Remote working and flexible scheduling are increasingly being incorporated into companies at all levels. Some companies still use remote work and flex time as “rewards” for good performance. While that can make for a good incentive, these work options can be used to improve performance and make for better employees.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about a rating system known as Capability and Readiness (CR) factors. This system helps team leaders determine the mix of skill level (capability) and willingness to do the work (readiness) in each team member. To recap, the CR system has four levels, with 4 being the most desirable and 1 being the least desirable.

Here’s a quick summary of the 4 CR factors:

CR4 – High Skill, High Will
CR3 – High Skill, Low Will
CR2 – Low Skill, High Will
CR1 – Low Skill, Low Will

Not all team members perform well in a remote working setup. CR1 and CR2 employees need direct supervision. CR4 employees will likely perform well with almost any work schedule – remote, flex, halfway across the world – bring it on! Yet there is one type of employee that could benefit the most.

CR3 employees – those with strong skills and less-strong motivation – can benefit from a flexible or remote working policy. Sometimes low motivation is a symptom of an unspoken or unaddressed problem in an employee’s life. While it’s not a team leader’s job to personally solve everyone’s problems, providing some flexibility in their schedule can be a bigger boost than a cash bonus or even a promotion.

making better employeesHere’s an example. One of my friends – let’s call her “Judy” – was an above-average performer at her job. Then, she went through a divorce. Even a relatively event-free divorce is emotionally brutal – and her work suffered as a result. However, months after the divorce was finalized, Judy’s performance hadn’t improved much.

“To tell you the truth, I just feel burned out at work,” she told me. “Maybe I just need to change jobs. I just don’t have the motivation that I used to have.”

I asked her, “Have you told your team leader how you feel?”

“No,” said Judy, “I’m nervous about telling him that I’m burned out. My review is coming up soon – I’m sure that my performance rating is going to be low, and I’m not sure how he’ll react to what I say.”

“If you’re going to get a low rating anyway, then telling your team leader that you’re still emotionally wiped out probably won’t change that,” I said. “At least he’ll know. And there’s something else you can do during that conversation.”

I explained that being proactive and approaching her team leader first would be a good way of showing that she was aware of her lower performance and that she was willing to tackle the problem and try to improve.

Further, she could ask for a change in schedule or a change in work location. Working a flex schedule, such as four long days followed by a three-day weekend, would give her an extra day to relax or dedicate to getting back to a normal life. Alternatively, working remotely two days a week from her home office or from a co-working space near her home would cut down her weekly commute time and allow her to work in comfortable surroundings.

Judy met with her boss the following week, ahead of her annual review, to have that discussion about her performance and bring those suggestions about a flex schedule or a remote work schedule to him, and the approach was successful. Even though the company did not have a formal flex or remote work program, her team leader agreed that a change might be helpful. With approval from the department manager, Judy was able to coordinate her schedule with the rest of the team to take an extra day off each week.

“When I was able to take care of my personal life on that extra day – especially while moving into a new apartment and getting my life back on track – my motivation just jumped,” she told me a few months later. “I love my job again.”