Any job that gives you time with John Legend at Fashion Week is worth the stress. Attending high-fashion events, delicious dinners, and exciting parties all while being paid top-dollar, what more could you want?
For Sarah Solomon, a publicist in her twenties, this career-reality left something to be desired. Yes, she had the fast-paced New York life many millennials dream of, but the burnout became overwhelming.
Solomon was quickly fed up with begging and pleading to cut into her measly two weeks of vacation time to fulfill her dreams of traveling. So, she quit and moved to sunny Hawaii.
“I do have to budget more, but the freedom is so worth it,” she says. “There are different ways to do work . . . the world is changing,” Solomon shared with the New York Post about her new-and-improved living situation.
While not every one of your employees has a dream of climbing Guatemalan volcanoes or soaking in the sunshine on tropical beaches, they’re likely in need of a change. Unfortunately, millennials are disappointed in businesses, overall, and 43 percent expect to leave their job within two years, according to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey.
The seemingly simple solution to all of this is heightened flexibility. For years now, leaders have been told flexibility is the key to higher retention and happier, more productive employees. Many have heeded this advice, but the benefits of workplace flexibility remain underwhelming.
To make a truly positive impact on employees’ lives — and to keep them from escaping across the country — company leaders need key workplace flexibility plans in place. Employee happiness and productivity will follow.
Increased flexibility requires great responsibility. You now need to plan for long-term employee success with structured flexibility measures.
Give your employees a reason to stay by taking action with these steps to create a workplace with meaningful flexibility:
Stop misusing communication technology
Solomon was right. The world is changing and it’s happening at a rapid, hard-to-keep-up pace. Nonetheless, many of today’s employers are doing their best to stay up-to-date in an effort to help employees manage their lives, at home and in the office.
Leaders are focusing on creating a human-centric workplace to do just that. They’re implementing various flexibility parameters so employees’ work schedules align with their personal lives and when they’re most productive.
This type of flexibility, of course, requires increased communication options for employees when they’re out of the office. Unfortunately, communication tech is often used as a stagnant way for employees to ask questions when needed, send in documents, or remotely collaborate with co-workers.
These are all flexibility necessities, but bland out-of-the-office communication isn’t giving your team the unique interactions they need to remain engaged and dedicated to your team. Plan, instead, on improving and clarifying the connection between your employees and the company.
Use team communication channels to spread motivational insights about the positive steps the company is taking in the industry. Highlight what team members are doing inside and outside of the office to make a greater impact, encourage collaboration in chat room discussions throughout the day, and, most of all, be present as a leader.
Employees who see you frequently communicating via these channels will find value in logging in and sharing more about their workplace successes, challenges, and even personal lives. As a result, connections, collaboration, and teamwork will grow, no matter where your team members are logging in.
Stop treating flexibility as a cool perk
Your employees constantly have technology at their fingertips. They understand just how much freedom tech allows them and consider that freedom a necessity. It’s no longer a benefit they could take or leave — they’re just leaving. In fact, 33 percent of respondents in a Flexjobs survey reported having left a job because it didn’t offer workplace flexibility.
No matter how many means to flexibility you have in place, if leaders view it as a ‘cool perk,’ employees won’t believe it’s a top priority. This is often a misunderstanding. Leaders do value workplace flexibility, but a lack of focus and planning diminishes its importance.
Enable employees to take full advantage of your flexible offerings by putting a robust policy in place. For example, rather than stating that employees have unlimited time off, explain what that means to your company, specifically. Outline the answers to these questions to get started:
- Why does your company believe unlimited time off is a necessity?
- Have you communicated to employees the connection between the unlimited PTO policy’s meaningful value and how it improves business outcomes?
- Do employees understand the guidelines of the unlimited PTO policy and how to get their PTO approved?
- When planning to take extended time off, who can employees talk to for preparation guidelines?
- What teamwork qualities does your company value that will help employees not worry they’ll come back to a stack of work and feel overwhelmed?
- How do leaders and managers stay updated on an employees’ work to ensure their time-off is increasing productivity and quality of work?
- Do leaders also take time off to show employees the company, as a whole, takes advantage of this necessity?
Use these answers to create structured flexibility plans for employees. Give them insight into why flexibility is so important to your company, as well as how employees can take advantage in the least stressful way possible.
Stop under-preparing managers for changes
Whether or not managers are on board with flexibility, they can’t successfully lead their teams if nobody is on the same page. Even your best managers need updated training to understand how to effectively lead a flexible team to a successful future.
Distinguishing the key differences between leading a team that’s fully in the office and one that’s frequently on the go is the key to preparing managers for flexibility changes. Offer training on new communication tools to ensure managers are ready to effectively communicate with remote or partially-remote employees.
Take it a step further and share company blog articles or workshops on how to keep employees engaged with meaningful communication, even when they’re not in the office. Include training on being empathetic from afar and knowing when it’s time to bring employees in for an in-person chat.
Before making new changes to policies or technologies, bring managers in for their opinions and concerns. The more in tune they are with the process, the easier it will be for them to adapt to the changes.