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Myths About Flexible Work

1. There are no clear business advantages. 
Flexible work can produce significant benefits in terms of retention, productivity, and employee engagement. It can be a no-cost way to improve job satisfaction, improve customer service, or extend service hours. Some departments may also find that telecommuting is a useful tool to alleviate crowding and make better use of space and equipment. 

2. Flexible work is a major change for us. 
Informal FWAs have existed at the university for some time, varying by department. By formalizing our flexible work polices, we’re establishing a common framework for access. 

3. FWAs will reduce or disrupt services and create chaos. 
Flexible work should not reduce your department’s ability to serve its stakeholders or meet obligations. Supervisors will retain control over how FWAs work in their department. Work with your team to set parameters and expectations. 

The fact is, many companies report that customer service ratings improve with flexible work— attributed to better morale, job satisfaction, and employee retention. With proper planning, flexible work arrangements could even help your department extend service hours. 

4. Employees are entitled to flexible work. 
Staff members have a right to request FWAs and receive reasonable consideration, but some positions are not a good fit for flexible work. Staff members are expected to request work arrangements that will jointly support their interests and the best interests of their unit/department. 

5. If I approve flex for one employee, I have to approve it for everyone. 
No. However, FWAs must be fair, and employees should have equal access to consideration for flex. Flexible work may not be appropriate for all university departments or roles, and a staff member’s hours need to be consistent with the requirements of his/her job. That said, supervisors should be creative and look for ways to offer flexibility without disrupting operations. 

Explore ways to “get to yes.” Look for equitable ways to provide access for everyone who wants to work flexibility, such as rotating flex days or telecommuting days. 

6. It will be hard to manage performance when I can’t see people working. 
Unless you are constantly standing over someone’s shoulder or eavesdropping on conversations, you don’t really know how hard someone is working anyway. Face-time management is not an effective way to judge productivity. Shift your focus from “inputs and hours” to “output and results.” 

7. If I give someone the go ahead for flex, they’ll just come and go as they please. 
No. As a supervisor, you’ll set parameters around flextime arrangements. Flextime might mean someone works nontraditional hours on a regular, set schedule. Or, it might mean someone has leeway to start and end their workday anytime within a pre-defined window. Supervisors will work with their teams to create arrangements that meet both employee and department needs. 

8. Productivity will decline. 
Most of the research on flexibility suggests that productivity improves when employees have greater control over their work schedules. Studies show that morale improves and people put in more effort. In one study commissioned by Microsoft, 77% of managers reported that productivity improved with flexible work, and that employee productivity increased 46% on average. 

Research also shows that telecommuters tend to work longer, effectively “giving back” 60% of the time they would have spent driving. 

9. Flexible work is for millennials and parents, especially moms. 
Women and men are equally likely to use flex options throughout their careers. Research by Catalyst Inc. found that employees of both genders, all ages, and those with and without kids value opportunities to work flexibly. Other studies show that men are far more likely to telecommute than women, with no significant difference due to age or parenting status. 

10. Everyone will want to telecommute, and I’ll have to deal with massive conflicts over who has to stay in the office. 
Not everyone wants to work at home. Some people don’t have the appropriate space to work at home, and others prefer the office camaraderie. If you get several requests, look for equitable ways to say yes, through cross-training and/or rotating telecommute days. You can also ask your team for help organizing the schedule. You might find that team members are happy to support each other so that more people have access to telecommuting.