How to Manage Employees Seeking Flexible Work

The days of employees arriving at the office in one group at 9 a.m. and heading home at 5 p.m. are long gone. In today’s world, many look to knock out projects or stay in touch with clients from the plane, car, coffee shop or even the comfort of their living room.


So what are staffing agencies to do when they encounter potential employees who have talent but also personal desires for job flexibility that they value even more than salary?


If you’re starting your own staffing agency and choose to take an approach that is too inflexible, you risk either losing some of that top talent or ending up with individuals who will immediately start searching for a job that will better meet their needs.


Here are four tips on how to approach job flexibility at your staffing agency:


Identify the need

When employees come to you seeking flexibility in their work, talk to them about the situation that has created this need. Rather than get defensive, use an inquisitive approach to help identify the problem the employee hopes to solve through a flexible schedule.


Give the person a chance to state their case and explain why they need this flexibility in their schedule and why they deserve such consideration. Use it as a foundation to begin searching for a solution that will meet the needs of both parties.


Review past experiences

It’s very likely that your staffing firm has dealt with requests for job flexibility in the past. Whether it was an employee who had to care for a sick family member on a long-term basis or one who is searching for the best way to care for a new child, this is probably not a new issue.


Assess what has worked and not worked in the past. When looking at situations that did not go well, try to determine why. Did the person try to take advantage of the situation? Was it not a job that could be done through a flexible schedule? All this should give you a framework on how to build a better policy.


Set clear expectations

Each work situation is going to be different depending on the individual’s circumstances and his or her role at your staffing firm. It would be nearly impossible to create a uniform policy that works for every employee.


What you can do is ensure that expectations are clear on both sides when entering into a flexible work arrangement. This includes such things as how and when the employee will be available to address questions and how long the flexible schedule will be maintained if it’s not permanent. Try to address questions and concerns upfront so they don’t become points of contention later.


Help your managers

Just as it’s an adjustment for employees to begin working a more flexible schedule, it will take some time for your managers to settle into a comfort zone. Make sure they have an appropriate level of discretion as leaders in your company to be able to say “no” at times when a situation demands it. Give them the power to come to you when a flexible arrangement isn’t working out.


Incorporate job flexibility into your leadership training programs so it becomes a natural part of your staffing firm. The more you seek to specify these details in the beginning, the better the results will be when the need arises.