That Time You Tried to Manage Alternative Work Arrangements

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I was talking with a colleague in the insurance industry the other day, and, as often happens when discussing what we do at Whiteboard Consulting, the conversation turned to business processes, what they are, and where organizations can find them.

I love these conversations, because there is always an “A-ha” moment when the light comes on and the person finally gets it. (It’s not as easy as you think, especially if you’re not trained in the industry. Go ahead and try it. Write down five key business processes that are critical to customer or employee satisfaction in your industry. I’ll wait. … … … … Tough, isn’t it? But I digress…)

For my colleague, the A-ha moment came when he thought about his business clients and the implementation of benefits programs in their organizations. They get a new program and look at it and say, “Ok everyone, here are your benefits! Yippee!” and the whole thing ends up a complicated mess of paperwork and administration. Guess what? There’s a process in there, and it needs to be defined and efficient. (Click to Tweet)

Flexible, Remote, and Successful

At Whiteboard we recently engaged with Regus to use their gorgeous downtown Toronto workspace to host our upcoming course, The Process of Coaching. Regus helps businesses maximize the benefits of alternative work arrangements by providing access to the world’s biggest workspace network.

If this type of service is available, why do so many organizations find alternative work arrangements difficult to manage?

Do they do the same thing my colleague’s insurance clients do? “Hey everybody, we’re being flexible! Work from home! Yippee!” And then a month later when deadlines are missed and it’s impossible to find Employee X for an important call, it’s instantly revoked.

Do they manage remote teams by having a conference call once in a while to go through action lists? Are they surprised later when individuals feel disengaged and isolated?

That got the process geek in me thinking.

Nicole, David, and I work from home and from office space at Regus. We have no problem with our productivity, meeting goals, staying connected with each other and with clients, and we have the flexibility to hit the gym in the middle of the day (or have a nap, if I’m being honest) if we want.

The reason for our success in this area is that we have a process in place. If we didn’t, we’d be in trouble and we’d probably have to move to a formal office structure, which is not what we want to do right now.

It’s a Process, It’s a Process, It’s a Process

A while back Nicole wrote a blog posting on how processes don’t have to be big and showy, but you do have to have them! And if you look at some of the things that are bugging you at work (like unsuccessful alternative work arrangements) as processes, you’ll most likely be able to turn them around and make them work for you.

If you are thinking of setting up an alternative work arrangement, or if you’re in the middle of one and it’s not going very well, ask yourself what your processes are:

  1. Have you clearly defined who is eligible for flexible work arrangements and under what circumstances?
  2. Have you outlined the goals (which may be unique to each employee) expected out of each arrangement?
  3. Do you care about core working hours? If so, do you have a check-in process? (Once a day? Twice a day? Twice a week?)
  4. Do you have a way to personalize your communications process? Do you use Skype or another similar program that allows virtual face-to-face interaction?
  5. Do you review the success of the arrangement on a regular basis? (more than annually) Do you have a way to modify if things aren’t working perfectly right away?

Below is a highly over-simplified image of what your process might look like. (Bonus points if you can comment and tell us one HUGE improvement that could be made over this simple process flow diagram.)

Blog March 21

The key is to have a process, discuss it with impacted people, communicate it, and stick to it. If you do, even complex situations like alternative work arrangements can work for your organization!

Until next time,

Ruth

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4 thoughts on “That Time You Tried to Manage Alternative Work Arrangements

  1. I love bonus points! How about a check in with the employee to see if the arrangement is working for him/her?

    1. Well Susan, that’s what Step 10 is all about. However, it didn’t clearly state “check in with employee”, so full bonus points to you!!! There’s another big improvement that can be made also, more to the format of the diagram than the content. We taught it in our class! 🙂

    1. Full bonus points to Chris! Swim lanes would make this process map perfect! (Well, except for the typo, which you kindly didn’t mention.)

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