Flexibility at Work - The Communication Challenge.
Posted on October 04, 2018
Most companies believe they have a culture of flexibility, but what does that mean? We know it’s best for all when a company creates a culture where employees can do their best work. This means a culture where employees bring their ‘whole-selves’ to work. But it also means understanding what we need to do to create ‘employee friendly’ working arrangements. A workplace is a living environment. We all have different stages in our life, lives change, circumstances change, and we need to adapt to those changes.
The challenge is knowing what we mean in our organisation when we say we support ‘work-life balance’, we have “flexible working arrangements”, we are a ‘family-friendly workplace”, we support ‘dynamic working”. We all have a tendency to use these terms interchangeably, and this can be confusing. Being clear about the terminology is the first step, the next is to put in place the most up-to-date policies and procedures. And it is here that we need to be clear that we explain what we mean by the terms we use. The policies and procedures are of little value if employees don’t know about them. We need to communicate with employees so that they understand not just the arrangements that are available to them but the value the company places on flexibility, the business case.
But policies and procedures can only go so far, it is culture that is key, and nothing reveals culture more than the actions of leaders. Leaders need to demonstrate what they mean by doing. Leaders need to be proactive and talk about the arrangements that they avail of and the value they place on them for their working lives. Only then others will others follow, and only then will managers and team leaders be more comfortable getting on board.
Companies are now recognising the value of communicating the message that flexible working arrangements are good for business.
In some workplaces people are recognising the value of having a community where employees can talk about the challenges of ‘balancing’ and ‘flexibility’ in work.
This is a good development, but we also need to listen, not just to those who are focused on the issues now, but to all employees through surveys of view and opinions, focus groups, or one-to-one conversations. Companies have to be proactive about getting, listening to and acting on feedback from employees.
If your workplace encourages flexibility, you should not only know what that means in practice, you should lead the conversation about what it achieves for the business, and the living working environment.