Flexibility has become an important aspect of the modern workplace with many employees now considering work/life balance and workplace flexibility to be the most important factors when considering job offers. Organizations that want to attract and retain high-performing employees recognize that employees need autonomy and freedom to get their work done. In fact, our recent HR Insight’s Survey found that 71% of organizations have implemented greater flexibility into their workplace benefits and an additional 12% plan to increase flexibility within the next six months.
While it may seem like flexible work arrangements are primarily an employee benefit, savvy employers know that it benefits them in many ways as well: it increases productivity, boosts engagement, and improves attraction and retention of talent.
What is Workplace Flexibility and What are the Benefits?
Workplace flexibility is a mutually beneficial arrangement between employees and employers in which both parties agree on when, where, and how work gets done to meet the organization’s needs.
In a flexible workplace, both the employee and employer benefit:
Benefits to Employees:
- Improved work/life balance
- Less commuting time
- Increased job satisfaction
- Lower stress levels
- Reduced intentions to leave an organization
- Reduced number of days absent
- Financial savings for lunch, commuting, and wardrobe costs
Benefits to Employers:
- Enhanced ability to attract and retain talent
- Reduced turnover and absenteeism
- Expanded availability to clients and/or customers (employees on flextime are working before 9am or after 5pm)
- Increased levels of employee loyalty, productivity, and engagement
- Increased employee morale
- Cost savings and better return on investments
- Increased ability to meet the demand of globalization
- Increased innovation/creative work environment
- Improves diversity (remote work increases candidate pool)
How to Build a More Flexible Workplace
There are many ways organizations can implement workplace flexibility to help give employees the work/life balance they desire while striving to achieve company goals. A flexible workplace can include:
- Flextime – Allowing employees to do their job in a way that suits their lifestyle and responsibilities and benefits the employer. For instance, an employee with a young child may choose to start work at 7:00 am and finish at 3:00 pm so they can eliminate the need for childcare after school.
- Compressed work weeks – Employees work the same number of hours within a shorter workweek. For example, an employee might work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days.
- Part-time employment options – Employers give employees the option to go part-time.
- Job sharing – Two permanent employees share a job that would usually be considered a full-time position for one employee, thus creating two part-time positions.
- Remote working options – Working from home/anywhere is accepted and encouraged. Some employees may desire a set schedule, such as working remotely every Monday and Wednesday; other employees may desire a more flexible schedule.
- Unlimited paid time off – Employees are encouraged to take the personal time they need without counting days.
- Phased Retirement – Gradually decreasing the number of responsibilities and hours worked by an employee approaching retirement.
- Summer Hours – Work hours during summer months are reduced, for instance, shifting to a four-day workweek or closing the office early on Fridays.
Workplace flexibility is all about a willingness to adapt to circumstances. You can choose to adopt all or none of the above approaches. The key is to find an approach that works for your employees, organization, and business goals. Here are four guidelines to help you effectively build and implement a flexible workplace culture.
1. Assess Your Organization’s Intentions and Situation
When building a flexible workplace, it’s important to understand the reasons for offering this type of work environment. Do you hope to attract more candidates for open positions? Decrease operating and real estate costs? Improve employee morale and reduce turnover? Establishing the ultimate goals of your flexible work program will help bring structure to the plan and ensure the options you choose align with your company’s goals.
2. Understand What Matters to Your Employees
In order to determine which flexible work options to include in your organization, you must involve your employees in the process. Different demographic groups or departments may prefer different flexible work options because of their unique interests and needs. As mentioned earlier, a flexible workplace is a mutually beneficial arrangement between employees and employers; therefore, it’s important to get input from employees to ensure you’re offering options that appeal to them.
You may find that different types of flexibility are needed for certain departments or job roles. For example, front-facing positions and factory workers typically can’t work from home, but they might be able to adopt flexible hours or a compressed work week.
3. Train Managers and Team Leaders
Managing workers and teams with flexible work arrangements is very different than managing in-office employees with set schedules. Considering that managers play a key role in the effective implementation of flexibility, it’s critical they are provided with the right tools and training to develop their skills specific to workplace flexibility. A few key areas that should be addressed include:
- Performance Management: Just as in the traditional office environment, there should be specific check-in channels in place, such as a daily check-in call, e-mail, or other outreach to confirm that employees have what they need to do their work and meet their goals.
- Communication: Flexible teams need to determine how and when to communicate using tools such as instant messaging, text messaging, or video chat. It’s also important to provide training around written communication as words and tone can often be misinterpreted through digital channels.
- Team Culture: Maintaining connection and camaraderie in a flexible team can be challenging for managers. Train managers on ways they can create time for the team to catch up, share recent successes or announcements, and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. Additionally, help managers create guidelines and expectations so all employees and team members feel connected and engaged, regardless of when or where they’re working.
4. Seek Feedback on Flexibility in Pulse Checks.
Once you’ve implemented flexibility into your workplace, it’s important to ask for feedback to learn what’s working well, what could work better, and what’s not working. Regular, anonymous employee engagement or pulse surveys are a great way to collect quick and frequent feedback from employees and team members. Use the input from employees to make improvements wherever possible and be sure to discuss the feedback and improvements at weekly or monthly team meetings, keeping employees engaged and involved in the process.
From improved retention and engagement to increased productivity, there are plenty of reasons to incorporate workplace flexibility into your company culture. Luckily, there is much flexibility in the approach your organization can take to ensure it not only supports your employees’ needs but also drives your company’s goals forward. Laying a solid foundation and growing the program slowly and deliberately, with regular evaluation from employees, will improve your chances for success.
Director of Marketing