Bold Ideas for a Better Workplace

Building a better workplace is more than just an idea for making work fun: it can help you make the most of your human capital and ensure that your enterprise is receiving the highest return on investment (ROI) from your employees.

However, many busy business owners may think the idea of improving the work environment is often too difficult and/or time consuming.

Borrowing ideas from other successful businesses is an easy way to implement innovative and successful workplace flexibility plans. Numerous studies have indicated that it goes beyond making work fun. Employees value flexibilities that allow them to better balance their work and personal lives. Once thought of as an option only available to employees of large companies in certain industries, workplace flexibility programs can be creatively altered to accommodate almost any company.

The 2011 Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work, a project of the Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), offers real-life examples of how 425 businesses – of all sizes and from all industries – offer employees practical flexibility.

“It dispels the myth that flex time doesn’t work for some employees or employers. Examples are given from the public, private, and nonprofit areas and from all sizes of companies,” says Lisa Horn, co-leader of the SHRM Workplace Flexibility Initiative.

Creative management can allow almost any business to better suit employee needs.

One entity profiled, The United Way of Olmsted County, Minnesota, offers its 12 employees the option of working an extra 2.5 hours per week during any 12 week period to earn five Fridays and/or Mondays during the summer months.

Another employer, a south Florida hotel that is a part of a major chain, gave hourly employees the option of cross training in other roles. Once trained, the employees were often called by a nearby hotel to work during conventions or other especially busy times. Employees appreciated the opportunity to earn extra income and the cross-training benefitted the employer, Horn says.

Flexible work time options include:

o Scheduled flextime. Employees may select their starting and quitting times within a range of hours, typically centered on the busiest parts of the workday. For example, one employee may prefer to work 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and another 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

o Daily flextime. Employees may alter their work day within a range of hours each day, typically surrounding core operating hours. In this scenario workers can opt to arrive and depart at a different time each day.

o Condensed work week. Employees may work their allotted hours in a fewer number of days, such as a work week of four 10 hour days, for example. Some companies also give employees the option of working an extra hour each day and having an additional day off per two week period.

Happy employees are productive employees and productive employees are good for any business in any industry. Innovative ideas, especially those that allow employees to have more control over their jobs and work environments, can aid every employer.

Most importantly, employers should be sure to encourage employees to take advantage of such programs.“Many businesses offer flexible work arrangements but workers don’t feel that they are able to avail themselves of these situations,” Horn says. “Businesses can say they have programs but if the culture doesn’t support flexibility and there is no fear of retaliation they aren’t effective.”