One of the biggest challenges small businesses face is attracting and retaining top talent. Many small business owners feel they can’t compete with bigger corporations because they’re unable to offer the same types of compensation packages. Thankfully, there is an effective alternative for attracting and keeping excellent employees.
A flexible work policy is a low-cost way to make your compensation package stand out, and you shouldn’t underestimate the power of such policies. Work-life balance is a big draw for today’s workers, especially for millennials, who are the most likely to take a pay cut if it means more flexibility and freedom, according to a study by Fidelity. Even if small business owners can’t always compete with the salaries of large corporations, they can make their offers more attractive by providing a good work-life balance, because most employees want workplace flexibility.
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If you want to start drafting a flexible work policy for your business, check out these five ways to make your workplace more flexible and appealing to employees.
Remote work isn’t just for tech companies or overseas workers anymore. Giving your regular staff the option to work remotely is a great way to improve morale and compete with other employers. Many companies offer full-time and part-time employees the option to work from home on certain days, which can be instituted company-wide (e.g., everyone has the option to work from home on Fridays) or managed departmentally, with each manager approving their staff’s requests (e.g., different people work remotely on different days).
Offering telecommuting days around holidays, when many employees are likely to be traveling or spending extra time with family, is also a great idea. Allowing your staff to work remotely several days before and after your winter holiday break or Thanksgiving, for example, will help create a work atmosphere that shows you care about work-life balance as well as productivity, and that makes for happy and loyal workers.
Flexible work hours aren’t feasible for every business, but don’t write off the idea without considering all of the options. Something as simple as giving your staff the choice of three workday schedules can make your company an attractive place to work. For example, many offices allow their staff to choose to work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. These options help tie a workplace together with set core hours.
Flexible work schedules like these don’t need much hands-on management and may require employees to work onsite, which could make these policies more attractive to human resources departments. If you anticipate pushback from your HR division, it might be smart to emphasize that employees will still be in the office 40 hours a week.
Summer Fridays are a nice way to let your employees know your company cares about work-life balance. If your business’s busiest time is the summer, you could consider adopting Winter Fridays instead. This benefit can take many forms. Here are some common Summer Friday schedules:
Some employees jump at the chance of a four-day workweek, even if it means longer hours on working days. The option of compressed workweeks could be a major draw for talented professionals seeking a flexible work experience. There are a few ways to set up your employees to work four days a week, and you can choose how much flexibility you offer your staff.
One option is for eligible employees to work 10-hour days for four days in a row and then get either Mondays or Fridays off. You could also offer a nine-day cycle in which employees work four nine-hour days (Monday through Thursday), work eight hours on Friday and then get the following Friday off work. This schedule is a little confusing to explain at first, but it’s a great option because it doesn’t necessitate a 10-hour day and has the added advantage of keeping plenty of staff in the office on Fridays (since not everyone will be off every week).
You don’t have to restrict flexible working hours to full-time staff. In fact, you might be surprised at your company’s ability to attract top talent simply by offering part-time positions, especially if they’re also remote. There is a largely untapped market of seasoned professionals who do not or cannot work full time in an office but are happy to be productive members of a company for years on end as long as they can do it part time.
Some part-time-job seekers eschew full-time and onsite jobs because they’re busy raising children, running side businesses or traveling, while others don’t need a full-time salary but want to keep a foot in their industry. People with physical disabilities often seek out part-time remote employment as well. These aren’t all entry-level folks, either; many of these professional part-timers have advanced degrees and decades of experience but lack the ability or desire to work a 40-hour week.
In addition to being extremely loyal employees (since so many companies do not offer part-time or remote accommodations), workers who are employed for fewer hours don’t cost as much in salaries or benefits. If they work remotely, they don’t even require desks or office space. You might be surprised by the output possible from part-time staff members, and you might be able to afford a higher-caliber employee for part-time hours than you would if you restricted your search to full-timers.
When it comes to instituting a flexible work policy, small businesses may have an edge over large employers because big organizations often have legacy rules and red tape that make it difficult to institute flexible work policies. Small businesses, on the other hand, may be able to roll out these policies more quickly and easily.
Although small businesses may face fewer obstacles than larger companies when instituting flexible work policies, the implementation still requires careful planning and proper execution. You need to do your due diligence when communicating the new schedule by publicizing clear guidelines, getting buy-in from the right people and anticipating snags. Follow these tips to make sure your new work perks are well received and implemented correctly.
Although one of the main goals of offering flexible schedules is to make a workplace more appealing, remember that the implementation means extra work for some people in your company. Seeking early buy-in from your HR department and key managers will help them see the big picture. Be sure to listen to and note their concerns, and clearly communicate why you want to implement the new policy. Let them know that you appreciate their work and that you’re aware of how such policy rollouts can be challenging.
Managing a flexible workforce, especially a remote one, isn’t the same as managing a traditional one. Train managers to ask questions, challenge their team and be available through a variety of communication methods. Make sure they schedule regular phone meetings, or face-to-face meetings if possible. For more tips, consult our comprehensive guide for how to manage remote workers.
If you are nervous about starting a flexible work program or are facing tremendous resistance, a trial run might do the trick. Before launching a full-scale flexible work program, create a trial program using one department or a small group of employees from different departments. Plan to run the trial for a good length of time – one month or longer – to work out the kinks and gather real data.
Telecommuting and working flexible schedules require specific traits that not everyone has. But don’t shut down the entire flex work program just because a few people aren’t cut out for it. Instead, consider other perks you could offer to employees who aren’t a good fit for flex work while continuing to let most employees take advantage of work flexibility.
Bassam Kaado and Chad Brooks contributed to the writing and research in this article.