Introducing Greater Flexibility in Workforce Utilization | DCR Workforce Blog

Introducing Greater Flexibility in Workforce Utilization

Introducing Greater Flexibility in Workforce Utilization The Office of the Inspector General of the United States Postal Service (USPS) has just come up with a well-reasoned strategy to introduce greater workforce flexibility in scheduling clerical and mail handling work. The goal is a win-win-win for USPS, its workforce and its customers. A flexible environment is expected to improve morale, aid recruitment and retention, and reduce absenteeism. Listed among the goals of this ‘innovative human resource practice’ move are:

  • A strategic need to attract adaptable, high quality, committed workers.
  • Promote a work-life balance and enjoy a less stressed workforce and better customer service, as well as better feedback, increased productivity and improved retention.
  • Supplement the change with the use of better workload information and management tools.
  • Showcase a concern for employee well-being and build a relationship of trust.

The USPS intends to establish “flexibility” teams that will pilot different tests of best practices. Some of their first pilots will test the benefits of

  • Counting work hours annually, and allow workers to set off overtime at busy periods against time off in slow periods to match customer demand and reduce forced overtime.
  • Allowing responsible employees to cover for one another, in a work, shift or job sharing process.
  • Allowing shift trades or self-scheduling where workers are able to apply for preferred shifts as often as possible.
  • Cross-training team members to increase team flexibility
  • Use versatile, supplementary employees to provide back up when regular staff workers are sick or a shift is understaffed.
  • Using supplementary employees to back up when understaffed or if regular workers are sick.

Like the USPS, employers could gain from reviewing their operations and increasing flexibility, where possible, to save on labor costs and improve employee experience. Other examples of successful flexible schedules have been implemented by the police, firefighters, airline employees and government workers.

Other flexibility Measures in the Workplace:

  • Grant sabbaticals for purposes like educational or family activities, travel, or helping with a family business.
  • Specify an annual number of paid time off (PTO) days each year that the worker can use for vacation, personal or family sick time leave, or any other purpose.
  • Allow flexible shift schedules in which employees may elect to work four 10-hour days, alter their work schedule each week, or alter their work schedule on any given day.
  • Help employees to gradually transition back to work after a major life event such as childbirth, adoption, surgery, or a family death, to eventually work full-time again.
  • Allow employees to accrue and use vacation time in hourly installments so they can be used to go to an appointment with a doctor, attend a child’s sporting event, or take time off for other personal reasons, without using an entire vacation day.
  • Where possible, enabling employees to build a work schedule that combines ‘in office’ and ‘at home’ work days.

Employer stand to gain advantages in their employee engagement efforts by allowing workers to customize their work times without compromising upon deliverables and productivity. By structuring work to be delivered remotely, they gain access to talent from a global pool. By allowing flexi-time workers to put in variable hours of service, shift emphasis from ‘time invested’ to ‘deliverables generated’.

Have you considered if any of these strategies can be implemented at your workplace, so you can reap the benefits too? Consider the approach used by USPS. Identify flexible approaches that are potentially applicable to your business, and run pilots. For each, clearly establish and communicate the testing period, indications of success as well as the means of measuring results. At the end of each test, publish the results and communicate whether the flexibility will be implemented on a wider scale. Emphasize that measures can only be taken if they prove to have a positive impact on the business. Not all options can be universally applied.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.