Today, improving business productivity doesn’t mean limiting users’ access to mobile devices or getting rid of distractions in the office.
In fact, a flexible work environment is quite the opposite of that.
Many of today’s most successful organizations have extremely modern work environments and extremely happy employees. These environments may include flexible work hours, lenient dress codes, office ping pong tables, free snacks, team events, employee recognition programs, and more. A modern business is centered around its employee experience, as this inevitably leads to a more successful, profitable and productive organization overall.
Employers that provide flexibility for workers are finding they actually get more out of these employees. They’re creating an environment of trust – and when employees feel trusted and valued, they’re happier, more loyal workers. Less stressed employees tend to have a better perception of their position and company.
What are the barriers?
Some organizations fear that providing this flexibility is risky because certain employees won’t take initiative or have the motivation to successfully work in this way. They also fear that investing in and providing for employees is a waste of time if workers choose to eventually leave.
The first situation is valid. Some users won’t be able to handle the flexibility with maturity. However, this gives you an opportunity to discover who your dedicated employees actually are.
To the second situation we say: it’s far worse not to invest in your employees, as this probably puts you at greater risk of them leaving, dissatisfied. Today’s workforce wants to feel appreciated and know that their company cares. Modern work policies, like flexible schedules or BYOD, build trust and display to employees that their preferences and opinions matter.
Benefits for the Employee
The benefits of flexible working for employees are pretty obvious. They maintain control over their time off and can find a work-life balance that allows them to maintain their priorities outside of the job while successfully getting work done. They can also schedule their work for times at which they may accomplish more, like quieter hours.
They can access their office desktop environment in a secure, cloud environment from anywhere in the world, at any time, and on any device, which means they don’t have to carry around bulky, expensive equipment all the time. They can leave the work devices at work, and maintain access to their business data via their personal phone or tablet.
Employees can avoid waking at the crack of dawn and commuting in rush hour traffic, which actually just wastes their valuable time. This will also most likely lead to more refreshed, energized employees. Those that are allowed to work from home will also see the benefits of reduced fuel and motor maintenance costs.
Multiple studies have found that workplace flexibility leads to reduced psychological distress, work-life conflict and emotional exhaustion. It also contributes to a better night sleep and higher energy levels. This means healthier, happier employees.
Benefits for the Business
Despite popular belief, flexible working benefits aren’t saved just for employees. A business can recruit and hold on to valued, skilled staff that may have priorities of flexibility and a work-life balance, rather than just the job salary. This is certainly a growing trend, and many people are choosing or switching jobs based on these new values. By incorporating flexibility in the workplace, businesses have access to a wider talent pool because they aren’t limiting themselves and are not bound by geographic location for hiring – they can access talent anywhere in the world if they choose.
And when employees have the freedom to manage their work-life balance, they’ll be more focused when they are on the job, because they, themselves, have dedicated that as their time to complete work. It’s been found many times over that remote workers are more productive than traditional office employees, especially because they are loyal, dedicated and appreciative of the flexibility. A flexible schedule also reduces absences when people have conflicts like appointments, because they can simply shift their hours around, rather than entirely missing those hours.
A company stands to save, on average, around $11,000 annually per remote working. These savings come from reduced office space, utility costs, office equipment, etc. Businesses can make more efficient use of their facilities, desks, devices and more when workers schedules are staggered or they can flexibly and effectively use their own devices to complete work.
There are definitely some important things organizations need to consider before jumping into an entirely new work environment. There’s a commitment to trust that’s necessary by the management team, as well as a certain level of required planning. An organization should consider:
- How will supervision look in this flexible environment? How will you provide direction or hold employees accountable for their work?
- How will you maintain communication between your staff, even if they have varying schedules? How will team work look?
- How will you achieve fairness for all staff in providing flexibility?
- Will you have HR policies to manage flexible work hours?
- Will you track employees’ hours, or track the work they produce?
Now, flexible working doesn’t necessarily have to mean hiring employees who are only remote workers, though many organizations are taking this approach and eliminating the physical office entirely. Flexibility may mean having “Work from Home Wednesdays” or allowing employees to customize their schedules based on the other priorities in their life. It may start with implementing a BYOD policy or creating a more relaxed dress code. Maybe employees will be evaluated based on quality rather than quantity. “Flexible working” can, and will, look different for every organization. The important part is taking employees’ needs and desires into consideration and creating a new working culture that fits into the quickly changing business world.