Flexibility Does Not Equal Results

Flexibility. Sounds good. What else reminds us of flexibility? Nimble? Agile? Then why does the word “flexibility” as it relates to work make me cringe? And why are there so many Human Resources professionals touting workplace flexibility?

At its very basic level, flexibility sounds good. Employers want to give employees some work-life balance to increase employee engagement. For this reason, many human resources professionals promote flex work as a solution.

But is it the solution that gets them to their outcome of work-life balance? I say no, and here’s why. There are three main problems with flexibility programs. Think about them and see if they resonate with your agency.

The first problem is limited access. Some employees can work 4-10’s, some can telework, and others can’t. This system of the haves and the have not’s create tension in a work environment and an unhealthy culture.

The second problem is limited flexibility. Let’s say someone works four 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday. In that scenario, life can’t happen on any day other than Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Need to see the dentist on a Tuesday? You are out of luck, or you have to beg to switch hours. And what about the customer that needs help on a Friday? Does your agency tell them to call you when you are in the office on Monday? That’s not great customer service.

The third problem with flexibility is career tradeoffs. In some organizations you have to choose: working a flex schedule in trade for career advancement or a better raise. In organizations where this happens, being present is rewarded, not results and not meeting the customers’ needs.

So how do we fix this? My answer: Results-Only Work Environment. In a ROWE, people are trusted to focus on the work and rules about when and where they are working are out the window. Can you imagine how much room in your day you would have if you didn’t have to go into detail about the need for a last-minute dental appointment? And how much would that add to your manager’s day as well?

Sometimes I hear from skeptics that the world will be chaos if they don’t have people come to the office. In some cases, people need structure and rules or they won’t get their work done. In a ROWE, they are measured by their results. If someone wants to blow off work and not achieve their results, then they won’t have a job.

The most important pieces to a ROWE are the following 3 things: 1. Trust people to make the right decisions 2. Work with your group to determine results and how to measure them and 3. Hold people accountable to those results.

If you can achieve those three things, you will be light years ahead of other organizations that will be going after the same talent. Now, doesn’t that sound better than focusing on time and rules? Get rid of flexibility and go ROWE.

To learn more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit gorowe.com

Christy Runningen can be followed on Twitter @christyrunn

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Rita Leyva

Very interesting ideas. In a small office with only 8 employees, including myself, the resentment that builds because some positions are allowed to work four tens and some are not, the resentment is real. However, the job satisfaction for the ones that are allowed to flex their schedules, is over the top. For the ones that can not work the four tens due to customers’ needs, I have to be very creative about allowing them to use their paid time off as they wish. At the moment, I have a very dedicated staff and we have few issues with scheduling, but as employees come and go, this will be a continual problem. I am anxious to have time to learn more about R-OWE.