Responding to Flexible Workplace Arrangement Requests: A Manager’s Checklist Compressed

Job Share Policy Sample

Flexible Workplaces Practices Employee Questionnaire

Hybrid or Remote Work Arrangements Policy Sample

Flexible Workplace Practices: The Growing Importance of New Ways of Working

Introduction

The world of work is changing. How, where and when we work are all up for re-evaluation. Advances in technology, evolving family needs, cultural and social dynamics, and generational differences all play a part in how our work practices are evolving.

A global pandemic forced organizations to implement and even embrace flexible work practices, proving that organizations and industries can adapt and successfully run their businesses using these work models. Employees have since voiced their desire to continue with flexible work arrangements. Consequently, employers continue to assess, identify, and offer flexible work options that align and support their business goals. If implemented and maintained effectively, these programs will attract a diverse workforce and improve retention rates.

Specific to the trucking and logistics industry, much is at play. Balancing the real challenges facing our industry – such as labour shortages, two distinct workforces (non-driving and driving employees), along with on-going requirements for automation, digitization and compliance – is not easy.

The future is flexible, and companies will benefit from being able to build flexibility into their workplace structures. This guide provides clarity and understanding around why flexible work practices are important and how you can go about implementing them.

Flexible Work Practices: A Closer Look

What Are Flexible Work Practices?

Flexible work practices refer to variations of work arrangements that provide a degree of flexibility for how long, where, when and at what times employees work. Previously considered a “perk”, offering employees flexible work options is now an essential part of modern businesses operations.

Why Are Flexible Work Practices Important for Employers?

While there is a common perception that flexible work options only benefit employees, smart employers recognize that they too can reap significant benefits. In the past, flexible work was thought to be limited to just a few types of industries and roles (e.g., tech, knowledge workers). This is no longer the case with more traditional employers evaluating what these practices could mean for their business and their employees.

According to Trucking HR Canada’s Labour Market Information (LMI), key factors behind the industry’s current labour shortage issues include: an aging workforce, difficulties attracting women and youth, and high voluntary turnover.

Here flexible work practices can be mutually beneficial. It has become widely known that millennials value work-life balance when they consider their career options. Employees not only value but need flexibility to be able to successfully manage the demands of work and family. Older workers also find it challenging to maintain the physical pace and demands of long and short haul runs. An organization’s inability to address some of these challenges can result in disappointing and costly voluntary turnover rates.

In addition to an increased ability to attract and retain employees, and the opportunity for workers to achieve a greater work-life balance, within trucking and logistics, flexible work practices are an important weapon against labour shortages. Some of the other employer benefits to flexible workplace practices include:

  • Increased diversity and inclusivity
  • Greater productivity
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • A more focused and engaged workforce
  • Increased ability to handle stress
  • More job satisfaction
  • Lower office overhead costs

The Future of Flexible Work

HR departments are working to come up with more robust remote work frameworks and guidelines which include working remotely fulltime, working remotely “as needed” or a hybrid plan. Below are some trends to consider:

Smart or agile working – Being agile is when a worker can control their own time and decide where and when to work. This allows them to balance what is most important to them in order to achieve strong performance results. This also means that:

  • Companies may rearrange their office workspaces to include areas that will accommodate workers as they “come and go” based on their need to have an alternate place to work, meet with teams or simply feel the need to have a face-to face with colleagues or clients.
  • Hours will continually flex, taking into consideration the work that needs to be accomplished, communication with colleagues and clients that needs to occur and the personal responsibilities that need to be met.
  • Companies will invest in technology that supports 24/7 communication and collaboration and provide secure access to information, clients, and colleagues from anywhere at any time.

Increased focus on work versus having a job – The trend for workers to forgo the traditional full-time job in favour of freelance, gig, or contractor work is growing. The view is that a person can get full-time “work” without having to have a “job”. This gives them more control over how much work they want to do.

Contractors and consultants from around the world can bid for work online and then be paid for the results that they deliver, creating a just-in-time model of getting work done.

The part-timer – Traditionally, part-time was an arrangement restricted to lower skilled roles. There are increasingly more executives and senior level professionals that are working a reduced schedule and demonstrating they can still effectively contribute to the business. The increasing age of the baby boomer generation is also driving up the demand across all industries for more part-time opportunities. People are healthier and living longer, so to remain active and challenged and to meet continuing financial responsibilities, some older workers are choosing   to work in a capacity that allows them to engage in a semi-retirement lifestyle.

Rewarding results versus efforts – Traditionally, work was a place an employee went for a specific amount of time and was paid a salary in exchange for that time. The reward was for the number of hours worked, whether those hours were productive or not.

Now, technology provides the ability for the employee to have more choice around where and when to work. A shift is happening from “work” being a place to go, to “work” meaning the completion of activities that have a purpose for the business. It is a process for achieving results where the outcomes matter and become the measure for rewards and recognition.

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    With new working arrangements, it might be tempting to focus on hours worked as a success measure (for example, did the person log in at 8am, are they working their full day?) versus results and deliverables. Here are some strategies to remain focused on what’s important:

    •  Create job profiles that have clearly defined outcomes and quantifiable expectations – this will help team members prioritize tasks and focus on the most important deliverables and it will allow you to check in on progress.
    • If there are base line expectations, make sure that they are communicated – for example, respond to customers within 2 hours, reply to all team emails by end of day.
    • When setting goals for the role, ensure they are results based and quantifiable, not just task oriented.
    • Include the team member in the process when establishing expectations to ensure buy-in.

Common Flexible Work Practices

There is a wide array of flexible work options successfully used in organizations today. Let’s take a look at their benefits and where caution should be considered.

Compressed work schedules increase an employee’s number of daily hours without changing the total number of hours weekly. Commonly, this is structured as 4 x 10-hour days as opposed to the standard 5 X 8-hour days.

  • Benefit – This provides the employee with a day off through the week to tend to personal and family obligations. It also reduces the number of commuting days and associated expenses for the employee.
  • Caution – Depending on the individual, a longer workday could result in fatigue which can impact both work and personal lives.

Flexible work hours allow the employee to work hours that vary from the companies standard operating hours. In this model, the employee works the required number of hours per week (generally 35-40 hours) but instead of the typical 9 am – 5 pm, they may start earlier and work 7 am – 3 pm, or have a later start and end time. This may be a daily flexible work schedule, or it may only be for a few days a week to accommodate family obligations.

  • Benefit – This helps to reduce the number of lates, and absences and it allows employees to work when they feel most productive. It also improves the company image of being a family-friendly workplace, permitting parents to flex their hours to manage daycare, school and extracurricular activities as needed. A business also retains core coverage of customer business hours. Specific to trucking, this type of work structure for non-driving employees may allow for greater access to support teams by drivers when they are on the road.
  • Caution – Regular department or team meetings will need to be scheduled to include those with a flexed schedule. Overlap with team members may be reduced, requiring the need for better processes and handover communications. It may be beneficial for companies that introduce this practice to have a standard set of core hours that all office employees are required to work, such as 10 am to 2 pm.

Part- time work is an arrangement that usually allows a person to work fewer hours per work week than their employer stipulates as full-time employment.

  • Benefit – Working reduced hours provides employees time to direct towards other obligations or interests. This leads to better balance, more energy, and less stress. Often, part-time employees come with a fresh perspective and creative ideas they have thought through on their days off. It also provides the employer an opportunity to schedule part-time employees according to the company’s needs. They can cover for full-time employees who are taking leave, or they can be scheduled during the busiest hours of the week to cover high customer demand.
  • Caution – Comprehensive communication practices will be required to ensure part-time employees are updated on activities and changes that occur while they are not at work. This will eliminate confusion or inconsistencies. For example, by ensuring all employees are copied on all email communications, by noting when most staff will be working and scheduling meetings during those times, or by assigning work buddies that are responsible for updating part-time employees on information they missed while off.

Telework/remote work at its core, is people performing their work at locations different from where they would normally be doing it. Often, this means working from home or a telework space. The ability to conduct their regular job duties relies heavily on technology and tools that support remote work. Hybrid work models are here to stay.

  • Benefit – Provides greater access to diverse talent pools through expanded geographical and cultural reach. Trucking HR Canada’s research demonstrates that millennials and women are particularly attracted to this work arrangement, though it is not limited to those groups. This type of work practice allows for better work-life balance, improved ability to meet family and social obligations, while still being able to satisfy the requirements of their job and expectations of their employer. Reduction in the need for office space and related expenses result in a cost savings for the business.
  • Caution – Managers need to get comfortable with the notion of trusting that remote employees are productive and completing their business goals even if they are not able to “see” them working. Some jobs don’t lend themselves to remote work. Processes and communications need to be more intentionally considered. Some information sharing is lost.

Job sharing is a staffing practice that involves two people working in the same position on a part-time or reduced-time schedule and sharing the responsibilities that a full-time employee would normally fulfill on their own.

  • Benefit – Greater opportunity for coverage if there is an illness, emergency or vacation being taken. Like most other flex work options, work-life balance is a primary benefit.
  • Caution – A risk of having incompatible partners or different working styles that could interfere with meeting customer requirements. It may fall to management to resolve conflicts and ineffectiveness.

Gradual retirement allows employees to reduce their working hours or reduce their workload over a period rather than switching from full- time employment to retirement abruptly.

  • Benefit – This phased period can be used to train the replacement employee or to adjust for the redistribution of tasks among the remaining employees.
  • Caution – Similar to part-time arrangements, impact to employee benefits and pension will need to be considered. Additionally, this arrangement has the potential to last beyond the period where it is mutually beneficial. There may develop physical or motivational limitations to the employee’s productivity.

Additional Flexible Work Options for drivers could be:

  • Team driving – this is a trucking-specific version of job sharing, in which route-responsibility is shared amongst a group of drivers.
  • Tandem driving – this is where two drivers travel together. This can work well for spouses or other members of a family.
  • Route scheduling – careful consideration is given to drivers’ off-road responsibilities when routes are created and assigned.
  • Load sharing – a way to potentially shorten routes and ease the burden on specific drivers.
  • Any arrangement that drivers feel would contribute to work-life balance and productivity on the job – surveying your employees can yield many fruitful initiatives and has the added benefit of increasing engagement as they witness their ideas being put into practice.

Top Fleet Employers Lead the Way

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    •  87% offer part-time work upon request.
    • 75% allow drivers to select their schedules.
    • 78% allow drivers to select routes close to home.
    • 42% offer load sharing.
    • 56% offer team driving.
    • 69% allow drivers to have family members in their cab.
    • 55% allow drivers to have pets in their cab.
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    • 79% offer schedule selection.
    • 83% offer part-time work upon request.
    • 94% offer telework/work-from-home.
    • 43% offer a compressed work week.
    • 30% offer job sharing.
    • 51% offer phased in retirement.
    • 19% offer summer hours.
    • 35% offer a earn days off program.

Considers Before Implementing Flexible Work Practices

Before initiating a formal program, a thorough review of the following factors will help ensure flexible work practices that are mutually beneficial for the business and its employees.

Gain Leadership Buy In

  • As with the development of any HR program and employment practice, involving the leadership team in initial discussions is a best practice. Key stakeholders should agree there is a need, understand the benefits and risks, and ultimately support the offering. Some of these practices rely heavily on the management team changing their mindset and embracing the concept of managing a team of employees under several different work arrangements. It also requires them to work on the premise of trust – shifting from seeing employees doing the work to instead measuring the results of their work.

Understand the Business Impact

  • Not every employee will want a flexible work option. Many are keen to maintain standard work situations as it suits their work style, personality, social, and family needs. However, just knowing that the option is available positively impacts employee and community perception of the company.
  • Conduct a review of the financial impacts – weighing the pros and cons. Companies can benefit from flexible work practices through reduced costs related to overhead and real estate. Don’t forget to also factor in the real costs of turnover and how higher retention can impact productivity.
  • Review customer demands, operating hours, seasonal highs and lows to ensure there is appropriate coverage and the ability to provide clients with the service and products they require.
  • Evaluate the impact to other team members and the organization. Flexible working arrangements typically mean not every team member is in the same place at the same time. When poorly managed, this can harm communication and cohesion, leading to decreased productivity and wellbeing. Proactively countering these impacts will be key.

Know the Legal Implications

  • Adhere to minimum Employment Standards regarding maximum hours of work, overtime, and rest periods.
  • Understand obligations and follow provincial occupational health and safety legislation applicable to the employer.
  • Federally regulated employers should be aware their employees have a right to request flexible work arrangements. Under the new provisions of the Canada Labour Code introduced in September of 2019, employees with at least six months of service can request flexible work arrangements relating to their hours of work, work schedule, or work location.
  • Safeguard confidential business information, particularly in telework situations where employees need to conduct work conversations, handle, store and dispose of business information in a location that is off site or remote.

Identify Potential Changes to Terms and Conditions of Employment

  • In situations where there are reduced hours, understand the impact of reduced hours on benefits eligibility.
  • Think through the impact to compensations strategies. In telework, some employees conduct their work in markets that differ from the primary business location. Consider basing pay on 3 options: employers’ location, employees’ location or national median for role/industry.
  • Ensure compliance with any collective bargaining agreement.
  • Make sure employment agreements reflect the work practices. Consider including clauses that allow for temporary or permanent changes to flexible arrangements in case of unforeseen business requirements.

How to Effectively Implement Flexible Work Practices

Equally important to understanding what options for flexible work practices are available is determining how to implement them. This section of the guide will provide insight into steps that can be taken to support the successful implementation of flexible work practices.

Do the Research

  • Seek feedback from employees about what flexible work arrangements would work for them. To be successful, the options must meet the needs of the employee and the employer.
  • Speak to others in the industry about what flexible work practices have worked for them. What benefits have they realized? What challenges have they encountered?

Formalize Policies and Procedures
With a clear and transparent flexible working policy, employees can understand the process to make a request and how the company expects the arrangement to operate. This document might include:

  • The types of flexible work options available
  • Eligibility criteria
  • Conditions under which a flex work agreement can be reversed
  • Addressing changes in employee status (for example, if a promotion or change in job makes them ineligible)
  • How to submit a request
  • How and by whom the request will be reviewed/approved and the expected response timeframe
  • Process to appeal a decision
  • Terms of the flexible work option and completion of trial periods
  • Complaint’s procedure

Provide Education and Training

Providing managers and employees with information and appropriate guidance on how to best handle the transition to, and maintenance of, new ways of working set everyone up for success.

  • For Managers:
    • Be clear on the flexible work options available and their role in communicating and aligning these new practices to policy and procedure.
    • Demonstrate the importance of communicating work expectations and goals with employees upfront. Also share how changes may impact results.
    • Highlight the need to commit to operating within a culture of trust. Not seeing employees working all the time may be uncomfortable for some managers. The focus should shift from seeing work being performed to measuring outcomes.
  • For Employees:
    • Clarify the benefits of flexible work along with any challenges it may present. For employees considering a new work arrangement, a check-list that helps them decide on which flexible options is right could be beneficial.
    • Provide comfort that participating in a flexible work arrangement will not be detrimental to their career.

Implement Effective Communication Strategies

One of the main reasons that flexible work programs fail is due to a lack of effective communication. Taking the time before implementing any new practice to develop a communication strategy that addresses expectations from the top down can help ensure everyone is on the same page.

  • Corporate level communications should:
    • Announce new or revised flexible work options.
    • Direct employees and managers on where to find policies and procedures outlining the flexible work arrangements.
    • Ensure employees who participate in flexible work options are included in all company-wide communications, staff meetings and events.
    • Create ways for flexible workers to connect on a personal level with their co-workers.
    • Implement technology that supports effective and efficient communication, such as instant messaging apps and mobile collaboration tools.
  • Management level communications should:
    • Allow for one-to-one conversations about the flexible work agreement, expected productivity levels, work outcomes and communication methods to be used.
    • Include written documentation and agreements outlining the flexible work option to ensure mutual understanding of terms and to act as a reference when required.
    • Include frequent and consistent check-in calls to monitor progress on goals and workload management.
    • Provide regular feedback to employees so performance expectations and work goals are conveyed.
    • Assess whether the current flex work arrangement is meeting the needs of the employee and the business.

Run a Pilot Program

To ensure you have a viable flexible workplace initiative, consider taking a test run before implementing it across the entire organization.

  • Start by identifying and rolling it out to a few key departments.
  • Set a date, such as six months or even a year, to run the trial and review the data.
  • Identify and assess roadblocks and adjust as necessary.

Guidelines for On-going Success

Evaluate Regularly

  • Review policies and procedures on a routine basis. Modify as required since the conditions and needs of the business and employees change over time.
  • Obtain employee and manager feedback. Gather evidence and feedback that participation in these programs is in fact providing the intended benefits to the business and its employees.

Ensure Consistency

  • Inconsistent application of policies can cause resentment, poor morale, loss of employees and even legal action.

Collect and Review Data to Confirm Effectiveness of Flexible Work Practices

  • Are the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) of the business being met? If not, is there a correlation with the flex work practices initiative?
  • Are clients satisfied with service, response, and delivery times of those participating in flex work programs?
  • Has there been a reduction/increase in business costs related to the flex work program?
  • Has there been an increase/decrease in retention rates?
  • Has there been an increase/decrease in productivity rates?
  • Has there been an improvement in meeting diversity goals?
  • Has there been an increase/decrease in employee absenteeism?
  • Has our employee satisfaction survey yielded improved results?
This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program (SIP)