KERN BUSINESS JOURNAL
June / July 2014
Flexible workplace: Easier said than done By Holly Culhane
y 2020, an estimated 46 percent of U.S. workers will be Generation Y, or Millennials, people born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts this group will grow to 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, which means companies of all sizes will be competing for these workers. Companies now are being told that they should be making their workplaces “Millennial friendly.” But what does that mean? Millennials use technology to communicate, socialize and work. Their environment should support this whenever possible. They’re generally collaborative and resist being boxed into tall cubicles. But most of all this generation works hard and guards its free time. Flexible working hours and a relaxed working environment are desired. Millennial Branding, a Boston-based Gen-Y research and management consulting firm, recently reported 45 percent of the Millennials it surveyed will choose workplace flexibility over pay. So what does “flexibility” look like and how should company managers offer such benefits to the new wave of workers they hope to recruit and retain? Many workplace observers are predicting that 9 to 5 jobs may soon become a relic of the past. Millennials will set their own hours, have untraditional start- and end-times, and work
from home. But Yahoo’s recent experience shows that making such a “loosely arranged” system may be easier said than done. When Yahoo hired a new CEO, she quickly curtailed telecommuting when she discovered the need for “more face time” and increased supervision in order Holly Culhane to make improvements at the technology company. Factors to consider when making a company’s workplace more flexible: Determine company needs. First and foremost a flexible schedule must meet the company’s needs – production schedules, hours of operation, collaborative work arrangements, etc. It is commendable to accommodate an employee’s personal needs and desires, but foolish if the accommodation jeopardizes the company’s profitability and well-being. Maintain equity. A flexible system should be free of favoritism -- in reality and perception. Workers granted flexible schedules should not be seen by their peers as opportunistic. Managers who allow such arrangements should not be seen as acting preferentially toward a person or group. Plan details. Before approving any flexible arrangements, develop a written plan that identifies specific jobs and departments that will be included, and the types of arrange-
ments that will be considered. Don’t approach flexibility on a piecemeal, ask-and-you-may-receive basis. Test the plan. Before taking “flexibility” company-wide, test it out in one department. Work out the bugs. Pilot programs are great opportunities to learn early in a new process. Explain the plan. Let all employees know about the opportunities, what will be required of them and how their productivity will be evaluated. Not all employees will embrace flexibility. Not all employees will be temperamentally suited for these arrangements. The choice of who will participate must remain the company’s. But employees should believe that they all will be considered. Train managers. Flexibility could include telecommuting, or working untraditional hours, after managers have gone home. Will that arrangement work effectively for both the manager and the employee? How will managers and workers communicate? How will meetings be conducted? How will productivity be measured? With proper preparation, flexible workplaces can benefit both a company and its employees. It’s important to remember, though, to think through the long-term effect before implementing such a plan. Holly Culhane is president of the Bakersfield-based human resources consulting firm P.A.S. Associates and P.A.S. Investigations. She can be contacted through her website www.PASassociates.com and through the P.A.S. Facebook page.
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