Just Relax, NoFlex Boss: Flex Is a Boost Not Bust for Your Workplace

Dear NoFlex Boss,

It's come to my attention that you're not a fan of flexible work. From flex-time to work-from-home, it's just not working for you. And I won't even get you started on compressed workweeks or long-term career flexibility. I know you suspect these options are designed solely for those women destined for the mommy track.

I hear you. I also hear your fear -- fear that somehow the work won't get done. Fear that you won't get the answer you need from your staff when you need it. Fear that you'll be the only one sitting in the conference room for your next meeting.

But here's what your real fear should be: If you don't make it possible for your talented staff to find satisfaction at work and at home, you will lose them. There's no doubt about it. Especially when it comes to women, Millennial or Boomer talent.

I'm betting your business is all about staying ahead of the curve. Well, as a no-flex boss, you were left stranded on the side of the road more than a few years ago. Here's a stat that should wake you up: A recent WorldatWork study found that a full 98 percent of U.S. employers now offer at least one form of flex. And here's why: In our 2012 report, What Moms Choose, we found that 57 percent of moms ranked flexible hours as one of the most important benefits a company could offer.

Simply put, the talented people (male and female) who make up your staff, who make you look good, and who make your business so much money, aren't going to stay if you don't help them. Yes, the economy is slow and unemployment is high; nevertheless, finding the right person is never easy. Plus, who can afford the turnover costs, from recruiting and training to the productivity lost while you search for a replacement? (Some studies put the costs of replacing a worker at 150 percent of his or her annual salary.)

By contrast, flexibility is an incredibly powerful and cheap benefit that can boost employee engagement and loyalty, while lowering absenteeism and presenteeism (that wonderful trend where people show up to work sick and infect everyone else). (See Working Mother Research Institute's Flex Primer).

And finally, you and I both know that employees don't need to leave the office to slack off. You've probably known an employee who has shown up every day only to do very little or even undermine what needed to get done. Instead, most employers who commit to a culture of flexibility find employees feeling not only engaged, but grateful. If you fear your employees will take advantage of flex, then set transparent guidelines: Be clear when you need employees to be available, when you need them to check in, and when and what deadlines are in play. The true power of flexibility comes when a company's leadership supports it and its managers are schooled in how to implement it.

Mr. NoFlex, you have nothing left to fear but fear itself. Give employees the power to control their workday and, I promise, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how much more work will get done.