Karen Austin, Consultant
At least once every August I get asked to help a manager to manage someone who is late returning from their summer holiday abroad and recently we have had three individual issues with staff abusing flexible working practices in some way. So how can we balance being flexible and supportive of leave and work life balance while maintaining standards and expectations of high attendance, quality work and making sure we address issues quickly.
The most successful flexible working arrangements are within organisations that have:
- Clear annual leave policies that also set expectations around unauthorised leave.
- An expectation that staff are responsible for ensuring that they return on time from annual leave and a recommendation that staff never book leave to end on the day after they fly back into the country.
- Flexibility in allowing staff to overbook leave in case they get delayed but then cancel it if they don’t.
- An attendance policy rather than a sickness policy. Either one document that covers all types of leave or a series of policies that read across to allow non-attendance issues to be
In relation to managing remote workers and those on flexible working patterns, in most cases we would advise that only those with good performance and attendance histories should be considered for flexible arrangements. However, being open minded does work, recently I advised a manager who thought that perhaps a more flexible approach to work might help one of their staff boost their attendance. It worked and now this member of staff, supported through regular supervision and workload review and clear communication has increased their productivity and is noticeably more engaged.
Ultimately as with everything, policies to manage flexible working and leave need to be consistently applied to ensure that committed and engaged staff remain just that, and any issues with other staff can be swiftly and routinely dealt with.
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