No question, flexibility is the buzzword of the hour. And although it certainly sounds like a noble goal, can companies actually make it work?  

As Kira Makagon writes in a recent post, “Employees want flexibility and employers want productivity.” She offers some key things to think about as organizations try to balance both desires:

Realistic expectations

Makagon cites a recent survey of millenial employees, in which 60% of respondents said their employers expect them to be reachable during non-work time, and 70% said they work 20 hours or more outside regular office hours. That kind of demand on people’s time could come back to bite employers — not just because of burnt-out workers, but because employees who simply wish to work a normal schedule could come to be viewed as “not trying hard enough,” Makagon says.

Technology: Double-edged sword

Today’s communication options make it too easy for organizations to have those overblown expectations. Makagon suggests the following:

Give your employees the ability to manage their business and personal communications separately, from the same device. Do your best to manage expectations regarding appropriate email response times, especially during the night, and on weekends and vacation periods.

That ‘martyr’ feeling

Makagon cites a recent Glassdoor survey that revealed half of American workers don’t take all their vacation time, and 15% don’t take any time off at all. Glassdoor calls that phenomenon the ‘work martyr complex,’ or feelings of insecurity combined with a ‘nobody-else-can-do-my-job’ attitude.

“Both employers and employees must shift their ideas about job security to truly achieve work-life balance and a flexible work environment,” Makagon says. “Employees shouldn’t leave for the beach with a task list in tow, and employers should respect their need to take a break.”

A valuable perk

No, question, Makagon says, workplace flexibility is a highly desired feature of today’s workplace. Millennials, especially, would prefer the option of remote working, and many say they’d take less salary to have that choice.

Bottom line: “You have the power to motivate employees with a dispensable resource,” says Makagon. “So use it wisely.”

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