent working to tracking actual productivity. As we all know, one employee could be as productive in six hours as another is in 12. So, with flexible scheduling, it often doesn’t matter how long an employee works; rather, managers should be concerned about how much they finish in a mutually-agreed-upon timeframe. 

So, start implementing deadline-based schedules. Consult with your team members on how long it will take them to finish individual and group projects. Then, they can take however long they need to complete this work and manage their collaborations with other people on their team. This way, they have more autonomy over how much time they need to work, rather than being beholden to working a set number of hours each week. 

3. Ask team members to create and report back on plans in one-on-one meetings

In connection to this deadline-based productivity, you also want to ask your team members to create weekly progress plans. While deadlines are typically longer, employees also need to manage their weekly and daily progress on these plans, especially if they are juggling many responsibilities. 

For instance, Slack’s senior director of content marketing Katie Ryan O’Connor asks her team to create plans for the week, make progress on those plans, and then report back to her every week. This way, she’s sure to understand what progress they’re making and hindrances they may have. 

4. Build smaller teams

When creating efficient flexible teams, you may want to downsize the size of the group. While many of us might have built teams with seven or night people, smaller groups are easier to manage – without oversight – by the individuals within them. 

This change represents a shift to a horizontal coordination model, where each member works on their part of the project, and then passes it on to others, while managers give these teams what they need. 

“This reconfiguration reduces the coordination costs placed on the manager without dumping them all on the most accommodating employee(s). Each employee is only asked to help coordinate with a couple of other individuals rather than everyone in the larger team,” writes Margaret M. Luciano.

This structure actually cuts back on “social loafing” as well, when individuals do less work in groups than they would alone. Smaller groups means that individual slacking off is more noticeable. 

5. Ensuring Flexible Schedules Are Productive, Not Overwhelming

Employees appreciate flexible schedules; this much is clear. But traditional business practices also need to be modified to make this type of scheduling both possible and productive. Letting your team choose their preferred productivity tools, focus on deadlines and project planning, and work on smaller teams are all ways to accommodate this shift. 

Bottom line: autonomous employees are productive; they just need parameters to improve collaboration and decrease burnout. 

Additional: Ways to Stay Connected to Your Customers When Working Remotely


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