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Max Shepherd-Cross

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August 10, 2023

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How to create a flexible work policy: An example + a step-by-step guide

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Is your team tired of the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule? Do team members often express a longing for a work environment that allows for more flexibility and freedom? If so, then it might be time to consider implementing a flexible work policy at your company.

Hybrid working arrangements have become a standard in many countries, and many employees love them for the added flexibility. For some, it might even be unthinkable to get back to an office-only, 9-to-5 workplace.  So, unless you have good reason not to offer a flexible arrangement, it might be time to put standard working hours behind you and provide your team members with more freedom.

In this article, we will discuss why you might need a flexible working policy, talk about its key elements, and provide you with a step-by-step guide to create your own. Plus, we'll discuss a successful example of a company that implemented a flexible working policy successfully and see how exactly.

Why do you need a flexible work policy? Top reasons & benefits

First, let's look at the top reasons why you might want to provide flexible working options to your employees.

1. The work environment is changing

Today, the traditional work environment is quickly becoming a thing of the past and is replaced by hybrid work models. More and more employees are seeking a better work-life balance, making flexible work policies a necessity rather than a luxury.

With the improvement of remote work technology, employees are no longer tied to their desks from 9 to 5. Instead, they can collaborate seamlessly with their coworkers, regardless of their physical location.

This shift has opened up a world of possibilities for both employees and employers -- and companies need to adapt to the changing expectations of their workforce, if they don't want to risk losing their top talent.

Plus, a flexible work policy can have a positive impact on the environment. If you provide flexible and remote work options to your employees, this will mean fewer commuters in peak hours, which helps reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion.

2. More freedom equals happier workers

Flexible working arrangements enable employees to have more control over their schedules. They can choose to work from home, a coffee shop, or even while traveling.

This freedom increases productivity, reduces commuting time and costs, and reduces stress. Your employees will be able not only to avoid rush hour traffic, but also do more of the activities that matter to them, such as spending time with their families, doing more sports, cooking more, or whatever else they please. (And that's exactly the point; it's up to them).

In short, flexible work policies help improve work-life balance, which has a positive impact on mental health. When employees have the freedom to take care of personal matters without sacrificing their work responsibilities, they experience less stress and burnout. This, in turn, leads to higher job satisfaction and overall well-being, which helps you retain top employees and build a positive company culture.

3. Flexible arrangements promote diversity and inclusion

If your company becomes a hybrid workplace, you can tap into a wider pool of talent.

Consider this: By giving your employees the option to work flexible hours, you'll be able to create opportunities for people who may otherwise be limited by their personal commitments or circumstances, for example individuals with disabilities, caregivers, or those living in remote areas, to thrive in their careers.

4. Flexibility improves productivity and commitment

When employees have the freedom to work when and where they are most productive, they are more likely to do their best work.

By allowing your employees to work during their peak hours (be it 7 am, noon, or late in the evening), you can tap into their creativity and problem-solving skills, which help drive the company forward.

To be committed to their work, workers today want a company that values their well-being and provides opportunities for growth. By offering flexible work options, you can set yourself apart from competitors and show that you value your employees for what they actually bring to the table, regardless of their actual location some (or all) days of the week. 

A few types of flexible working policies, explained

A flexible work policy helps create a more productive and engaged workforce by accommodating your team members' personal preferences and needs. In this section, we'll talk about the different ways in which you can provide flexible arrangements.

1. Flexible working hours

This one might sound obvious, but some companies tend to overlook it and only give their employees the option to work from home or from other locations without the freedom to work when they're most productive.

So, if you're able to, give your employees control over their work hours. This can range from allowing employees to set their own flexible start and end times within a given range (while still defining core hours where everyone needs to be present), to implementing flextime schedules that accommodate different personal preferences.

This approach empowers each employee to determine when they do their best work, taking into consideration their own energy levels, preferred working pattern, and personal commitments. By allowing employees to align their work schedules with their peak productivity hours, you'll easily improve efficiency and optimize performance.

2. Flexible hybrid work

Flexible work arrangements enable your employees to work a part of the time in a different setting than your office. This could be their home office, a coffee shop, a coworking space, or a library. This way, employees are able to explore different locations and also create a workspace that inspires them. (But make sure to provide a coworking/home office allowance for that!)

Hybrid working options have another key advantage: They reduce commuting time and the stress associated with it, which, in turn, provides the conditions for a better work-life integration.

Keep in mind, however, that hybrid work comes with its own challenges. To support your business and each individual employee, you need to:

  • Establish clear communication channels
  • Provide the necessary tech (software and hardware), including desk booking software for the days employees come to the office
  • Ensure that everyone feels connected and supported
  • Make sure employees' computers are secure
  • Ensure employees work from locations where they have the legal right to do so

3. Job sharing and part-time opportunities

By allowing employees to share a full-time position or work part-time, you open the door for those who may have limitations on their availability due to personal circumstances. This enables you to create an environment that values and supports diverse needs

Job sharing is a work arrangement where two or more employees share the responsibilities of a single full-time position. This working pattern enables team members to divide their workload and responsibilities, providing each individual employee with the flexibility they need while still ensuring that the job gets done.

As for part-time opportunities, those are no longer reserved only for service jobs; today, more and more companies provide the possibility to work compressed hours or fewer days even for office jobs. For example, in Switzerland, one third of the workforce works part time!

This can be particularly beneficial for employees who have other commitments, such as pursuing further education, caring for family members, or engaging in personal projects.

How to create a flexible working policy

Now, let's talk about the practical details of creating a formal flexible working policy at your organization, and some best practices you need to consider.

1. Assess your employees' needs

First, look at what your employees want and need to see how this aligns with your organization's requirements. Gather feedback through surveys, discussion groups, or one-on-one meetings and then see how this can play out in practice.

Look into the interactions that are the most meaningful for your team and think of ways to maximize them while providing your team with more flexibility.

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Employees crave meaningful interactions, not office time for the sake of it.

Alt text: A few people gathered around a table with one person showing the others something on her laptop screen

2. Consider key factors and business needs

Next, consider the most important elements of the puzzle of providing suitable flexible working arrangements to your workforce. Here's what to look into:

  • Employees' preferences and flexible working requests
  • The geographical distribution of your team
  • Whether you need workers to be available during specific core hours
  • Available technology and tools (desk booking apps like Officely can be invaluable for this)
  • Available office space and constraints
  • Legal compliance requirements, i.e. applicable labor laws, employment regulations, and flexible working regulations
  • Data security and confidentiality
  • Ways in which you can provide sufficient support for employees

This way, you can tailor your policy to meet your workers' expectations and the needs of your company. This, in turn, helps you ensure a successful implementation.

2. Draft the policy

Once you've identified the needs and preferences of your employees, it's time to put pen to paper and draft your flexible work policy.

Start by clearly defining the rules and guidelines surrounding flexible work arrangements, including eligibility criteria, approval processes, and any limitations that may be necessary (such as business reasons that might require rejecting a flexible working request). Be sure to communicate these policies clearly to avoid any confusion.

Consider providing flexibility options such as telecommuting, flexible hours, compressed workweeks, or job sharing. By offering a variety of flexible work arrangements, you can accommodate different work styles and preferences and create a more inclusive work environment.

When drafting your policy, address potential challenges and put in place guidelines for resolving conflicts. This helps you clear any potential misunderstandings and make sure everyone can do their best work.

4. Implement a pilot flexible working arrangement

If you prefer starting small, you can implement just one type of a new flexible arrangement and see how it works out for your team.

For example, you might put in place a hybrid work arrangement (grab our hybrid work checklist to make sure you have all bases covered!) where employees work from home 2 or 3 days per week, and come to the office the rest of the time. Or, you might also consider a flexible start of the work day for a trial period of a month or so.

Our tip: If you reduce office space, a desk booking tool will help you ensure there's always enough desks for everyone.

5. Implement the entire policy

If your experiment is successful, you can implement the policy in full. To ensure a smooth transition, make sure you communicate well and often with your employees, provide adequate training and support, and get the right software and tools, such as a desk booking app like Officely which allows your team to be able to see who will be in the office each. So they can decide the best days to go in.

By involving your employees throughout the process, you'll create a sense of ownership and accountability.

For this, you need to:

  • Discuss changes with employees
  • Make sure they're aware of potential cybersecurity risks
  • Provide resources and software tools that can help them manage their workloads effectively
  • Define flexible working hours
  • Make sure everyone's employment contract is updated as necessary

During the implementation phase, it's important to monitor and evaluate the impact of the changes. Gather feedback from managers and employees to see if there's anything you can adjust to provide the best flexible work environment for everyone.

A case study: Microsoft's successful flexible work policy

Let's take a look at an example of a company that has successfully implemented a flexible work policy: Microsoft.

Microsoft's flexible work policy in action

Microsoft has implemented the concept of a hybrid workplace across three dimensions:

  • Work site, i.e. the physical space where employees work, such as an office, at home, or on the go.Typically, jobs are either on-site or allow for up to 50% or even 100% work from home.
  • Work hours, i.e. the hours and days when employees work, for example workday start and end times, full- or part-time. Flexibility in work hours is left to the discretion of individual team managers, but Microsoft encourages employees to work the hours that are best for them.
  • Work location, i.e. the geographic location of workers, such as city and country. Each organization at Microsoft has guidelines that define the degree of location flexibility that's possible. Some jobs can be done at a number of locations, which in job postings will be marked as "Multiple locations".
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Here's an example of a job ad for the position of Principal Software Architect/Engineer where the employee could work from home 100% of the time.

Alt text: A screenshot of a job posting for Microsoft for the position of a Principal Software Architect/Engineer that allows for up to 100% work from home

Work schedule flexibility and hybrid work arrangements are now standard for most roles at Microsoft; part-time arrangements and location freedom are subject to discussion between employees and managers. The company usually provides information on each of the three dimensions during the recruitment process.

Results and feedback

Since the implementation of their flexible work policy, 92% of Microsoft's employees have said they believe the organization values flexibility and enables them to use working patterns that are best for them, and 93% are confident they can collaborate effectively as a team, regardless of where they're located.

At the same time, workers craved meaningful connections with their coworkers, which led Microsoft to consider ways in which they can support their employees in working together, rather than merely coworking, when they meet.

Implement a flexible workplace policy with the right software

Implementing a flexible work policy can improve your company's culture and appeal to top talent.

By providing team members with the right arrangements, such as flexible work hours, remote work options, and job-sharing opportunities, you create a workplace that values work-life balance and employee happiness.

Incorporating desk booking software helps you simplify this process, making it easier for employees to reserve desks and know the best days to go into the office. Book a free demo to see how easy it can be to build the right flexible work policy if you have the right software at hand.

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Max Shepherd-Cross

Max Shepherd-Cross

Max is one of the cofounders and CEO of Officely, a flexible work enablement platform. He has helped thousands of businesses not only transition to flexible work but instil it at the core of their culture and brand.

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