4 Ways Managers Can Increase Flexibility Without Losing Productivity - Deepstash

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Flexibility And Responsibility At The Workplace

Flexibility And Responsibility At The Workplace

Flexibility has tremendous benefits for employees, including reduced burnout and greater job satisfaction. However, it can also result in spiralling coordination costs for managers, untenable amounts of wasted effort, and the inability to respond quickly to client requests. 

If employees want the benefits of flexibility, they’ll also need to shoulder some of the responsibility that goes with it, like autonomous problem-solving and providing and checking for updates.

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Increasing Employee Flexibility

Increasing Employee Flexibility

To increase employee flexibility on their teams, managers need guidance and support — otherwise, they could burn out on the job or check out to find a new one.

To increase flexibility for employees without losing productivity — or sanity — managers will need to think differently about when employees work together, who works together, how to share information and with whom, all while being careful to stay abreast of any changes and rapidly communicating changes in priorities.

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Rethink When Employees Work Together

Rethink When Employees Work Together

For complex tasks that require teamwork, managers will need to think differently and deeply about project requirements and schedule accordingly.

For project-based workflows, managers should carefully chart out the project tasks and timeline and issue an advance request for employees to block a specific set of days for overlapping work during key project phases (e.g., kickoff, mid-point, finalization).

For less predictable workflows, consider aligning scheduling bursts with calendar time. 

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Rethink Who Works Together

Rethink Who Works Together

In workplaces with less physical and temporal overlap between employees, managers may also need to reorganize their larger teams into multiteam systems of smaller, empowered, and interconnected groups. These smaller teams improve flexibility and adaptability.

This reconfiguration reduces the coordination costs placed on the manager without dumping them all on the most accommodating employee(s). Each employee is only asked to help coordinate with a couple of other individuals rather than everyone in the larger team.

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Rethink Information Sharing

Rethink Information Sharing

When employees were co-located and working roughly similar hours, it was easier to keep everyone on the same page with meetings and learn about important issues by walking around. Giving or receiving an important update only required a few steps (or perhaps a brief elevator ride).

Long waits for status updates or answers to questions can kill productivity. Thus, information availability is critical for flexible workplaces. 

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Revisit What Employees Are Working On

Revisit What Employees Are Working On

Combining and expanding on the previous three steps, managers must think more deeply than ever about the structure of their employees’ tasks and priorities. Map out each part of the task and how they’re connected to one another to determine when scheduling bursts will be needed and when you can assign discrete pieces of the project to smaller subgroups. Record and update all of this information in a shared location.

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The Bottom Line

If employees want the benefits of flexibility, they’ll also need to shoulder some of the responsibility that goes with it, like autonomous problem-solving and providing and checking for updates. However, that doesn’t mean setting them adrift in the storm. Managers are still responsible for making sure everyone is rowing to the correct location in the same direction — even if they’re rowing at different times.

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