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What Employees Really Want in a Flexible Work Arrangement

What Employees Really Want in a Flexible Work Arrangement
Credit: William Perugini/Shutterstock

Professionals have been striving for decades to strike a balance between career and family life, and the technology to make that goal more attainable is now widely used. Combine the adoption of remote collaboration and communication tools with changes in employee expectations, and you have the ingredients for major changes in workplace policies and culture.

According to a recent report by HR software developer Justworks, "seismic shifts [have been] occurring in the workplace, specifically related to paid time off and flexibility preferences." Partnering with SquareFoot, a marketplace for commercial real estate listings, Justworks surveyed 314 U.S. small business employees and 47 small business owners about workplace flexibility. The results underscore the fact that traditional working environments are gradually becoming a thing of the past: Most workers and managers now believe that productivity should be measured by the output of the work performed rather than the number of hours spent working at a desk.

Not only do 70 percent of employees interviewed consider flexible work hours "very important," but 42 percent said they'd accept a job that paid 10 percent less if the position offered more workplace flexibility. Leilani Lucero, recruiting manager at Justworks, said employers need to support this growing demand in the workforce if they are to effectively compete for talent in today's market. [See Related Story: The 20 Best Jobs for Flexibility]

"Workers clearly want to be able to balance success at work with healthy and fulfilling lives at home, and a flexible work environment goes a long way toward making that a reality," Lucero said in a statement.

Jonathan Wasserstrum, CEO and co-founder of SquareFoot, believes there's a connection between job flexibility and enhanced employee performance.

"More flexible hours means less time rushing around and more time to take care of things just as important as your work," he said. "It means less stress. And we've seen with past research that reducing stress leads to better job performance across the board. So businesses are certainly incentivized to offer this flexibility to their employees, and we're starting to see that."

Paid time off continues to be a valued benefit by professionals, although only 21 percent of respondents believe it has a positive impact on their team's performance. One emerging trend the survey identified is that many employees are leaning toward using their allotted days off in short bursts rather than long vacations. The survey found that workers tend to request one or two days off at a time to extend the length of weekends and break up their routine.

Parental paid leave is also on the minds of many in the workplace, with nearly half of the employees surveyed ranking it as "very important." Only 35 percent of respondents reported working for companies that offer paid parental leave.

Although there appears to be a rising tide of support for adopting flexible work policies, some business owners are ambivalent. Seventy-four percent of the business owners polled offer employees opportunities to work remotely, but 44 percent have expressed concerns about the likelihood of employees abusing remote work policies.

To create a fair policy that balances employee and employer expectations, it's wise to set clear boundaries and parameters for flexible arrangements, whether it's telecommuting, flex hours or both. Check out this Business News Daily guide for advice on crafting your company's remote work policy.

Joel N. Sussman

Joel Sussman is a freelance writer from upstate New York with 33 years of experience in journalism, public relations and marketing. He also has a background in business proposal writing, search engine optimization and news reporting. In addition to writing blog posts and website content for small business owners, he's also developing his own blog on business startup ideas and entrepreneurship.