For over two years I worked at a company that provided me with the flexibility to work wherever and whenever I wanted as long as I achieved my results. On days I had a lot of planning and writing to do, I worked at home. On days I desperately needed sleep and a morning workout, I’d get to the office about 10 in the morning. On most Sundays, I’d work for several hours to kick-start the workweek.
My vacation time and sick time weren’t tracked. I didn’t need to notify my manager if I was working from home, but I did talk with my manager to plan time away from work (aka vacation).
If you’re considering a workplace culture with this flexibility, here are eight insights I gained from first-hand experience:
- It’s a significant shift in mindset for managers and employees. Most managers and employees are used to tracking vacation time, sick time and work-from-home time. A workplace that empowers employees to work wherever and whenever as long as they achieve their results is a significant shift in mindset for everyone. It’ll take time for everyone to adjust, and it requires consistent, two-way communication.
- Technology is needed to support this workplace culture. Employees are in multiple locations more often and need to come together for meetings, share files, collaborate on new product ideas, etc. It’s critical to have the IT team be part of the planning process.
- Managers need to be clear about the desired results for the team. Most importantly, this culture forces managers to be clear about their desired results. Employees aren’t being held accountable for their time in their office chairs. (Thank goodness!) Instead, they’re held accountable to clear, articulated objectives. (I’m a fan of employees and managers creating these objectives together too.) The trust and flexibility can be enjoyed because managers have the metrics to know if results are being achieved.
- Leaders need to be consistent in their support for this approach. If some senior leaders don’t support this culture, the organization is going to have a tough time with a comprehensive implementation. All senior leaders need to be onboard to increase employee engagement with this trust-building, results-oriented approach.
- Involving employees in the process and communication issues is critical. Involve employees from each area of the organization to think through the implications of processes and outcomes (e.g. exempt vs. non-exempt employees, those who directly serve customers, cross-department collaborations).
- Some employees will take advantage. Some employees will probably take advantage and say they are working from home when they aren’t. Those issues certainly need to be addressed. If employees can’t be trusted to effectively manage their own time, work and results, then this type of workplace is not a good fit for them. Having clear, articulated objectives will help managers hold employees accountable.
- Team communication is key. While vacation time isn’t tracked, it’s still important for employees to communicate with their managers in advance about when they’re taking time away from work so the work can be distributed, clients can be notified, etc.
- This workplace culture was the #1 most valued factor for employee engagement. I saw employees tear up talking about how they were able to go to their children’s sports games without feeling guilty about leaving work. Others would talk about how they were able to make their health and wellness a priority so that when they were working, they were fully engaged. Employees could minimize their commute time and maximize their work time by driving to the office outside of rush hour. In workplace surveys, employees specifically appreciated being treated like an adult and having the flexibility to manage their own schedules. It increased their engagement and productivity.