Although workplace flexibility is a hot benefit trend, most employers lack a formal policy. And that needs to change, consultant Andy Rix said recently during the WorldatWork Total Rewards conference in San Diego. Here are eight steps, according to Rix, for developing a flexibility strategy and program.

1. Consider what your “policy” is currently. The first thing employers need to do is to examine the current state of where they are now, Rix said. “You have to get it all out on the table,” Rix said. “You may find that there has been a lot of flexibility informally and there has been no decline in productivity.”

2. Talk to employees, managers and senior leaders. Find out what’s currently working and what isn’t, explore employees’ needs and perceptions, assess manager experience and readiness, determine roadblocks and obtain leader input. “Paint a picture of what worked well and take it from there,” Rix said.

3. Design the program. “It’s perfectly OK to design a program with an umbrella policy and then have policies that are very different in different parts of the business,” he said. “You are entitled to make those decisions by what is important for your company. You can exempt certain roles from certain types of work-life balance — some people have to talk to customers and can’t [work remotely]. You need to write a policy; you need to show that there are no adverse effects or there are positive effects [to implementing such policies].”

4. Conduct a pilot to test the waters. “You aren’t going to get the policy right the first time for the whole organization,” Rix said.

5. Educate managers. “This isn’t just something they should be aware of,” he said. “They should be involved.”

6. Communicate. Communication is key, Rix said. Employers need to educate employees on what is available, how to work with their managers on making flexibility a success, and how to make sure they know what’s expected of them. Employers should also communicate when programs are launched and re-communicate information about the program regularly, he said.

7. Assess the program. Measure the results of the program. “Go out and talk to [employees and managers],” he said. “Ask, ‘Did this achieve what we wanted it to do?’”

8. Sell up. Executives need to understand the value of the programs and how they can affect the bottom line, he explained. Encourage leaders to walk the walk, because “top-down support is essential. It’s always good to have the evidence just in case.”

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