Flexibility In The Workplace
How can my company offer flexibility in the workplace?
Although it is certainly true that all employees value flexibility, women (and particularly women with children) are likely to rank flexibility as a top priority. In order to attract and retain highly qualified and talented female employees, employers should consider offering some form of flexibility.
The first step is to determine if a flexible workplace policy can work and, if so, for which employees. After all, some positions truly require physical presence during regular business hours, such as receptionists or in-person salespeople. Employers also need to ensure that their job descriptions support the determination in terms of eligibility for the flexible benefits. The next step is to determine which type of specific flex benefits to offer (i.e. teleworking, modified daily schedules, compressed workweeks, etc.).
Employers should then establish a formal company policy related to flexibility, which will help to avoid the potential unequal treatment of employees.
The policy should include a statement of its purpose and will set forth the eligibility criteria for using the flex benefits, the flex benefits available to employees, the process for requesting a flex schedule and grounds upon which the flexible arrangement may be terminated. It is also a good idea to reiterate what is likely already contained in an employee manual—that the flexible arrangement between the employer and employee does not change the employee’s at-will status under Virginia law.
Here are some of the things to watch out for when implementing a flexible work policy:
Consistency is key. Employers should be careful to administer any flexibility policy in an equal way to all eligible employees to avoid any potential claims of discriminatory treatment.
If teleworking is permitted, keeping track of non-exempt employees’ time to avoid any potential overtime issues can be a challenge.
If employees can access confidential information remotely, employers need to take steps to ensure that employees safeguard that information and may want to require employees working remotely to sign an agreement committing to do so.
If employees intend to use personal electronic devices for work reasons, employees need to clearly establish that they are then permitted to inspect any such devices and remove any of the employer’s information from it if necessary.
Provided that the implementation of a policy is well considered in advance, the establishment of a flexible workplace policy can be of great benefit to employers. Employees often report that they will be both more loyal to their employer and productive if they are permitted some flexibility in the workplace—a win-win for everyone.