This sponsored post is produced by TriNet.

Let me start with a personal experience. In a former job, I worked for someone who could be called a “micromanager.” This person was very nice, but would ask why I came in at 8:03 a.m. instead of 8. Mind you, I was not an hourly, non-exempt employee. I didn’t work in a call center nor was I a shift worker who needed to relieve a tired colleague. I managed my workflow independently of others. Frequently, I worked past 5 p.m. and on most days, I ate lunch at my desk. So why did I come in at 8:03? Traffic was heavier than normal that day. I left my home at the same time every day — some days I would arrive at work at 7:45 a.m. and others at 9 a.m.

Sadly, I was never able to work from home due to a lack of trust from management, who always seemed to wonder whether I was doing laundry or what would happen if someone couldn’t get a hold of me. Needless to say, this situation, combined with the commute, motivated me to find a job where I would feel valued and trusted.

Jump ahead a few years and I am managing a team of 11. My main goal is for them to be happy and productive. How do I optimize that experience for them?

By not micromanaging and allowing them to work where they work best. That may be the office. That may be a cafe. Or it may be their home. I care about the output and their work toward their clearly communicated goals. I care about our clients getting excellent service and about client satisfaction and employee happiness.

So without any further ado, here are my top five tips for successfully allowing flexibility and reclaiming hours of productivity as a result of cutting out the commute time:

1. Evaluate by position (not person) whether the role can be performed remotely

If you have multiple people in the same role, treat them the same (unless there is a reason not to). For example, if you have a policy prohibiting people from working from home and someone requires a reasonable accommodation for a disability or a flexible work arrangement as mandated by some local laws, you may need to allow that person to work from home (but not others). If you do allow employees to work remotely, a telecommuting policy/agreement is a good idea to give employees a clear understanding of issues relating to costs, equipment, insurance, safety, and security.

2. Set S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals

When employees don’t have clearly-defined objectives and goals, they’re left floating in ambiguity. It’s hard to feel a sense of accomplishment when goals aren’t spelled out. But with achievable benchmarks, employees feel a sense of pride and ownership in their work. These can be measured and provide a framework for success. Check in regularly on progress towards the goals and course-correct where needed.

3. Clearly communicate your expectations

As with S.M.A.R.T. goals, if your expectations aren’t communicated, it’s impossible for employees to meet them. You may have expectations for team members to meet with you regularly in the office for a team meeting or one-on-one discussions. Or you may have expectations around how your team handles email, reporting, and other written communication, or how the team collaborates and works together. Whatever your expectations, make them clear upfront.

4. Do not assume that because someone is not physically present, he or she is not working

Unless deadlines are being missed or customers are complaining, allow your team the freedom to do their best work. I have known plenty of people who come into the office and barely work. Presence doesn’t equal productivity. If your team is being responsible, treat them as adults who know how to take care of their responsibilities.

5. Evaluate whether work needs to be done during traditional business hours

There are a variety of jobs that can allow for flexibility in work hours. But full work hour flexibility is not appropriate for all roles, particularly ones that require employees to be available to clients or customers during traditional business hours. However, for those roles that can accommodate working outside business hours, you’ll have happier employees, particularly given the complexity of work and home responsibilities so many employees now juggle.

I encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to allowing flexibility for your teams. Ask individuals how they work best. Try it out. I bet you will not be disappointed in the results and it’s a great way to show trust and keep your employees happy.

Erin Daruszka is Director of Human Capital Consulting at TriNet.

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