Why Workplace Flexibility Works
Let’s say you’ve been given two job offers. Both companies offer the same pay and benefits, but the two differ in their terms of when and where you work. The first wants you in the office every Monday through Friday from 9-5. The second offers more workplace flexibility, allowing you to arrive and leave the office on a more fluid schedule and work from home sometimes, as long as you meet your deadlines.
So, which do you choose?
It’s an easy choice. If you’re like a lot of people in today’s job market, you want to work for a company that trusts you and gives you the flexibility to work in whatever way you’re most productive and efficient, not one that makes you sit at the same desk every day for the same 8-hour time frame.
Employees Want a Flexible Workplace
According to the 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study, 75% of employees ranked workplace flexibility as their top benefit.
One driver is work-life balance. Sometimes life throws a curveball that doesn’t fit in with a traditional 9-5 work schedule. Good employees want to be able to dedicate themselves to their job, their families and their health. They want a balanced work and personal life.
Employees also want to be trusted. If employees are going to trust their employer, their employer has to trust them. And that includes trusting them to get their work tasks done, whether it’s by putting in a couple of 10 hour workdays, or by working 5 hours on a Friday and working the rest of the day from home.
Why You Want What They Want
A company culture of trust is one of the most important things a leader can focus on, says EventBoard CEO Shaun Ritchie:
“Creating open and honest feedback into what's working, and what's not, will help everyone feel like they are part of the conversation. This builds organizational trust, which is the fundamental basis of all relationships.”
Organizational trust substantially affects recruitment and retention numbers, especially when expressed as a policy that allows for a flexible workplace. Retaining talent was one of the top employer benefits by respondents from the Workplace Flexibility Study (65%), and according to a McKinsey & Company study, it’s more likely for a millennial to accept your job offer if your company offers flexible work schedules. Better attraction and retention of talented employees results in less turnover and training costs.
Flexibility can also lead to better employee engagement and productivity. When employees can balance work demands with their personal life demands through workplace flexibility, they report reduced stress and negative spillover as well as being more productive and engaged.
Employees with a work-life balance – having sufficient time to devote to work, their families and their health – are mentally and physically healthier. A University of Minnesota study showed that employees who were given flexible work schedules slept better and took better care of themselves.
3 Ways to Offer Workplace Flexibility
Convinced that a flexible workplace is the way to go, or at least ready to start taking steps in that direction? Here are three areas to consider.
1. Make it easy to reserve meeting rooms with the right tech.
When your employees’ hours are flexible, your meeting rooms need to be as well.
A flexible workforce isn’t going to have meetings at the same time or even the same day every week. Your different internal teams are going to meet when there’s a need – planned or not – or when all team members are in the office at the same time.
So you need to have enough available, bookable meeting space to make every spur-of-the-moment meeting possible. You also need the right meeting management tools so employees can quickly and easily find and book available rooms and times from phones or tablets.
When employees are not all in the office at the same time, effective meetings require the latest communication tools and technology, to keep everyone on the same page about deliverables, deadlines and schedules. If you haven’t already, implement videoconferencing, chat platforms, wikis, shared calendars and project management tools.
2. Provide a flexible, fluid workspace.
Some employees work better alone in a quiet cubicle, while others’ creativity thrives on frequent interaction and collaboration. Some companies find that a fluid workspace works well with a culture of flexibility.
Consider activity based working, for example, where are no set workstations. Instead, companies offer a variety of workstations with adjustable desks, common areas with couches and comfy chairs and long tables. Pinterest is a good example of a business whose office design embraces a creative, collaborative environment.
3. Set expectations and hold teams accountable.
Aside from the technical, communication-related challenges of remote working, accountability is the second most common hurdle to flexwork being implemented at more companies.
Some managers worry that employees who are working remotely won’t be able to focus on their work duties, or will struggle to stay motivated.
If your company is just starting to move toward a more flexible workplace, setting clear expectations from the beginning can help prevent potential problems later on.
Our CEO, Shaun, phrased it this way: “The idea of ‘empowering employees’ is critically important, but often it becomes more catch-phrase than reality. Usually it's because even though we know it's important, we don't know how to do it.
“For me, the best way is regularly setting expectations with your staff. If you're doing that at appropriate intervals, you'll have the confidence that the right things are being worked on, that issues are addressed before they become problems, that your team is held accountable, and that you have the information you need to make decisions.”
Next to being fairly compensated, employees want flexibility. Showcasing how your company provides a flexible workplace will keep you competitive when it comes to recruiting and retaining talented employees.