Our post today comes from the founder and CEO of Mom Corps, Allison O’Kelly. Mom Corps is a national flexible staffing firm dedicated to connecting progressive employers with professionals seeking flexible work options. Allison founded the company in 2005 after facing her own struggle with balancing her professional and personal lives. Today, a mother of 3 young boys, she operates the 100 percent virtual Mom Corps workforce, which has now grown to 17 franchises, from her home.
So, you’re a business owner or manager looking for a way to liven up the place. Employees are sluggish and unengaged, just one foot out of the Great Recession. They are looking to you for more, all the while searching for better opportunities elsewhere. You are an invested and level-headed boss, but you need to look to the future.
What can you do? Implement flexible staffing.
Most of us generally know what flexible staffing, or workshifting, entails but haven’t taken the time to implement. The best, most progressive companies already recognize and experience its benefits, and the laggards should take note. Flexible staffing is the new work norm and an important strategy when it comes to retaining mid- to executive-level professionals.
My company, Mom Corps, recently commissioned a national survey that found more than 42 percent of working adults would be willing to give up some portion of their salary for more flexibility at work. Interestingly, working men (12 percent) are twice as likely as working women (6 percent) to say they would be willing to give up more than 10 percent of their salary.
And here’s another demographic: the 18-34 age group is 3 times more likely to give up more than 10 percent of their salary (15 percent vs. 5 percent among working adults aged 35+), even though the unemployment rate for young workers is at its worst since 1948 and the highest among all age groups, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The fact that employees of all ages are willing to give up any percentage of their salary in exchange for more flexible work schedules is significant, especially given the current economic climate and record unemployment rates.
Where is this increasing demand for workplace flexibility coming from? We are at a crossroads: the way the majority of Corporate America goes to work no longer aligns with the way American families conduct their daily lives, and the dissonance has reached a critical mass. Because of this growing disconnect, employees – Generation Y, dual-working families and boomers on the edge of retirement – find it impossible to work the traditional 8-hour day.
Too often, I see managers wince at the thought of bringing flexibility into their workplace. They’re aware that flexibility can take on many forms and that it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing commitment.
To help ensure effective adoption, you should test and implement programs as appropriate for your particular industry, work structure and overall company culture. Be completely transparent with your workforce. If you are launching a test, be clear on that fact to avoid disastrous morale issues down the line. Also, know that if you broach the subject of flexible work, there may be no turning back, so make sure you are committed.
Here are some ideas for implementing flexible work options within a company of any size:
Ask employees for their opinion
They likely aren’t asking for much. Before the HR team launches into program development, provide a forum for your team to discuss and offer suggestions based on their needs. Lead the dialogue with questions about maintaining high productivity levels, facing challenges with work/life balance and working the best way possible as a team.
Define regular office hours.
Identify when each team member is available by phone or email. Utilize online calendars to schedule meetings to alleviate some of the back-and-forth banter. Set core hours when all staff work at the office for a set amount of time on a specific day. This can reduce anxiety around flextime for managers.
Don’t just offer the program – encourage it.
When you are talking about a culture or mindset shift, no one wants to be the first person taking the leap. Feature success stories on internal communications channels. Senior leadership and managers need to participate in some capacity whether they have a need for it or not. This demonstrates that there won’t be an unspoken consequence associated with those taking advantage of the program.
Have a back-up plan in place.
Consider adding a contingent, or contract, labor policy to your flexible work plan with pre-approved partners. This provides employees as well as the organization ground cover should special projects, temporary leaves and last-minute absences occur. Companies such as Mom Corps can find specialized professionals, often the next day, so employees can maintain their flexible schedules and companies can continue to see productivity.
Flexible work options are not the effusive HR conversations saved for moms who need to pick their kids up from school. We are well past that. Flexibility is integral to the fundamental shift in how smart businesses operate. How flexible are you?
Photo credit: 37 Signals