The force behind workplace flexibility

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 10th, 2012 at 7:51 am and is filed under Chamber News, Women's Business Center. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

As the workplace and technology evolve, the traditional nine-to-five job is also becoming a thing of the past. You can swear you won’t check your email, but when your BlackBerry dings, you whip it out before you can stop yourself. It’s Pavlovian. Sometimes it can feel like the work day never really ends.

But that can be a good thing for employees and for businesses.

The U.S. Chamber recently discussed how flexibility is becoming a more prominent factor in the workforce, increasing business focus and productivity.

“By incorporating flexible workers or flexible policies into your workplace, it can have a meaningful impact on company culture where people are efficient, effective, and really focused on results,” says Stephanie Harbour, president of Mom Corps NYC, a staffing firm specializing in the placement of flexible workers.

The Alfred P. Sloan Award recognizes business excellence in workplace flexibility across the nation. The Workforce Development Committee (WDC), hosted by the Salt Lake Chamber’s Women’s Business Center, facilitates the presentation of this award to Utah businesses that implement flexible initiatives for the betterment of the company and its employees. The Sloan Award is part of When Work Works, which is a research-based initiative highlighting the positive business results of effective flexible workplaces that help employees succeed in the office and beyond. See what flexibility practices last years’ Sloan Award winners have in place.

“The WDC is all about initiatives that introduce any kind of flexibility in the workplace that allows employees to work and live life at the same time,”  says WBC business consultant Ann Marie Thompson. “Whether that means being able to work from home, offering fitness or medical facilities, encouraging vacations or applying hours that improve efficiency.”

When it comes to Utah businesses, Thompson says, “WDC will be able to advance the workforce through enhanced awareness of the awards, methods and implementation of flexibility programs. This can also be done through educating a targeted audience about new programs and flexibility trends, and supporting advancement in local businesses and employees through the implementation of flexibility initiatives. All of which lead to happier employees who are able to utilize options that help them maximize their potential and increase efficiency.”

While the workplace can be more flexible to ensure the efficiency of the employees already working, employers can also add flex employees to their teams to enhance productivity while keeping overhead costs low. Many industries have seasonal work or projects where flex workers would be beneficial. Flexible employees can give your company the skills and expertise it needs but without the cost of a full-time employee. Flex employees focus on their job during the hours arranged for them to work rather than personal things, so they are better able to better balance their work and home lives.

Harbour says it’s important to remember that flex workers are still a part of the team and to treat them as such by making the expectations and hours clear from the beginning, both with the flex employee their co-workers. Harbour warns that this may trigger many people to want more flexibility–but that may not be such a bad thing especially if it improves productivity f0r the business.

What are your thoughts on incorporating more flexible work options? We welcome you to discuss the flexible workplace and employees in our comments below.

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