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Employees Would Trade Pay for Flexible Workplace

Max Freedman
Max Freedman

Flexibility is seen as a valuable benefit for workers.

  • Employees would sacrifice between 2.6% and 5.1% of their salary for more flexibility. Half of employees care more about flexibility than salary.
  • Among American employees who have been offered flexible work arrangements, 87% have taken them. Common reasons for taking flexible arrangements include lower stress levels, better trust-building and more happiness overall.
  • To implement flexible work schedules at your company, you’ll first need to choose the schedule that’s best for your needs. You’ll then need HR and management buy-in alongside dedicated management training. A trial run and adjustments thereafter will help too.
  • This article is for employers interested in implementing flexible workplaces to boost employee happiness.

Do you offer flexible work options to your employees? If you do, you might be able to save some money, according to two studies. Employees often say they are willing to take a pay cut for workplace flexibility. Here’s what you should know.

How much do employees prefer flexibility to salary?

A January 2020 Joblist survey looked at the salary percentage that certain groups of employees would give up to achieve more flexibility. The results were as follows:

  • Parents: 5.1%
  • Nonparents: 2.6%
  • Managers: 4.7%
  • Nonmanagers: 3.1%
  • Baby boomers: 3.7%
  • Generation X: 3.6%
  • Millennials: 3.9%

Of course, these are pre-pandemic figures, and the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a shift to remote work that many have associated with more flexibility. Yet an HRnews study published in March 2021, a full year into the pandemic, found that flexibility remains more important than salary. Among survey respondents, 51% cared more about flexibility than salary. 

Did You Know?

Employees who have the flexibility to work from home are often more productive. Working from home can increase productivity through longer working hours, a better work-life balance and lower stress levels.

How many employees work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

In a 2022 McKinsey and Ipsos survey of 25,000 Americans, 35% said they can work from home full time. The survey also found that 58% of Americans can work from home at least one day per week. Perhaps most revealingly, 87% of survey respondents have taken the flexible work arrangements their employers have offered them.

The survey also found that full- or part-time remote work is most prevalent in certain industries. These industries include computers, mathematics, finance, architecture, engineering, legal, media, arts, entertainment, design and sports. The latter five industries averaged the most days — at 3.8 — working from home per week.

How common are flexible schedules and why?

Among the 750 Americans who responded to Workable’s 2021 “Great Discontent” survey, 57.9% have flexible work arrangements. A 2021 Owl Labs report points to some reasons behind flexible arrangements’ popularity. Among the 2,050 full-time employees who responded, 84% said working from home makes them happier. Another 79% said they feel less stressed (which is great for combatting burnout) and more trusted, and 75% said they’re less likely to leave.


When employees feel trusted, they’re more likely to believe they belong at your company. A culture of inclusion can also promote this sense of belonging.

How to implement a flexible schedule for your employees

Below is a quick guide to implementing flexible work hours.

1. Choose a type of flexible schedule.

You have five options for flexible work schedules.

  • Telecommuting days. These are repeated days when everyone can work from home – for example, every Friday.
  • Three-option schedules. You can offer the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., alongside other eight-hour options with different start and end times. The most common schedules are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Others, such as 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., are also fairly common.
  • Summer Fridays. During the summer, you can institute half-days every Friday and/or allow employees to work from home on these days. Or you can simply give everyone Fridays off during the summer.
  • Compressed work schedules. Instead of the traditional five-day workweek, have employees log 40 hours in four weekdays – just expand each shift to 10 hours. Then, close your office on Fridays. Sure, Monday through Thursday will be longer days, but a three-day weekend can offer enough flexibility to be worth it.
  • Part-time remote work. Some people lack the time to commute to an office or work 40 hours a week. These people will appreciate the flexibility of clocking just 20 hours per week from home. And often, they’re skilled workers whose life circumstances have changed – for example, they have become parents – and need more time for their personal lives.

2. Get buy-in from HR and management.

Shifting your team’s schedule can introduce work for your HR and management teams. This means you’ll need to get these departments’ buy-in before moving forward. Take the time to explain your vision for your new schedule and the benefits you expect for your team. Act on any concerns you hear, and remind your HR employees and managers that you appreciate their work. Doing so can get everyone on board and streamline your transition.

3. Train management on your policies.

Shifting to flexible work may mean introducing new remote teamwork tools that your managers need to know. You should train your managers on how to use these tools and communicate with remote employees. You should also require your managers to schedule regular meetings with your team members. Maintaining strong communication from a distance is key to successfully managing remote workers.

4. Try it out.

You don’t have to roll out your flexible working arrangements all at once. Try them first with the employees who are demanding them most while keeping everyone else on their usual schedules. Send the people testing your flexible work program employee surveys through which they can tell you what is and isn’t working. From there, make any necessary changes, then introduce the program across your company.

5. Accommodate your team.

No flexible work program will work perfectly for everyone. Keep your door open to concerns and questions from people struggling with the change, and do what you can to accommodate them. After all, your goal is to keep your team happy so that you minimize employee turnover. Trying to assist when your current program isn’t working perfectly for someone can help you achieve that goal.

Key Takeaway

Our guide to implementing flexible work hours can help you build on the above steps.

Flexing your options

You have all kinds of tools at your disposal to shift to flexible work – like team communication tools, a robust HR department, and great managers. Plus, making the shift will likely improve your employees’ happiness. Go ahead and give it a go; you can always adjust if it doesn’t work out perfectly the first time.

Image Credit: LanaStock / Getty Images
Max Freedman
Max Freedman
Contributing Writer
Max Freedman is a content writer who has written hundreds of articles about small business strategy and operations, with a focus on finance and HR topics. He's also published articles on payroll, small business funding, and content marketing. In addition to covering these business fundamentals, Max also writes about improving company culture, optimizing business social media pages, and choosing appropriate organizational structures for small businesses.