Flexibility is no longer a buzzword for job descriptions. Instead, employees expect flexibility to be woven into companies’ work cultures. This means businesses should permit their teams to choose working arrangements that fit their needs and boost their productivity.
Allowing flexibility doesn’t mean tossing out your company’s policies and work expectations. You can easily create flexible work arrangements that give employees autonomy and empower them to deliver optimal results. We’ll explore the benefits of promoting flexibility at work and how to create a balanced, flexible work culture for your team.
A Future Forum Pulse survey found that 56 percent of desk workers have no say over the flexibility in their schedules. Often, only C-suite executives and senior employees are granted flexibility. Whereas three-quarters of senior executives have few to no schedule constraints, just 41 percent of nonexecutive employees enjoy this level of control over their schedules.
The survey found that 93 percent of desk workers want a say in when they work, while 81 percent of employees want control over where they work. Given the survey’s respondent base — 10,243 full-time employees — it’s safe to say that similar views likely prevail among your workforce.
Creating a flexible work culture has several benefits that serve employees and businesses. Below are some of the advantages of promoting flexibility at work.
Employee burnout stems from ongoing exhaustion and dissatisfaction with work. The Future Forum Pulse survey found that 53 percent of employees who were unhappy with their amount of flexibility at work experience burnout. In contrast, 37 percent of employees said they were satisfied with their flexibility but still experienced burnout.
The survey also found that when employees lack the freedom to adjust their schedules, stress and anxiety are the result. Employees without freedom experienced stress and anxiety levels 4.6 times higher than others. Employees with little flexibility also reported a work-life balance 2.6 times worse than others.
These effects can negatively impact employees’ health. Promoting flexibility helps mitigate these issues and create a healthy work environment.
“By having a flexible work environment, you let your team members create their own ideal work experience,” explained Jonathan Rosenfeld, founder of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers. “When employees have control over their work setting and schedule, they can better juggle their time and energy.”
You might think giving employees more flexibility leads to distractions that kill productivity. However, the Future Forum Pulse survey revealed that employees with flexible schedules experience the highest productivity increases. These team members can practice better discipline and find the approach and cadence that work best for them.
The survey also revealed that employees with full schedule flexibility reported 39 percent higher productivity rates than employees without flexibility. Employees with schedule flexibility also reported 64 percent stronger focus than employees with rigid schedules.
A lack of schedule flexibility can significantly affect employees’ work performance. A Kansas Journal of Medicine study found that work-related stress can directly lead to decreased employee productivity and workplace satisfaction. As the Future Forum Pulse survey found, flexibility and stress are inversely related.
The survey also found that flexibility improves employee retention, a result often associated with greater job satisfaction. Employees with rigid schedules were 2.5 times more likely to try to find a new job within the next year than employees with flexibility. According to the survey, flexibility is one of the greatest determinants of an employee’s job satisfaction, second only to pay.
“A few years ago, one of our employees had a family emergency and needed to leave the state for some time,” Rosenfeld said. “My reply was, ‘We’ll figure something out; no worries!’ We set them up with a remote work arrangement so they could keep contributing to our team while taking care of their personal stuff. It not only kept them in the game but also gave our team a huge morale and loyalty boost.”
Company culture is formed by the way your team members carry out your business’s values. A positive work culture can improve the outlook of current employees and attract like-minded talent. The Future Forum Pulse survey showed that employees feel work policies encouraging flexibility are foundational to creating a strong work culture.
Team members who can exercise flexibility typically have healthy business relationships with their managers. These employees are more likely to resonate and align with company values. Further, employees who can choose where they work feel just as connected to their coworkers as employees working full-time from the office. In some cases, employees with flexibility reported feeling more connected than those without flexibility.
Consider the following approaches to give your employees more autonomy over their work lives.
The Future Forum Pulse survey found that 35 percent of desk workers still report to the office full-time. However, some employees might feel most productive working from home. Others might find they focus better when they work in the office a few times a week. Allowing your employees to choose the best setup for them helps them achieve their highest level of productivity.
“What many workers crave more than just a hybrid or work-from-home schedule is the freedom to figure out for themselves how, when and where to work,” said Joe Mull, author of Employalty: How to Ignite Commitment and Keep Top Talent in the New Age of Work. “It is this ability to respond in real time to both unexpected life developments and personal schedule preferences that truly determines whether an employee experiences flexibility.”
A flexible approach doesn’t mean employees should work only an hour or two per day. However, you can give employees some autonomy over their schedules.
Consider implementing flexible workday start and end times. For example, one employee can drop off their kids at school in the mornings and start work a little later. Another can attend their child’s evening karate classes and leave a little earlier. Letting your employees adjust their schedules for personal commitments or family needs can go a long way toward building excellent employer-employee relationships and employee loyalty.
“Think beyond the typical nine-to-five work day,” said Brendan Brown, founder of The Expert Editor. “Consider implementing a ‘results-only’ work environment, where you evaluate employees solely on the quality and quantity of their work rather than the hours they put in. This approach empowers employees to work when they’re most productive, whether that’s early in the morning or late at night.”
Job sharing gives two or more people part-time roles to fulfill the role of one full-time employee. With this arrangement as an option, some employees might decide to keep working the position they currently enjoy but with fewer hours.
This opportunity can give employees a better work-life balance and more flexibility to choose an arrangement that suits their home lives. It can also boost job satisfaction, improve productivity and reduce turnover within your company.
Creating a flexible work environment requires transparency, organization and a willingness to try new approaches. Below are some best practices to help you make the most of the flexibility initiatives you implement.
Setting clear expectations is crucial so employees can move forward confidently with flexibility initiatives. Set guidelines to ensure the flexibility you promote doesn’t detract from your company’s organization and overall productivity.
For example, you might encourage your employees to take breaks whenever necessary throughout the workday. In this case, you might ask them to communicate with the rest of the team when stepping away from their workstations.
If you’re implementing flexible start and end times, you might also set core working hours during which employees must be available. This way, the right person is always around to respond to team communications and urgent work matters.
Your employees need room to be creative. Monitoring and directing their every move according to your work preferences can stifle your team’s ability to make decisions, learn and manage their responsibilities. In a flexible work environment, focusing on your team’s overall progress is your primary focus.
“It’s a shift from monitoring when people arrive at or leave the office or when they log in or out,” said Melanie Frenkel, a senior PR consultant at Berkeley PR. “Instead, what’s important is that employees are available when other team members need them and are delivering against expectations.”
Consider delegating tasks and letting your employees set their own goals and steps to achieve them. This approach shows that you trust your employees to do what’s best for them and the company based on the guidelines you’ve laid out.
“Flexibility is signaling to a team member that you encourage them to adopt an owner’s mentality,” Frenkel said. “This increases their empowerment, which should increase their ability to perform and, thus, their satisfaction derived from work.”
A flexible work culture allows employees to create work lives that are tailored to their needs and preferences while being their most productive. It means their everyday responsibilities become sustainable, as do your expectations and company goals. Although you and your employees may need some time to adjust to your flexible new work arrangements, the effort is worth it. You’ll likely create a work environment that everyone is proud to be a part of.