Work-Life Tips

Implementing FWAs in your Organisation

Organisation leaders and HR practitioners play a critical role in the sustainable implementation of flexible work arrangements (FWAs) that benefit both the business and the individual.

We have put together some tips to bear in mind when introducing FWAs in your organisation. These are based on the best practices of organisations that have successfully implemented and benefited from FWAs.

Tip #1: Assess the feasibility of implementing different type of FWAs

Employers may assess the feasibility of implementing certain FWAs based on whether a job is time dependent, and/or location dependent:

  • Time dependent refers to whether a job must be done at specific times (e.g. determined by customers/business partners).
  • Location dependent refers to whether the individual has to be in a fixed physical location in order to do the job.
With three main categories of FWAs – Flexible Time (e.g. flexible hours, staggered time, compressed work schedule), Flexible Load (e.g. part-time work), and Flexible Place (e.g. telecommuting, home-based work) – employers have a variety of FWAs from which to choose, based on job requirements and restrictions.

Streamlining work processes or redesigning jobs may also improve work efficiency while creating more opportunities for flexibility.

Employers should also bear in mind that FWAs in which employees still work on a full-time arrangement, e.g. staggered time, compressed work schedule, working from home, etc., and are required to deliver the work of a full-time employee, should not negatively impact employees’ salary and benefits. For FWAs in which employees have a smaller workload, e.g. part-time work, salary and benefits might be pro-rated accordingly.

To avoid miscommunication, any change in the terms and conditions of the employment contract should be clearly communicated and accepted in writing by the employee.

Tip #2: Value performance rather than physical presence

Behaviour in an organisation is shaped by what is measured and what types of behaviours are rewarded.

Therefore, to cultivate a workplace that values performance rather than physical presence, organisation leaders need to recognise outcomes and encourage objective performance-based management. This may be done through establishing targets, timelines and expected job deliverables up-front.

Effort based on physical presence in the workplace should not be a criteria used in assessment and reward.

Tip #3: Cultivate an organisation culture that supports utilisation of FWAs

Employee skepticism and fear are the primary barriers to the successful implementation and sustainability of FWAs. Employees need to trust that utilising FWAs will not have a negative impact on their performance reviews and/or career progression.

Top management and line managers play a critical role in addressing these employee concerns by:

  • Demonstrating high-level management support, e.g. publically endorsing and approving the use of FWAs, sharing employee success stories
  • Walking-the-talk by displaying flexibility in their own working arrangements
  • Treating all FWA requests fairly and objectively, and being receptive to alternative solutions that meet business requirements and employee needs
  • Ensuring consistency between what is explicitly communicated (i.e. support for FWAs) and the unspoken norms and corresponding behaviours which may otherwise derail or undermine the success of the implementation

Tip #4: Train managers, supervisors and employees to work in a flexible work environment

In today’s globalised digital workplace, with a multi-generational workforce at differing life stages possessing differing values and priorities, it is imperative for managers and supervisors to acquire new people management skills to engage their staff and leverage their strengths.

In organisations which allow employees to work remotely, or have operations which cut across different countries and time zones, it is even more critical for managers to learn how to manage flexible and/or virtual teams.

Conversely, employees also need to be trained to work effectively as increased productivity will translate into less overtime. Those who can work remotely or work flexible hours must be trained to be accountable when they work without supervision.

Tip #5: Develop a change management plan for the successful implementation of FWAs

In order to create awareness, buy-in and ownership of the work-life strategy, organisations should leverage communication channels and implement a change management plan so as to achieve greater long term success and sustainability.

The change management plan should include the articulation of the business case for FWAs and desired outcomes, the communication of performance expectations, the development of relevant skills (e.g. people management) to support the flexible work programmes, the establishment of clear performance measures, positive reinforcement by the senior management and line managers, and the celebration of successful outcomes.

Invisible barriers which hamper implementation success must also be openly addressed. These include existing cultural norms, unspoken assumptions and expectations by management and co-workers, which frequently translate into unconscious actions and behaviours that undermine success.

An effective change management plan should include a value system and culture to support good work-life outcomes, so that employees would be comfortable utilising work-life programmes without fear of negative repercussions to ensure long term sustainability.

Achieving Good Outcomes in Work and Life – Tips for Individuals

As unique individuals, our perspectives on work and life will differ one from another, based on our career and life stages, personal values, priorities and needs. No single technique works for everyone, but here are some key tips on how to find your own work-life peace:

Tip #1: Keep track

Before deciding how to spread your time between your workload and personal commitments, you may want to spend a week keeping track of your day. Note how much time is spent on specific activities throughout a day (and within one week). By observing your daily routine, you will pick up areas that are “time devouring” and not necessarily useful – you can then prioritise and refocus on what is useful and meaningful to you.

Tip #2: Prioritise! Prioritise! Prioritise!

Some activities may be more important than others, while others may be more flexible. After removing the less important activities, take some time to assess what is important to you. There are work commitments and personal activities that you can say “no” to. Acquire the practice of managing your time and your commitments effectively to avoid unrealistic expectations on yourself which result in unnecessary stress and poor outcomes.

Tip #3: Keep your options open

Instead of complaining about being stressed out by work and life challenges, consider the option of flexible work arrangements. Speak to your supervisor – can you work from home for a day in a week? Can you have compressed work hours – so that you free up your Friday afternoons for family time? Until you try, you’ll never know. Be open to the idea of exploring alternative work arrangements that enable you to better manage your work and life responsibilities.

Tip #4: It is perfectly okay to be imperfect

Not everything needs to be perfect. You are you – do not compare your achievements with others. Know what is important to you and realise that no one has it all. There are areas that you may not be able to fulfil 100% - cut yourself some slack and do not feel bad about it.

Tip #5: Optimise your working time

Many of us have a preferred work time – some of us are early birds and some of us are night owls. If you are able to work from home, then you have the flexibility to arrange your work schedule to suit your personal style. However, even if you are in a typical work arrangement, it is still possible to arrange your daily schedule. Plan for early meetings if you are a morning person. Being efficient and productive is likely to make you feel better about yourself, which in turn, results in less stress.

Tip #6: The only constant in life is change

Accept that life changes. As we go through different life stages (such as marriage, children, old age, etc.), we will have to make changes to accommodate these changes. Our family members, who depend on us or whom we depend on are also constantly going through the various stages of life. Whatever the situation, be prepared for your values and schedule to shift, and make adjustments accordingly. Consider all the different areas in your life that demand your time and energy (e.g. work, family, friends, community, etc.) and allocate based on your priorities. Review this at each new career or life stage to find and maintain your balance.

Tip #7: Lean on others

No man is an island. Having a support system of family, friends and co-workers is a big help in your search for work-life harmony. When you are able to share your moments of joy, sadness, fear and pride with others, you are likely to feel less burdened by life’s demands. Asking co-workers to help out at work or family members to lend a hand at home are also ways to help you find the balance that you seek.

Tip #8: Be the fun guy at work!

You may or may not like the work you do – but if you like the people you work with, every day is going to be a good day. Co-workers are your “second family”, especially since we spend so much time at work. Seeing faces of people that we enjoy working with is definitely a plus. So strive to make work relations good – have a good time! Work and life can be harmonised!

Contributed by Sher-li Torrey, Mums@Work (Singapore)

Sher-li Torrey is the founder of Mums@Work - a social enterprise that strives to help women find the perfect balance between being a mum and having a career. Mums@Work lists flexible work solutions for mothers and reaches out to enlightened employers who are open to hiring talented women. In addition, they are also the first community support business for mumpreneurs. Sher-li is a trained career coach and has trained numerous workshops and events on flexible work arrangements.