10 Reasons to Embrace Flexibility at Work
March 2, 2023
Flexible work isn’t just a fad or a perk that’ll be gone in a year; it’s rapidly becoming the norm worldwide. A recent study from WorldatWork and FlexJobs shows found 80% of companies now provide flexible work options to their employees. These flexible work options include in-office, fully remote, and hybrid work environments.
Despite the widespread growth of flexible work, some organizations are still apprehensive about fully embracing it. Some leaders believe employees out of sight of accountability will fail to be productive, or that they won’t connect with organizational culture.
While those concerns may be valid for some teams, embracing flexibility at work isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There are numerous ways an organization can bring more flexibility and autonomy to the employee experience without a wholesale shift.
In return, even small elements of flexibility can be advantageous for both employees and employers. Work quality, quantity, and work-life balance can all benefit from a flexible working arrangement.
What is flexible work?
Flexible work is an arrangement that gives individual employees more autonomy over how, when, or where work gets done. The arrangement might provide more control over work schedule, the work environment, or both. Adjustable start and finish times, part-time work, or working from home are all examples of flexible working arrangements.
Why embrace workplace flexibility now?
It’s easy to think of ways a flexible arrangement might benefit individual employees, but can it really benefit an organization as a whole? Let’s take a look at 10 examples that illustrate those benefits:
1. Flexibility enhances productivity.
Flexible work allows employees to complete their tasks from any location. Employees can take advantage of a more comfortable and convenient workspace, which can help them focus better and be more productive.
Additionally, flexible work can cut back on the need for daily commuting, saving employees valuable time and energy. According to the 2020 Airtasker survey, the average remote worker spends 1.4 days more per month working than their office-based counterpart. That adds up to remote employees working almost 17 days more per year than in-office employees.
2. Disruptions are easier to avoid.
Business continuity is an essential part of any successful organization. When possible, empowering employees to spend some time working out of the office can support business continuity in the face of unexpected disruptions like extreme weather, fuel crises, power outages, and other similar events.
Flexible work is a skill that requires practice.
Gaining familiarity with working outside the nine-to-five box can help employees become more adaptable and resilient when disruptions occur. Instead of losing a day or more of productivity to inclement weather or other disturbances, your team will already be familiar with working flexible hours or in a different location, and more ready to adapt to various scenarios.
The ability to work productively, even when the office is inaccessible, is a priceless trait in times of crisis. Businesses can support this further by leveraging secure cloud-based services to store knowledge and access it remotely, ensuring that vital information always remains available.
3. Flexible working conditions attract top talent.
Offering flexible working conditions can make your company highly attractive to potential employees. In fact, HR experts warn that companies without such options are currently losing out on up to 70% of qualified candidates. At a time when the competition for talent is so fierce, embracing flexible working appears more critical than ever.
Workplace flexibility also grants access to a larger talent pool.
With traditional working arrangements, employees must be present in the office, which limits employers to local candidates. On the other hand, flexible work can accommodate remote work, hybrid work, and other dynamic structures that allow organizations to hire skilled workers from nearly anywhere in the world.
4. Employee satisfaction often increases with flexibility at work.
The Great Resignation caught many employers by surprise. Millions of US employees quit their jobs, citing reasons other than retirement. Job dissatisfaction was a primary factor for the shift, and flexible working offers at least one attractive solution to this multifaceted problem.
The EY Work Reimagined Employer Survey from 2021 shows that as high as 90% of employees want flexibility. In another FlexJobs survey, 80% of workers also said they would be more loyal to the more flexible companies, and 52% attempted to negotiate flexible working conditions with their employers.
5. Flexible work can reduce overhead costs.
Flexible working can also help organizations save money on office space costs. If more employees decide to work remotely, it may be possible to downsize office space while providing an equally positive employee experience.
In a smaller space, heating, cooling, furniture and equipment costs may also be reduced, and with fewer people in the office at the same time, there's a need for fewer desks, chairs, and other work-essential items.
6. Flexibility promotes employee wellbeing.
Workplace burnout is a challenge for many companies. According to the FlexJobs and Mental Health America (MHA) survey, 75% of employees admit to experiencing burnout at some point. Deloitte also highlights that 83% of employees with burnout believe it negatively affects their relationships.
Perhaps an even more staggering statistic about employee well-being relates to workplace injuries and illnesses. In 2021, more than 2.6 million injuries and illnesses occurred in the private industry in America.
A more flexible work environment can help.
By allowing employees to adjust their work hours or location, flexible work arrangements can reduce employees’ exposure to viruses and other environmental hazards.
In addition to lowering physical risks, flexible working can help improve mental well-being by giving employees greater autonomy and flexibility in how they manage their workloads. All this can help employees have more control over their lives and balance work and personal commitments more efficiently.
7. Flexible working can enhance collaboration.
Collaboration is one of the most commonly stated reasons leaders prefer in-office work. There’s a tacit assumption that physical proximity between employees in an office makes formulating creative ideas easier and more natural.
But flexible working doesn't mean that collaboration has to suffer. With the help of modern communication tools, remote teams have proven they can collaborate effectively no matter where they work from. Some options to consider include the following:
Teleconferencing tools let teams communicate and collaborate via video or audio calls. Services like Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack allow you to discuss ideas with your team, assign tasks, and review work in real time.
Project management software
You can rely on project management tools to manage employee workloads and ensure everyone works together efficiently. Popular software, such as Asana and Trello, allow you to assign tasks to your team, track progress in real-time, and more.
Communications platforms like Haystack help your distributed teams collaborate and communicate as easily as if they were all in one room. They can keep conversations and shared documents organized and aid users in assigning tasks and tracking individual and group progress.
8. Flexible work fuels innovation.
Workplace flexibility creates a more relaxed atmosphere for employees, which directly impacts creativity and innovation. A recent McKinsey report reveals the pandemic's need for remote work actually accelerated innovation in many sectors of business as employees embraced collaborative technology and working within their own best boundaries.
As flexible work also erases geographical boundaries, employers can boost business innovation by building a more diversified workforce. Hiring employees with diverse backgrounds and experiences can help bring new perspectives and ideas to the table.
9. Flexibility can reveal insights into working habits.
Embracing flexible working arrangements can help managers gain insights into which team members prefer working from home, what tasks they are most productive at, and when they are most likely to finish their work.
Granting workers more agency in choosing their time and location for work may provide insights into their strengths, their preferences, and how to help them become more comfortable and productive team members. This information is invaluable for managers who want to optimize the workflow and create a better balance between remote and on-site workers.
Flexible working also allows companies to understand better what tools and resources their employees need and prefer for the job. With the right technology and equipment, employees often feel more motivated and perform their jobs more efficiently.
10. Flexible work prepares your organization for the future
As more businesses shift to remote working, flexible work arrangements are transforming from perks to expectations. Companies that embrace this trend now will have a competitive edge over companies with more rigid work cultures, as they will be better prepared for the changing workplace dynamics.
By embracing flexible working and allowing employees to work remotely, organizations can be more agile and responsive to their employees' current and future needs. This is especially important in times of crisis, when companies must find ways to remain operational while protecting their employees.
In addition, flexible working will enable organizations to stay up-to-date with emerging technologies and trends. Organizations that embrace flexible working now can get a head start on the competition when it comes to adopting new technologies.
Tips for Supporting Flexible Work
Flexible working can prove immensely beneficial for your organization, but only if it’s implemented effectively. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of this arrangement:
Remote work and flexible hours are some of the first things that come to mind when people think about workplace flexibility, and that can lead some to believe it's not possible to implement in their organization. Remember that there are many ways to provide embrace autonomy, choice, and flexibility at work. Whether it's more flexibility in how to approach problems, a choice of tools, or a greater variation of healthcare options, for example, embracing flexibility is possible for any team.
Gather feedback and ideas from employees.
Get employees involved in the decision-making process when adopting flexible working policies. Encourage them to share their ideas and suggestions. Even well-intentioned policies can miss major points if they’re developed in a vacuum. When everyone's on board with the decision, it'll be easier to earn buy-in, implement, and adjust to any changes.
Provide the necessary tools and equipment.
Flexible working arrangements only succeed if employees can access the right tools and equipment. Ensure all involved teams and members have the necessary computers, software, and other resources to be productive at home or wherever they choose to work.
Set clear expectations.
If embracing flexible work causes changes in work hours, deadlines, or collaboration, ensure that is communicated clearly and documented for easy reference. Everyone should be on the same page and be free to give feedback on the implemented adjustments.
Establish policies for communication.
Create policies for communication and collaboration, such as when employees should check in with each other or which platforms they should use to stay connected. That will ensure all team members stay on track even when working from different locations.
Respect everyone's flexibility and autonomy. Be inclusive in your strategy and make decisions based on each individual's needs. Doing so will help create a sense of trust between you and your team, which is essential for successful flexible working arrangements.
Consider hiring freelancers.
Hiring freelancers on a project basis is a great way to add flexibility to a workplace without committing long-term resources or personnel. It also allows you to access specialized skills that may not be available within your organization, helping you get new ideas and perspectives.
Invest in technology.
Investing in the right technology and software can go a long way to ensuring flexible working arrangements are successful. For example, cloud-based platforms allow for easy collaboration and communication between team members.
Technology can also automate repetitive and mundane tasks, freeing up employees' time. This can reduce employees' time in the office and allow them to work on their preferred schedules.
Support success through flexibility.
Leaders across myriad industries have been stressing the importance of positive employee experience for successful business performance for a while now. We've seen more and more companies pay greater attention to their workers' needs and preferences every year, to their benefit.
Employees have lately become especially vocal about their need for more flexibility at work. Many organizations have heard that call and already adopted some forms of flexible working. Those that fail to provide employees with the much-needed work arrangements risk falling behind and losing more than just a competitive edge. They might lose valuable employees, too.