Workplace flexibility as a path to success
Table of Contents
This article tells about flexibility at workplace, shows examples of flexibility at work, takes a look at its advantages and gives couple of advices on how to apply it to your business. If you are familiar with all of it, probably, you do not need to read it further. But as long as you are going to get closer with notion of flexibility, then welcome to our outlook at this topic.
In a nutshell, flexibility is awesome. And I am saying it as a person who has tried it in practice. Being a freelancer you can stay at home and start your day at any comfortable time. You can do your tasks while playing with a cat on a break. Isn`t that wonderful? However, let`s present a little bit more practical side for businesses and workforce.
What is workplace flexibility?
Workplace flexibility is a strategic reaction to the change in situation and expectations. The focus is on ability of companies and their staff to adapt to new environment with regard to the peculiarities of the working process. It helps to meet goals of employees and employer leaving them satisfied with working conditions. At the same time, it positively affects productivity.
People are different, so are their preferences of working process. Some need total control and well-structured tasks, while others require freedom to do their job. Flexibility at the workplace is all about finding a compromise while taking into account current circumstances.
Modern technology has made flexible work more accessible, and more and more companies are starting to implement it. The demand for gig economy jobs (closely related to flexible jobs that include self-employment, contract and freelance jobs, and other types of non-paid jobs) has also increased markedly.
But just flexible management definition is not enough to make it appealing for everyone. So let`s continue diving into this even deeper.
Main goals of flexibility at workplace
Let’s take a look at some of the goals and outcomes of implementing this work model in your workplace:
Organization-wide accountability and adaptability
When team members are not constrained by location or predetermined working hours, the entire organization can be more flexible and responsive to changing needs and situations. For example, if employees are located in multiple time zones, it becomes much easier to provide customers with additional support hours or work around the clock to meet tight deadlines.
Employee productivity and job satisfaction
When productivity is measured based on activity and outcome, rather than a specific number of (potentially unproductive) hours or being at a desk at a specific time, employees are encouraged to spend their time on important tasks that imply company`s goals by optimizing their schedules in alignment with the times when their personal productivity and energy are at their peak.
Research has shown that telecommuting or independent workers are more productive and happier than their office colleagues. Fewer hours spent at work us also the main method of preventing employee burnout. And when employees are more responsive and motivated to work, it creates a feedback loop that goes back to the goal of improving the agility and productivity of the organization. When employees achieve great results, the whole company wins.
As the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (ENEI) explains in its Agile Working Guide, “When workers are given autonomy and freedom to choose where and when to work, while their work can be done, it creates a culture that removes artificial measures of success such as time and attendance, and focuses on results and performance”. ENEI also notes that while not every position is suitable for complete flexibility, in almost all types of work, flexibility can be integrated into one of four categories: time, location, role, or source.
Examples of flexibility at work
First of all, flexibility is obviously can be interpreted in various frames. There are many ways how workplace flexibility may be shown. For instance, it is expressed by the individual attitude toward work in general. From the managers` perspective it can be:
- Individual approach and analyzes of staff needs,
- Appreciation of productivity and constant feedback on work,
- Reward for employees who offer good ideas,
- Time for educational programs,
- Modification of approach to task assignment and duties, readiness to try new things, flexible responsibilities.
For the workers it is also associated with ability to develop hard and soft skills:
- Learning new software to increase efficiency,
- Taking constructive criticism,
- Possibility to perform other colleagues’ duties in case of their absence,
- Working extra hours during high season or end of the year or to meet a deadline ,
- Prioritizing emergencies over planned work.
Companies with flexible management
We see that business is constantly adjusting to the needs of market and people. Here are companies which have already implemented flexible working policy:
Google shifts to the flexible work week and hybrid model.
Colgate-Palmolive has a strong policy focused on maintaining good work-life balance
Convergys celebrates telecommuting and flexible schedule.
Agilent technologies provide flexible working time and location, and has a wide range of bonuses for employees.
American express offers many work options (full-time, remote, contract, etc.) including WFH model.
Dell encourages its employees to work in the most suitable conditions since 2009. 60% of the staff uses flexible work arrangement.
GitHub gives a chance to work remotely, as well as unlimited paid time off.
UpWork is a fan of remote work philosophy.
And there are many more companies who are supporting some kind of flexibility at workplace.
Maneuverability in the workplace provides significant and distinct benefits to both businesses and individuals. Let’s take a quick look at some of them.
Benefits for flexible employers
Stability of staff
The location-independent work model also helps to retain employees. Employees who need to relocate do not have to leave the company or request a transfer. They just continue their work as usual, from wherever they like.
Improving staff efficiency and productivity
As mentioned earlier, research confirms that workers who have flexibility in their work simply perform better than those who do not. Engagement of employees is growing, too. It happens thanks to the fact that workers have less stress and more energy to be dedicated to their work.
The most appealing for employees
There will not be deficiency in people for a vacant position. It increases ability to attract and retain highly skilled workforce. There is an interest and growing demand for flexible working arrangements. With remote consulting, freelancing or completely remote work becoming more common, highly skilled professionals are increasingly looking for flexibility. Companies that do not provide these opportunities run the risk of being left without the best talent.
Wider pool of cadres
Flexibility attracts more talented workers. Therefore, diversity is improved. To put it simple it means unlimited source of talent. Some fast-growing knowledge-based sectors such as the tech industry are experiencing unprecedented talent shortages. Much of this problem stems from long-term hiring practices that limit their search for qualified candidates in a particular city or region. Moving to global search solves this problem.
Easier retention process
Employee retention leads to expenses and is probably the most challenging for employers. Finding a replacement for the left individual may cost up to 2 times of the employee’s annual salary.
Office space reorganization
When employees do not spend all of their time onsite due to preference toward other working options, office space is not fully occupied. And then company is able to rethink the usage of workplace. No matter if this means moving to a new smaller building or co-working space, or sharing the space with other company. It helps to save money, too.
Cost savings might be the most attractive thing to gain. A completely remote workforce means no office space or equipment costs and the ability to hire from areas where competitive salaries are lower for equally qualified candidates. Global Workplace Analytics reports that midsize businesses will save $ 11,000 per person a year if employees who can work at least partially remotely work from home half the time. In addition, a survey of 1,500 technology professionals showed that 37% are willing to cut their salaries by 10% if they can work from home.
The ability of the company to work around the clock
Having staff in several locations with different working hours gives businesses the ability to be flexible, quickly accommodate to sudden or unusual situations, or adapt to demanding projects or clients. So there is always someone to do the job, which expands time and opportunities for business.
But why is it good for staff?
Benefits for flexible employees
Flexible arrangement of work makes employees happy. And this is highly connected with previous points for employers. Everyone would accept an opportunity to have more freedom at work, whether in matter of location, time or responsibilities. Younger generation of workers is particularly eager to be in control over their lives. 76% of millennials admitted that they would agree with salary cut if they had a chance to choose their work hours. Another survey showed that 80% of respondents confirmed that ability to have a flexible schedule is directly influence their loyalty to the company.
Better life-work balance
This may apply not only to workers who have more control over how they spend their time, but also to so called “work life integration”. This expression confirms that modern technology has blurred the boundaries between work and personal time. Many employees interested in flexible work view this positively. They are free to work in the evenings or on weekends if they are more comfortable and able to prioritize work over social and personal issues. It is also means more time for important life aspects like family, health, hobbies. As a result you get a positive influence on overall wellbeing. Care giving, sick leaves are significant aspect of flexible policy. In case of relatives` illness or child care flexible management meets employee needs and provide additional time and payment.
Reduced financial losses on commuting
It seems obvious, but still necessary to mention. Flexible work allows you to spend less time in transport which equals less money spend on gas \ tickets.
Everyone has their own requirements to be concentrated and efficient. And this is possible to do when you define your working conditions yourself.
Chance to choose your high time
Night owls are finally able to be themselves. You may even fulfill your cyber-punk fantasy of working in neon basement till the morning. Do whatever you want, just preserve productivity level and meet deadlines.
In many traditional work environments, the freedom to choose when and where you work (that is not tied to the office) is usually given to managers and other senior positions. A flexible environment benefits all levels of the organization. Being responsible for your own work affect attitude to what you are doing at your working time.
Improved job satisfaction and personal productivity
Employees who are in self-control over their work situations are more likely to invest fully in their projects. With the power to choose when, where, and how you work most productively, you gain additional motivation. It allows you to minimize distractions and use your skills to the best of your ability. Again, millennials with their desire to achieve a disclosure of personal potential at work are focused on how job can help them with that goal. If current position matches individual needs, an employee is ready to fully commit to it.
Moreover, it can be good for our planet.
Less commuting leads to less CO2 emission. Additionally, there is less litter which appears in during office routine, i.e. disposables, paper, etc.
Less resources consumed
No need to waste so much energy when office is half empty. There is less electricity, water and other resources used. Digitalization also is a good way to cut down hard copies.
It gives chance to focus on what really matters and live more conscious life. That is great for human race.
Have you found another benefit? Share it with us.
What does it all mean?
One of the key points of implementing the flexible model is that it is a win-win situation for everyone. This way of working offers significant benefits to both employees and employers. But it’s not just about making people’s personal or professional lives more enjoyable. Flexible working model can achieve results that are much more difficult, if not impossible, in a traditional working environment.
The main feature of flexible work is that it is mutually beneficial for both employees and employers. However, both sides will have to make some compromises. Employers may need to relax some entrenched HR policies, such as strict working hours and overtime regulations. They will also need to invest in some systems and technologies that will allow the team to work remotely, which is necessary for a flexible work environment and develop a strategy for effective communication and collaboration. And workers may have to adjust to increased responsibility and self-regulation. It requires thorough attention from management and staff. Cooperation for big goals achievement is a core for this.
Types of flexibility in the workplace
Basically, with a flexibility at the workplace everyone is keeping in mind company`s main goals and objectives rather than rigid set of tasks meant for the position and limited to office time and place. Here are different ways how flexibility can be achieved:
- Telecommuting is partially remote option usually applied for employees who lives in a local area and do not need to be in office to perform their tasks.
- Remote work is the one done entirely away from office. Employee can live in any part of the world and connect with the employer via Internet.
Speaking about workplace flexibility there is no way to omit schedule flexibility. It appears the most spread method to loosen fixed ideas of labor. Flexible working hours or even allowing remote work for several days a week is not a future anymore, it is reality we see more and more often.
- Shortened workweek as a rule means 40 work hours divided into 4 days with additional day off. This type is not suitable for every industry, but may be great for others.
- Flexible working hours allows workers to choose the time they work at.
- Part-time jobs is a solution for positions which do not need to exist as full-time. The same is with seasonal jobs or contractual ones.
- Job sharing is almost similar to previous type, but means that certain job is done be several part-time employees.
- Flexible vacation time is achieved by rewarding performance quality instead of hours spent on job.
- If talking about flexibility from the point of space, let’s mention sharing the workplaces with other businesses in different shifts or co-working, hot desks. It helps to save tons of money for business owners.
- Also it is necessary to mention hybrid work, as it gains popularity among many companies. This model is based on combination of onsite and remote work. Usually it means 3 days in office, 2 days remotely and 2 days rest. You can read more details in our article about hybrid remote work.
How to manage flexibility in the workplace
There are several steps to follow if you ought to deal with flexible workplace:
- Flexible hours. Share flexible policy with your employees so everyone knows the options.
- Document terms. Present agreed working terms with cloud-based storage every participant has access to.
- Guide staff. Clarify roles and responsibilities, state who is doing what.
- Use technological advancement. Apply remote access and time\productivity trackers to work fast and be sure about progress.
- Assess managers` support. Check the support managers provide and alter the level if necessary.
- Be clear about changes. Communicate every aspect of current situation using any suitable method. But do not hold to many meetings.
- Measure performance of employees. Calculate the real results rather than hours worked.
- Listen to people`s feedback. Be open to meet workforce representatives to discuss their ideas.
- Review the process. Evaluate indicators of work: KPI, hours, engagement, retention and so on.
Challenges of flexible management style
Moving away from rigid working style brings many positive things. Nevertheless, it may arise a few issues.
- First of all, it is hard to know what works best for whom, especially in a long run. Choose approach and test it for some period. Analyze the outcome and keep on trying. Know your team to know what will work for them. Some businesses just need more control and conservatism.
- It might be difficult to transit at first. Lack of experience for managers and workers impact this task. Additionally, natural resistance of people may appear. Unwillingness to experiment is understandable. Communication will help here.
- It is all about being ready for changes. But unexpected things may be too dramatic, as it happened with covid-19 situation at first. Be prepared for anything and remember about your primal goals.
- The last one, you may face problems with control and estimation of the work. Search for good experience from other companies and use tools to assist you in it.
Flexible management style grows its popularity. In this working environment, flexibility is the norm rather than the exception. Maximum flexibility and minimum constraints, allow workers to choose when, where, and how they want to work to meet individual and organizational goals. And it seems like latitude actually might be a key to successful work. Rather than simply giving employees control over the timing and location of their work it also assumes work autonomy. But that doesn’t mean a chaotic work environment or a lack of management supervision. The goals of organizations in adopting flexible work are to create a more agile, productive and efficient organization that improves business productivity and increases customer satisfaction. Experience shows that by giving their employees the choice of where and when to work, companies increase productivity and provide better service by choosing the way of working that suits them best.
Before, employers have not talked so much about how flexible management style improves profits. And even employees claim to be more productive in such environment. New technologies lie in the foundation for this shift. This proves that we have entered an era where work is what you do, not where you go.