Sticky solutions to your everyday business challenges
Question: I lead of team of six at a financial planning and advisory firm in Columbus, Ohio. The firm was founded 20 years ago. My team is made up mostly of more recent college graduates who have been asking for flexible hours for the past two years with no success. What’s more, new recruits are turning down open positions because of our inflexible work policy. My manager has (finally) agreed to listen to our team’s request for more flexible hours. Any tips for how to facilitate the dialogue?
Answer: A 2017 study found that the average worker was willing to accept 8% less pay for the option to work from home. Studies have also shown that employees who work remotely are more productive and have higher rates of engagement. If your firm hasn’t been open to offering flexible work hours, there is much to be gained by making the business case for how outdated norms are impeding the ability to thrive in the 21st century economy.
When applying this to your situation, keep the conversation focused on what can be done versus what can’t while clarifying the non-negotiables.
Get clear on the non-negotiables. The ability for your team members to work remotely should never impact the ability for the firm to meet client needs or compromise data security. Those are non-negotiable. But, if the team meets on Monday afternoons for a metrics review, that’s a good opportunity to experiment with on-site and remote participation using tools like WebEx or Zoom. If a team member has a research project or financial plan to draft, that’s work that can be done from most anywhere, any time.
Establish communication protocols. If team members can’t physically see one another in the office, they need to rely on new norms that help them predict when and how to communicate. Many teams use technology such as Slack, Google Docs, or WhatsApp to collaborate remotely. Norms can also be established regarding preferred response time, message length, and level of formality.
Expect to go through a learning curve as senior managers get comfortable with the changes during the early stages. Remember that unspoken rules create confusion. Help set your team up for success by helping them shape and agree to expectations.