Top 5 mistakes managers make around managing flexibility

Top 5 mistakes managers make around managing flexibility:

1. Making assumptions

  • About who wants and needs flexibility – it’s not just mums returning from maternity leave anymore – consider the sleep-deprived new dad, someone who needs time to care for an elderly relative, or who needs more time to fulfil personal ambitions – working flexibly for all these people may well keep them in your team for the longer-term
  • About what someone working flexibly is capable of – or what they want to do – everyone is different so don’t presume that all returning mothers want the easy projects or don’t want to travel anymore

2. Underestimating the importance of building trust
Flexible working arrangements work best between team managers and members who get to know each other's strengths and areas of development; and develop a mutual beneficial way of communicating.  Building trust takes time and needs an open dialogue and lots of feedback both ways

3. Not re-visiting objectives and job description
A very common problem is a team member who is getting paid for 4 days a week but who is in reality working 5 days a week - many people put in extra hours at night when children are in bed.  This may work periodically or for the short term, but it's not sustainable for the longer-term.  Objectives need to be discussed and trialled and re-evaluated frequently

4. Not changing how you work together
If this is the first time your team member has worked flexibly, they may need some help adapting their self-management skills – this is especially important if they are working from home.  It would be a good idea to agree on how you will communicate during the days your team members are not in the office, as well as sharing your expectations around desired output/contributions to team meetings/availability

5. Underestimating emotions
A typical returner from family-related leave will be struggling with a range of complex emotions – from separation anxiety to changes in self-image.  Consider that on top of this, new parents in particular are likely to be sleep-deprived – all of this is bound to have a hit on their productivity, confidence and efficiency in the first months back, even if it is well-hidden.  Showing support and patience during transition-time will pay-off in the longer term

If you would like to read more about managing flexibility and the demand for this leadership skill, see our blog last monthIncreasing Flexibility – do you and your organisation have the skills to cope?

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