5 Things to Consider When Creating a Workplace Flexibility Plan

According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), trends are pointing toward a two-tiered workforce—employees whose positions are suited to remote work, and employees who must still be onsite to do their jobs. “This is requiring organizations to really think hard about meeting employee needs while maintaining consistent organizational culture and policies,” shared Nicole Belyna, SHRM’s Field Services Director, in her session on “Shifting to a Humane Workplace: Leveraging Workplace Flexibility” during our Fall Conference for Animal Welfare. Here are five of her top tips for creating or updating a plan.

Look at the Numbers

It’s important to get a sense of what’s going on in the workforce, pre-pandemic as well as where we are now:

  • Studies show 51% of people read work emails during off-hours
  • “There are now 5 generations in the workforce!” shares Belyna. And by 2025, millennials will comprise 75%.
  • In 2019, 1/3 of workers left jobs because employers did not offer flex benefits.
  • While a 2018 study showed that 70% of employers offer some sort of telecommuting option, a 2020 survey found that 1 in 3 organizations are even more willing to employ fully remote workers.
  • Employers offering flexible work options report decreases in absenteeism, turnover and health care costs.

Tips for Crafting a Draft Policy

If you don’t have a policy in place, Belyna recommends the following:

  • “Deputize a small group of individuals to help research,” she says.
  • Understand employees’ needs—ask managers and their direct reports what benefits would really help them.
  • Consider: Will you need a dedicated budget line in order to implement a new policy? How will you handle home office reimbursements and use of home cell phone/WiFi access?
  • Consider: Which employees will be able to work a flex schedule? 
  • Seek legal review and approval of the policy.

Offer Flexibility Options for Onsite Workers

While front-line staff and those who provide field services obviously need to be on site to perform their roles, you can offer these employees flex benefits, too, including:

  • Flexible scheduling to allow for childcare, etc.
  • Online training in lieu of in-person training (when possible)
  • Flex leave
  • Flex time (i.e. longer days/shorter work week, etc.)
  • Location flexibility
  • Job-sharing
  • Option to attend regular meetings virtually, when appropriate

Start Small

If board and leadership are not yet sold on your workplace flexibility proposal, run a pilot program. It can even be one employee and, shares Belyna, “This will allow you to track progress and anticipate and address hurdles on a small scale.” (If you already have a plan: Have you assessed its effectiveness? “Attendance and retention are all good benchmarks to look at.”)

Attention, Management: Set the Standards for Work-Life Balance!

This one’s crucial, says Belyna, and urges leadership to encourage staff to take their vacation and PTO. Also key: “Instruct managers not to send emails at off hours regarding questions that can wait.”


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