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How Flexible Work Time is Changing the Way We Work...

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

Plus 7 Steps to Creating an Effective Flexible Working Agreement

Imagine you have a flexible work hours' arrangement that allows you to meet your personal and work commitments, creating a work-life balance that you’ve always desired.

Allowing you to leave your home (or go into your home office) in the morning knowing that there is complete transparency and trust that you will meet your commitments and deadlines as you promised, along with being continuously productive.

There are no odd looks (or obvious glances) from your peers, managers or direct report upon your arrival. Nor any off-hand remarks or digs during the day.

You arrive in your workspace calm, committed, ready for immediate contact and wanting to make a positive impact.

In fact, this may have already started earlier that morning at home, when you accessed your calendar and email through remote access, had a quick look at what meetings and actions were scheduled for the day and the week, which had you thinking about your priorities on the way into work.

You may have even replied to some emails or made a phone call or two on the way to work (on your hands-free phone of course!).

You’ve possibly had time to make some mental notes (or written) about any preparations, people to contact, finishing touches and any key items you want and need to achieve that day.

You feel in control, your personal life and caring commitments are met.

There are no feelings of anxiety or stress of having to rush madly for fear of being late or that you’re letting people down.

Your brain and thinking hasn’t been derailed by the emotions of feeling stressed, controlled, micro-managed or needing to please and adhere to strict work timeframes.

Instead, you feel motivated and loyal to the company, through having a work-life balance, to make a positive influence, give your best and are ready to hit the floor running as soon as you arrive.

With flexible work time (often referred to as 'flextime') you can put positive energy into the important work items, knowing that you are trusted to manage your time effectively and efficiently.

Your work-life balance has you receiving feedback on the important and productive outputs rather than seeking approval for all the inordinate things of; I have I arrived on time, I am physically present and everyone noticed, and I left work at the right time.

Mutual agreements create trust

Agreeing to flexible work times is an empowering way to establish trust, transparency and autonomy for the employee, the direct report and the organisation.

It is the opportunity to set-up agreements that ensure each party continues to take responsibility for their professional obligations. And incorporates respecting personal commitments to promote work-life balance and workplace wellness.

The mutual agreement model below combines several concepts from transactional analysis (TA) theory and theorists.

Use these 7 effective steps, to help cover all the bases, when creating a flexible working policy or negotiating flexible work arrangements with your employer or employee.

7 Steps to creating Mutual Agreements covering all the bases for each party:

  1. Procedural: Establish clarity of agreements on the flexible work. Include hours, days, place; expectations of contact, face-to-face presence and being regularly kept informed i.e. via calendar, intranet or email.

  2. Professional: Establish the delivery commitments from each party. These are the inputs and outputs agreed. E.g. job descriptions, employment agreements, contractual agreements, reports, productivity, professional skills and competencies.

  3. Purpose: Establish what will be achieved through flexible work time that allows the ability to meet their caring commitments, personal pursuits or study, along with meeting work expectations, productivity and outputs.

  4. Personal: Establish what the flexible work times are in relation to personal time. For example, is it expected that emails and phones call would be responded to outside of 9-5 work times or not?

  5. Psychological: Speak openly about your assumptions and expectations of what flexible work hours mean in regard to contact and presence acceptability. For example, when there are urgent requirements and being flexible to meet these requests.

  6. Psychological distance: Address any expectations of peer and stakeholder engagement as there can appear to be a ‘distance’ when not in attendance, physically in the office, and how to keep people informed of your hours, availability, whereabouts and productivity so as to be visible when working flexible hours and virtually.

  7. Physis: Commit to regular reviews so that each party keeps learning, not only from the flexibility of working hours, also from their work experiences, professional development and learning on the job and trust in the ability to be iterative and change.

(Mutual agreements model adapted from Crossman 1976, Steiner 1977, Hay 1991)

It is the psychological agreement (psychological contract) that is the most powerful.

This is because it represents our own imagining of how we will be treated, our feelings of fairness and assumptions of mutual expectations of inputs and outcomes.

I say imagining, feelings and assumptions because unless they are made known and discussed between the parties concerned it can become the biggest cause of misunderstanding and conflict.

This approach to flexible work arrangements is not suitable for all workplaces.

As we know 24 hour services, health departments, security, travel, retail hours and many other services which need to provide definite hours of services or round the clock services depend on staff being rostered and available.

However, for other workplaces keeping up with the global and national trends for flexible work practices, flextime management will be an on-going challenge for innovation and practice.

According to the research for those employees who do have formal flexibility in the workplace now – they are aged between 31 to 45 and represent middle management. It is anticipated that it will be this workforce group that will be the potential future leaders of New Zealand, who will be paving the way for further flexible work arrangements, utilising all the technologies that enable contact and engagement to take place with ease and speed.

Explicit agreements (stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt), are a transformative and transparent practice to meet the needs of organisations and employees when working together.

Employers’ and employees’ all benefit from staff being more engaged, trusted, and productive, resulting in satisfied customers and the bottom line.

Do you have flexible work hours in your employment, or are you looking to negotiate them with your manager or team? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic...

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