Many U.S. workers now consider flexibility - and its’ connection to an improved work-life balance - to be the most important factor when considering potential job offers. A recent survey found that 81 percent of employees stated they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible working options.
The increase in flexible working environments coincides with the inflow of Gen-Z and Millennial employees. Younger workers are demanding healthier, variable work schedules and are proving that, given autonomy and the responsibility to manage their workspaces, they can perform more effectively.
When you replace strict rules and implement general guidelines you can create a sense of freedom inherent to flexible working environments, alongside the structure and support of a more traditional workplace.
Types of flexible working
Flexible working is a term for the types of working arrangements that give employees varying degrees of flexibility on where, when, for how long, and at what times they work.
There are different types of flexible working which include:
Part-time: working less than full-time hours – usually achieved by working fewer days
Job sharing: a model of part-time working where two people share the responsibility for one job and split the hours between them
Compressed hours: working full-time hours but over fewer days – can be compressed into blocks of one or two weeks
Flexitime: allows employees to choose when to start and end work - within agreed set limits – usually with defined ‘core hours’
Staggered hours: employees have different start, finish, and break times across the working week
Remote working: employees work all or part of their working week from home or at a location remote from the employer's workplace
Pros of flexible working environments
Below are some of the benefits of flexible work environments for employees and the organizations they work for:
Pros for employees
Flexible work environments can be beneficial for employees because they provide the opportunity to move away from stifling, rigid workplace schedules with strictly enforced hours.
Everyone has responsibilities outside of work and this type of flexibility allows them to do their job effectively and manage their home lives and relationships. For example, if a person has to take their child to a medical appointment, they can work from home that day, possibly starting earlier or working later to make up for any lost time. If an employee is able to flex in and out of various workspaces, they can accommodate an ever-changing schedule without worrying about being written up for arriving at the office a few minutes late.
One of the most important benefits of flexible working is it’s easier for employees to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Being able to maintain this balance encourages employees to self-moderate their workflow, leading to higher productivity levels and less work-related stress.
In addition to greater worker autonomy, flexible working environments rely on a certain level of digital infrastructure and understanding within an organization. When employees are provided with these tools they are able to stay connected to their work and their colleagues, and they can communicate easily across many types of workspace, no matter their location.
These technologies make work simpler and more efficient, cutting down on commute times, reducing the number of unnecessary meetings, and granting easy access to shared documents and data for quick updates.
Pros for organizations
There are advantages to flexible working environments for employers as well as employees.
Organizations benefit from improved company culture and an increase in positive employee morale. Flexible work environments make it easier for employees to work and socialize in different spaces. This can cultivate a more laid-back atmosphere in the workplace, helping to attract and retain top talent and strengthen bonds between team members and the organization itself.
At the office, flexibility in work habits often translates to flexibility in workplace design. If this is managed effectively it can result in the creation of agile spaces that maximize utilization. Giving freedom to employees means business owners gain more control over their workplaces and the costs involved.
Costs are generally tied to dedicated workplaces. As employees transition into more flexible types of work, reliance on traditional office space falls. If an organization shifts with the workforce, this can result in lower lease costs and a reduction of office-related overheads.
The benefits of flexible working environments may increase workplace ROI beyond revenue. Positive morale and culture, combined with an optimized workspace, are vital to success in the current commercial climate.
Cons of flexible working environments
The pros of flexible working are numerous, but it is important to recognize that there are potential cons.
Issues may arise if an employee is unable to perform to the best of their ability when left to manage their own schedules. This could be a result of a lack of discipline, a tendency to procrastinate when working from home, or a resentful attitude to change. When an employee is unable to adapt to a more flexible working environment, they can quickly fall behind, becoming more of a hindrance than an asset. This means that organizations need to have protocols in place to monitor performance and highlight when problems crop up.
Flexible working environments require careful planning and attentive management. Rules and processes must be set up to suit the organization, its size, the structure of flexible work, and the number of team members. Employers need to provide the means to keep everyone connected—employee directories, online communication and sharing tools, and workspace reservation software.
Keeping flexible workplaces operable and productive means creating an environment that accommodate the unknown. How will you manage your employees as individuals? What processes ensure fairness despite differing work schedules and locations? Do you have systems in place to track employee contributions and time? For a flexible working environment to work, it needs thorough research and thoughtful implementation.
The flexible working environment
In recent years, employees and employers alike are embracing the concept of flexible working environments. Given the opportunity to self-manage personal work schedules following a set of company guidelines, the benefits for both become obvious: increased productivity, agile workspaces, improved morale, the ability to manage a healthy work-life balance, and positive company culture.
Flexible working isn’t just the latest fad or a temporary perk offered to potential job candidates, it is on its way to becoming the new norm.