- Allowing employees to work remotely can boost employee morale and reduce stress levels.
- A great work-life balance builds trust and commitment within the workplace, which can increase productivity.
- Providing full family and medical leave coverage can attract new job candidates. The National Study of Employers reports that 75% of employers with 50 or more employees provide caregiving leaves.
When it comes to attracting top talent, many employers turn their eyes toward flexibility in the workplace.
A solid work-life balance is necessary for both employers and employees. Steering away from a traditional 9-to-5 workplace structure that dictates the whereabouts of an employee, moving toward a modern workplace model that improves employee satisfaction and productivity, is ideal in today's job climate.
As an employer, you're hiring human beings, not robots. That means employee engagement should be a top priority when you recruit candidates and assess the overall happiness of your current employees. Businesses unwilling to be flexible are likely to lose out in the war for talent.
Defining employee flexibility in the workplace
A study from ManpowerGroup Solutions revealed that nearly 40% of job candidates worldwide said schedule flexibility is one of their top three factors in career decisions.
"Workplace flexibility as a talent management policy is no longer an option; it is an essential practice that enables organizations to attract and develop skilled talent," the study's authors wrote.
It is important for employers to understand that workplace flexibility is more than giving employees schedules that best suit their needs or allowing them to work from home on certain days. The study's authors said flexibility encompasses a broad spectrum of work arrangements, including the following:
- Flexible arrival and departure times
- Full-time work from home or location independence
- Choice and control in work shifts
- Part-time work from home
- Compressed shifts or workweek
- Opportunity for sabbaticals or career breaks (e.g., extended time off)
- Unlimited paid time off
- Caregiving leave
"Workplace flexibility doesn't just mean working remotely," said Kate Donovan, senior vice president of ManpowerGroup Solutions and global RPO president, in a statement. "It includes all types of working arrangements, [including] when to take breaks, working from home or caregiving leave. While no employer can accommodate every option, they can provide a range that appeals to a variety of candidates."
The research found that choosing when they start and end their shifts and being able to work from where they want are the two flexible workplace policies that employees desire most. Specifically, 26% of the employees surveyed said flexible arrival and departure times are most important, with 22% saying they prefer the ability to work from home or any other place they choose. [Read related article: What Employees Really Want in a Flexible Work Arrangement]
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Freeing up arrival and departure times
Flexible scheduling allows employees to work hours and days that differ from traditional schedules. Whether it be working from 9 to 5 or always having to work certain days of the week, old-school scheduling and managing are less likely to attract top talent.
"For those who've been in a role where they had hard start and stop times, this is a very attractive offer that gives them relief but also shows our understanding of their professionalism and ability to not be micromanaged," said Natasha Miller, founder and CEO of Entire Productions.
Flexible schedules can not only satisfy your current employees, but also appeal to potential job candidates and lure in those with busy lives.
"Providing flexible arrival and departure times can dramatically increase a business's pool of available talent," said Laura Gariepy, owner of Every Day by the Lake.
Gariepy believes that candidates desire jobs that value effort and results more than time spent in the office, giving them leeway to attend to personal matters.
"Job seekers with children or other dependents would suddenly become eligible for positions that they are otherwise well qualified for," she said.
To attract the top candidates, your company should create policies that provide the types of flexibility today's employees seek.
ManpowerGroup Solutions offers several tips on how employers can better meet the demand for flexibility:
- Align incentives with outcomes. Instead of replacing face-time requirements with hours logged in on a virtual private network, which employees could perceive as inauthentic, you should simply set goals and deadlines. If employees meet them, their bosses can worry less about when they clock in and out.
- Eliminate flexibility stigmas. Change your company's culture as needed so no one is looked down on for taking advantage of flexibility options. This change needs to start at the top. Company leaders need to be transparent and lead by example.
- Start small. Don't try to transition your company culture to total flexibility overnight. Instead, take baby steps by allowing some employees to shift schedules or designate remote working days.
- Take advantage of technology. You have a wide selection of tech tools to make flexible workplace options more successful. Time and attendance, workflow, internal communications, project communications, project management and feedback tools are options you should consider.
Providing caregiving leave
Flexibility for family and medical leave can reduce the stress levels of your current employees and attract new job candidates. Recognizing the complexity of family circumstances and occasional illnesses supports employees, causing them to view your business as thoughtful and understanding.
"There is a vast pool of highly talented workers with the potential to make a huge difference at companies who struggle to find work because employers don't offer caregiving leave," said Sam Johns, HR manager at Resume Genius.
Johns said caregiving leave may seem like a perk to employers, but for many job candidates, it's a necessity.
"With a growing elderly population, more and more people of working age need to be able to care for their parents and grandparents – not to mention those with young children," he said. [Read related article: How Paid Leave Policies Can Help Small Businesses]
Many businesses are limiting themselves to a smaller pool of candidates by not offering caregiving leave. The National Study of Employers, conducted by The Society for Human Resource Management, found that there hasn't been much growth in workplace flexibility over the past four years. While 18 forms of flexibility were studied, only four changed between 2012 and 2016:
- The number of employers that offer remote work increased by 21%.
- The number of employers that allow employees to return to work after childbirth or adoption increased by almost 11%.
- The number of businesses that give employees special consideration to return to work after a career break for personal or family leave increased by 33%.
- The number of businesses that allow employees to take time off during the workday for family or personal needs without loss of pay decreased by almost 7%.
Allowing remote work
The freedom for employees to work from locations outside of the office can be an attractive recruiting pitch. Besides appealing to job candidates, it's also beneficial to employers.
Remote work allows employees to be more productive and manage their own workflows with less pressure. The American Institute of Stress conducted a workplace stress report, in which 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful. Additionally, 75% of employees said they believe workers have more stress on the job than they did a generation ago.
Many businesses likely have some work that could be completed remotely at any time of the day. A work-life balance perk of this magnitude can lead employees to love the businesses they work for, and job candidates may even willfully take a reduction in pay for a job that offers such flexibility. [Read related article: Communication Technology and Inclusion Will Shape the Future of Remote Work]
Gallup's State of the American Workplace Report shows that employers have quickly realized the benefits of allowing remote work. From 2012 to 2016, Gallup found that the number of remote workers increased from 39% to 43%.
"More people do their job virtually or remotely and at various times of the day rather than between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and teams have fewer face-to-face interactions, communicating increasingly through email, instant messaging and conference calls," the study's authors wrote.
Offering unlimited PTO
A policy of unlimited paid time off markets your business as a modern, employee-first workplace. It improves morale and build a line of trust between employees and employers. It's also an attractive incentive to job candidates.
"Unlimited PTO is attractive because it provides the employee peace of mind that they can take a sick day," said Joseph Cirillo, digital life insurance agent coach and co-founder of Good Life Protection. "Workers push themselves when they are sick because they want to save their PTO for vacation time, resulting in situations where the whole office falls ill."
Writing for Benefits Quarterly, Mercer senior partner Rich Fuerstenberg said, "Some of the benefits of such a policy may be obvious. It frees the employer from fixed vacation schedules, which can be critical in industries with tight labor markets like high tech."
You may also find that unlimited PTO simplifies administration and saves you money when a worker leaves the company. Since vacation time doesn't accrue, many employers won't have to make any payouts in the event of termination.
Flexibility in the workplace impacts how you attract, hire and retain top talent for your business. As you invest in establishing a solid work-life balance for your current and future employees, consider implementing flexible scheduling to increase employee satisfaction and help you recruit top talent for your business.
Additional reporting by Chad Brooks.