From the Blog

How to manage your team’s work-life flexibility

We’ve partnered with TED speaker Tracy Brower, Ph.D., MM, MCR, for a Summer Reading Club – using her book Bring Work to Life as a guide. To dig in deeper, we’re answering your most pressing questions weekly on our blog. Here’s Tracy’s fourth response. See last week’s answer and sign up for our reading club.

How do I keep work-life flexibility for the high performers while making sure others don’t take advantage of it? 


The answer’s an easy one, and I take a hard line: You must connect options for work-life flexibility to performance. If some employees take advantage of flexible options, it’s bad for business, team morale, the overall culture and grounds for performance management.

Manage with a solid foundation

As a manager, you need to do a few things:

  • Set clear expectations for performance, including the tasks, outcomes and behaviors you want to see from the team.
  • Hold people accountable based on how well they’re meeting the objectives you’ve set.
  • Give feedback, and keep open lines of communication with employees.
  • Treat everyone fairly – treating people equally isn’t always possible because of varying job requirements within a team, but fair treatment is non-negotiable.

Time to adjust

People need time to adjust to flexible working, so give your employees the benefit of the doubt. They may need to learn how to manage work with less structure, manage time better and build new habits for working at different times and places. Consider training the team in these areas. Initiate a positive, constructive dialogue – what’s working well, what they’ve learned so far and how they can help each other with tips and experiences.

Partner with HR

On the other hand, if you know this is a performance issue, work closely with HR. Everything you do as a leader should – obviously – align with policies, practices, and equity and legal requirements. Tread appropriately – and if you’re not already partnering with HR, start now.

Next steps

I recommend you sit down with the employee and express your concerns openly and constructively. You may learn something new or determine that your initial conclusion about her performance was incorrect. If you’re still sure she’s slacking, then you may decide to temporarily reduce or remove the flexibility privilege. Establish checkpoints with her to help her meet objectives. Her performance should be solid for at least six months before you reintroduce flex options.

Clear agreements in future

Set clear agreements and regular check-ins with employees about the objectives they must meet.

Hold your team members accountable to outcomes so others don’t suffer for their poor performance. Good luck!

About Tracy Brower:

Tracy BrowerTracy is a work environment sociologist, author, mother of two and Global Vice President of Workplace Vitality at Mars Drinks. She studies how humans affect their work-life and how it affects them back. Over her career, Tracy has had the opportunity to engage with many of the Fortune 500 companies.