Flexibility in the workplace is more than just a buzzword, it’s the future of company culture. Here’s everything you need to know about the emerging trend.
Workplace flexibility has got everyone buzzing. From heads of HR to potential employees, flexibility in the workplace has become the hot topic. You may roll your eyes and brush it off as yet another example of a business fad that will die out as quickly as it emerged, but you’d be mistaken — flexibility in the workplace is here to stay.
A recent study revealed that nearly 40% of candidates worldwide put flexibility at the top of their list of considerations when making a career decision. So in order to attract the best employees, cultivate a positive company culture and ultimately succeed in your business, you need to offer flexibility. Failure to catch on could leave your business flagging behind the rest.
But what is workplace flexibility and how can it benefit your business?
What is workplace flexibility?
When you think of flexibility in the workplace, your mind probably conjures an image of digital nomads and remote working.
‘But that doesn’t apply to me!’
That may be so, but it doesn’t mean you can’t make positive changes to your business. To an extent, remote working is the ultimate gesture of workplace flexibility, but flexibility is a far broader term that covers multiple aspects of working life.
Flexibility describes a culture of employee empowerment in which employees are given the autonomy to do their jobs on their own terms. Think of it as the opposite of micromanaging. This way of working is less about playing puppet master with your employees and more about trust. Flexibility allows employees to take the reins on projects, set objectives and make responsible decisions about their work.
What are the benefits of workplace flexibility?
From the perspective of the employee, it’s easy to see why flexibility is so desirable. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to control their schedule or come and go as they please? But the benefits of workplace flexibility extend far beyond that. Studies have shown that flexibility in the workplace helps employees feel more in control of their career and working lives. The result is increased productivity and company loyalty and a boost in morale. In this way, flexibility benefits both the employee and the employer.
We all know that the demographics of business are changing. Millennials now dominate the business landscape and make up a large percentage of the workforce. Because of this, companies are having to change the way they do business. Did you know that a staggering 45% of millennials would choose a flexible schedule over higher pay? That says it all. But why is this? It all comes down to balance.
The primary concern of millennial employees is having a good work-life balance, with 86% claiming it’s their top career priority. Work-life balance can be a somewhat elusive concept, but it doesn’t have to be. Work-life balance is less about the careful division of time spent between working and enjoying personal interests and more about balancing daily achievements with enjoyment. But where does flexibility fit in here?
As an employer, the easiest way to tap into this new way of thinking is to incorporate flexibility into your work culture. When you offer flexible working, you send a message that you’re putting your employee’s needs and demands at the center of your business, which translates into a happier workforce and lower employee turnover. Incredibly, 90% of organizations that have prioritized work-life balance by increasing flexibility claim that it has improved overall staff satisfaction, with 74% also claiming it’s improved retention. Those are some pretty impressive numbers to get behind.
Flexibility also increases productivity and profitability. Vodafone’s study of workplace flexibility found that 83% of respondents claimed introducing flexible practices to their business improved productivity; 61% stated it increased overall profits and 58% claimed it improved their company reputation. Clearly, flexibility benefits everybody.
How your company can become more flexible
Now we know that flexibility has many benefits, but how can you begin to implement it into your company culture? The key is to start simple. Here are some easy, but effective, ways to become more flexible today.
Change up working hours
Working 9-5 is no longer the only way to make a living — sorry, Dolly Parton. Research has shown that productivity varies from person-to-person. Some employees are fired up at 5am, while others are night owls that are most productive long after the sun has set.
Optimal productivity hours are personal and unpredictable. With different employees working better at different times of the day, why would you enforce rigid working hours? Allowing for adequate flexibility regarding working hours means that you can get the best out of your employees. Just remember to extend the same flexibility to everyone — consistency is key.
Take a break
Taking a break from the desk is essential. Endless emails and daunting projects can make even the most conscientious employee feel frazzled. Just five minutes of head-space is often all it takes to get back on track. But shockingly, only 33% of employees take breaks during their working day. Why is this? Many employees claim to feel pressured by superiors to stay put at their desks.
The solution is simple — incorporate mandatory, regulated breaks into the work schedule. Not only will your employees feel the benefit of time away from their desk, but you’ll also be able to prevent employees from taking extended downtime to slack off and avoid working. It’s a win-win situation.
Cut down on meetings
There’s nothing wrong with having regular meetings, especially if they’re productive. But all too often, employees find themselves hopping between meeting rooms without a moment to think and reflect. When meetings are scheduled back-to-back, flexibility is difficult to achieve. You may claim that your meetings are integral to the success of your business, but executives find that 67% of meetings are unproductive.
Consider trimming down your meeting schedule. Schedule meetings that matter, set clear objectives and goals and schedule them in advance so that your employee’s aren’t caught off guard. Your employees will thank you for the freed up time in their schedules, and you’ll benefit from increased productivity and your staff spending their time actually getting work done, rather than just discussing it.
Make work fun
We’re not suggesting that you have Friday foam parties in the office or switch out your stairs for slides, however fun that might be. We’re talking simple steps that prove you care about creating balance in your employees’ lives.
To promote a better work-life balance, incorporate personal interests into the workday. A game of rounders at lunchtime, an afternoon meditation session, a team viewing of the World Cup — there are countless ways to show your team that you care about the things they do. These little gestures aren’t hard to implement, but the benefits are tremendous, including improved morale and employee satisfaction.
Author: Stuart Hearn has 20 years’ experience in the HR sector. He co-founded plusHR, a leading UK HR consultancy, and previously worked as International HR Director for Sony Music Publishing. Stuart is currently CEO of Clear Review, an innovative performance management software.