Continuing the discussion around flexible work (as a follow up to my post earlier this week; click here if you haven't read it yet!)... I want to talk about the communications surrounding flex work.
Leading up to and at the workshop I led last week on implementing flexible work options for superintendents and safety folks, we had some great discussions about flex work, and a topic that came up frequently was communication. They recognized that all communications surrounding flex work are really important, and they firmly believe (and are not wrong) that their organization is super flexible. One superintendent even described it as a "people-first" company. Therefore, some of their chief concerns and hesitancies about implementing flexible work roped in communications. For some, one of the biggest concerns was team-wide communication suffering with the implementation of flex work. Others felt that their employees "just know" flexibility is available to them because the company had already implemented a good amount of flex work options.
Both sides of the communication conversation are 100% valid. Let's break them down a little...
During the workshop, one of the attendees said: "increased productivity is good, but working from home makes individuals isolate, and teamwork suffers." Construction is a team sport, so maintaining a team environment should be a chief concern when implementing changes.
But -- and I cannot stress this enough -- this is not a reason to not explore flexible work options for your team. As I said in my last post, flex work is becoming an expectation among job seekers; demographics of the workplace are changing and younger employees are seeking the option for flex work. You should be exploring options with flex work; just keep an eye on available communication channels as you explore.
Here are four tips to keep team communication in the forefront:
Alleviate the stigma: you do not have to have your butt in the seat to be working... encourage your employees to reach out to their teammates when they have a quick question (not wait for them to return to their desk).
Leverage technology: ensure your employees know how to send a chat or initiate a video call when they need to.
Hold regular meetings: ensure communication is happening through a regular schedule, like team (big and small) meetings taking place throughout the week.
Admit when it isn't working: you will likely run into issues, admit it when they come up and immediately work on how to solve the issue instead of trying to force it.
Communicating the Options
If you think you already provide flexible work options for your folks, I ask you this one question: how do they know that? If your answer involves a multilayered communication effort including some of what's listed below, nice work! If not, you have some work to do to make sure that your employees know exactly what is available to them and feel empowered to use those options.
Clearly state what the company offers and who is eligible for what.
Share it with new employees during the recruiting and orientation processes.
Remind your employees regularly of available options.
Positively recognize when employees are taking advantage of these benefits.
Encourage employees to ask questions about what's available - don't encourage an environment of secrecy.
Regularly evaluate what is working and what is not (and adjust accordingly).
Flexible work options are not just for the "folks in the office". Our superintendents, safety professionals, and other field dedicated employees are expecting flexible options and should be able to take advantage of them. As you navigate what that looks like for your organization, be sure to plan for communication... around the options available as well as how to maintain communication within the team.