Organizations take different approaches to flexibility and will fall somewhere between those that view flexibility as an individual accommodation and those that have integrated flexible work practices into their culture as a tool for achieving business outcomes.
At MIT, we find departments at each point on the flexibility spectrum, and recognize that some may not be ready for this approach, or that it may not be a good fit. Implementing a team-based approach, however, begins by understanding where the DLC is on the flexibility spectrum and helping them to participate in creating an approach that will meet their needs.
Research shows that a team-based approach often results in greater communication and collaboration, increased productivity and engagement, more transparency, and fewer stigmas associated with flexible work arrangements. As with any approach to flexibility, team-based practices come with their own set of challenges.
For those managers/supervisors who oversee many flexible workers, or who are considering a team-based approach to flexibility, here are additional factors to consider. See also The Role of the Manager/Supervisor section.
- Be informed and flexible: Considering new ways of working can be intimidating. Be open to learning new management strategies, be informed about best practices by reading through the information on this website, and make use of training resources to build your skills in managing a flexible team.
- Build team culture: When flexible workers are part of your team, the entire team becomes "flexible," including those who work a more traditional schedule in the office. Adjusting how team members connect and communicate can provide clear understanding of roles and goals, and help to ensure that the team is grounded in trust, and each team member's needs are met.
- Support effective team communication: It is important to include all employees in a conversation about how the team will communicate and collaborate with one another when members of the team are working a flexible schedule or working off-site.
- Develop customized "guiding principles": Building on MIT’s Flexibility Guidelines, work with your team to identify and adopt protocols around job flexibility to support positive communication and team effectiveness. Guiding principles should address shared expectations and requirements for all team members around availability, communication, and performance. The core hours, guiding principles, and criteria for accepting a request should be created collaboratively and clearly communicated to employees. See examples below.
Examples of Guiding Principles (these are samples only; you may customize your own)
- Phones must be covered from 9 am – 5 pm, Monday – Friday.
- All employees must be physically present on Wednesdays for staff meetings.
- All employees must be reachable during core hours (for example, from 11 am – 3 pm every day).
- All meetings should be accessible virtually, and meeting materials should be distributed electronically in advance to all team members.
- Team members may work from home one day per week, provided that their flexibility proposal fully addresses other requirements identified in the guiding principles.