Workplace flexibility, results-only work environments, and work-life balance initiatives often get stopped in their tracks before there's even an attempt at making them work. Why? Because people fear change, fear losing control, and are worried about potential negative implications that may or may not be realized.
Here are five barriers to workplace flexibility that may be holding you and your organization back from fully embracing the flexibility you want and need.
1. Resistance to change.
Our natural state is to resist change and overcoming that requires some work. Defense mechanisms and a "that will never work here" attitude must be bypassed before true change can take place.
2. Concerns about equity.
People often ask about how to handle the perception of fairness among employees regarding who gets flexibility and who doesn't. Different jobs and positions will be suited for varying degrees of flexibility, but you can combat concerns about equity by providing every employee, regardless of position, with more control over how, when, and where they do their job.
3. Fears of abuse.
This is a common fear, especially when employees begin working outside of the office. Managers fear workers will take advantage of the system. There's an underlying concern of, "if I can't see you, how do I know you're working?" The problem with this is that in your current work environment you probably have employees abusing the system and even though you can see them, there's no guarantee they're working either. This fear is really more a fear of losing control, but as a manager, how much control do you really have or need anyway? You can only control yourself-you influence those around you.
4. Employees worry they'll be penalized or punished for choosing flexible work.
Many workers believe there is job jeopardy associated with working flexibly. Concerns about face time, other employee's perceptions, and worries flexibility will hurt your career are very real considerations. The idea of job jeopardy stems from employers who offer flexibility and then penalize its use; which should never happen.
Another source of this barrier comes from employees and managers who believe advancement primarily depends on face time. In these situations, if you're out of sight, you're out of mind and may miss out on career opportunities.
5. Flexible workers take more time to manage.
This is a common misconception. Just because workers are opting to work flexible hours, schedules, or in other locations, doesn't mean it will take more time for the manager. Leaders may need to develop a different skill set or style, but it shouldn't require more time. In fact, JP Morgan Chase found that 95% of their managers said it didn't require more time to manage flexible workers, 88% said there was no negative impact on supervision, and 66% said it increased their management skills.
Do you see yourself or your organization putting up any of these barriers to workplace flexibility? If so, what steps can you take to overcome them? FEAR is just False Evidence Appearing Real. Focus on the facts about workplace flexibility and what's really happening within your organization and you'll be able to break down the barriers and enjoy more flexibility in how, when, and where you work.
© 2009 Ashley Acker