How Flexible is Too Flexible?
“Is this position fully remote?”
This is often one of the first questions we are asked as recruiters when we are on the phone with a developer. Flexible working models have become such a norm since the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, that people do not want to go into an office every day anymore. People find the former nine-to-five model archaic and are insisting on change. Employers and employees are now trying to navigate a fairly young model of workplace flexibility. This article will explore how much flexibility is too much flexibility when trying to maintain a work-life balance while ensuring a high productivity level.
It is important to understand that flexibility can mean different things to different people. For some, it may mean being able to pick their children up from school every day, while for others it may mean being able to work remotely for two weeks while they travel. Understanding your employees’ needs and wants can foster a positive working environment where they feel seen and cared for. With that said, there need to be limits to the flexibility for productivity levels to remain elevated. If some employees frequently leave early and others are constantly working remotely, it can be difficult to keep the communication lines strong within teams. Employees need be able to communicate easily with one another in order to manage their workloads effectively. If some team members are picking up the slack that has resulted from other members exploiting their flexible working model, it can result in burnout and resentment within teams.
This raises the question of how to combat the consequences of too much flexibility. As the employer, you can set the expectations up front. Clearly communicating the targets and the non-negotiables to your teams can create a sense of responsibility and accountability. We know that employees do not want to be micromanaged, but they must exhibit their ability to work autonomously by meeting the standards that are set by the team leader.
Flexibility goes both ways. The employer and the employees need to work together to forge a flexible path that works for both parties. Employees want to have flexibility and employers want their targets to be met. Empowering employees to co-create a working model that is mutually beneficial to them and their employer can result in a new and effective model to build on. Empowering employees to make decisions about their own flexible work model will help them to feel more in control of their lives and employers can illustrate what is expected of them in return.
Ultimately, a flexible working model can be greatly beneficial to the employees’ mental health. Happy employees can result in better productivity overall. While employees are an asset to a company, it is also important to realise that they are people with complex lives, their productivity may not be 100% every day. Flexibility can be mutually valuable if both parties understand what is expected of them.