Did you know that an estimated 60 million Americans (40% of the workforce) will be freelancers by 2020? In large part this is due to employees wanting more ownership over when and where they work, and increased individual access to health care.

Companies that understand this and can offer their employees a sense of autonomy will be well-positioned to compete with this trend and retain top talent. One key strategy will be to offer a flexible work environment that gives employees a sense of autonomy.

And here’s the thing. Being “flexible” doesn’t have to mean part time work or “work from home.”

How can you offer a flexible work environment?

Use this list of questions to generate ideas, spark discussions, and develop strategies that you can tailor and implement to work best at your company:

1. Are you open to discussing flexible options during the interview process? (For example, could someone ask if you are open to letting them take their daughter to dance class one time per week on Thursdays? Or, could they ask if you are open to letting someone work from home one day per week? Sometimes it is this simple.) How do you communicate this to a candidate? Is it in your job description? If not, you’re likely missing out on recruiting amazing talent.

2. Have you thought about a 4-day work week, or splitting a job into multiple part-time jobs?

3. Have you encouraged your managers to not schedule meetings after 5?

4. Are you open to the bus-stop gig for the right candidate? (9 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the office; online at night and likely in the morning) If not, why not?

5. Have you ever thought about letting an employee work out of a shared workspace a couple days a week, particularly one where they could be close to their kids but not at home? (This is also a good strategy for helping someone ease back to work post maternity leave. Meet NextKids.)

6. Are there ways you could organize your employees to have assigned collaborative think days / times in the office, and the ownership otherwise to work when and how they want so long as the work gets done? Smule did this, and many companies offer “no-meeting” days that allow for some flexibility to work from home.

7. Does your upper management do things like calendar a “haircut” publicly so the staff knows it’s OK to also have a life? Deloitte does.

8. Have you ever considered a recreation room where kids could hang out and wait for their parents to finish work? Learn more from Palo Alto Software CEO Sabrina Parsons who is blending work and family.

9. Maybe you are open to a bigger infrastructure shift with ROWE — Results Oriented Work Environment — like Edmunds.com? Post ROWE their recruiting and employee satisfaction skyrocketed.

10. Have you talked with your current employees about what “flexibility” means to them and what would be most beneficial to them? Some companies ask teams to sit down at the beginning of each week and talk about their individual needs and how the team will work around them. Bottom line: Communication is key.

There are so many ways to be flexible with employees. Opening the conversation is a relatively easy and logical place to start. The quality of work and loyalty you’ll get in return will be worth it.

Photo credit: #486422557 / gettyimages.com

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