Work as an activity, not as a place to go
Technology has revolutionized the attitudes we have towards working and it importantly shapes the work routines we build. Work arrangements define when, where, and how work gets done. Flexible working is a promising alternative to the traditional ‘9-to-5’ workday, the standard workweek, or the traditional workplace. It allows employees to work hours that differ from the usual times to clock in and out.
»When you look at the high number of flexible small businesses punching above their weight and disrupting whole industries, then it seems that business is heading in one direction, and that’s home.«
– Michael Ruffles, Virgin StartUp
Are your employees still ‘going to work’?
The concept of work has been undergoing drastic changes for the last two decades in increasingly shorter time intervals. For example, parents of the millennial generation had a clearly defined schedule and working hours in defined office settings.
‘Going to work’ used to mean clocking in at nine. Staying in the office for eight hours of the daily plan (minus the lunch break). Clocking out at five.
After that, ‘work’ stayed strictly in the office till the next day. Afternoons and weekends were reserved for the individuals’ private life. The location of work was (hopefully) within a close range of the employees’ home. They would need to commute to the office every working day to be able to complete their work assignments. There was no other way to access the company data and information.
Or are they performing their work?
Nowadays, almost all of us own a smartphone, laptop or a tablet, pocket-sized mobile devices are never out of reach. Can we resist replying to a vitally important e-mail early in the evening during the movie night with our family? Should we resist, even?
So, when do employees clock in and out now? And where from? From the living room?
This is of course possible. Work day has become a 24/7 possibility and workforce has become international. Companies have multiple offices around the world and employ remote workers from everywhere, not limited at all by their GPS location. The virtual communication has advanced greatly and the availability of the information and databases is not limited to the office anymore. Workplace can be anywhere.
Why should you offer flexible working arrangements?
Boston College Center for Work & Family has conducted a study of the flexible working arrangements in six large companies and concluded the following:
- 70% of managers and 87% of employees reported that working a flexible arrangement had a positive or very positive impact on productivity;
- 65% of managers and 87% of employees reported that a flexible work arrangement had a positive or very positive impact on the quality of work;
- 76% of managers and 80% of employees indicated that flexible work arrangements had positive effects on retention.
MIT came to the similar conclusions in the Quality of Life survey among their employees. Of all the programs and policies suggested in the survey, flexibility was the one most highly valued by staff. The most valuable insights from the MIT study are:
- Traditional, rigid workplace schedules are not meeting the needs or wishes of employees.
- Shifting values are creating a widespread demand for better work/life balance. Job location and scheduling are becoming as important as pay.
- Organizations which fail to implement flexible working arrangements risk losing talent to companies who will offer their employees more flexibility and better work/life balance.
Is everyone else doing it already?
Not yet. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that only 5% of employers offer flexible work to the majority of its employees on a regular basis. This percentage has risen only 1 point since 2003. There are around 10% of UK and US employees that regularly work from home. According to one study 43% of US workers can work remotely at least part of the time as of 2016.
These numbers are surprisingly small, regarding the fact that flexible working can increase performance levels by 13%, as measured by the Stanford University.
(This of course also means, that if you are reading this right now and deciding to go for it, you are already one step ahead of the competition.)
There is a long list of the observed benefits for both, the employee and the employer:
- improved job satisfaction and work/life balance,
- reduced employee absenteeism,
- greater commitment,
- reduced turnover.
What if my company doesn’t offer flexible working?
On top of everything said, there’s one more thing to consider: a major shift in the mindset of the millennial generation. This generation and the ones to come are leading mobile and individualized lifestyles and have fresh attitudes towards careers. Having the flexibility to work wherever you want is one reason why some of the top talents are choosing working for start-ups over the favorable pay at corporate companies.
Research shows that after salary, flexibility is the second most important thing people look for in a job.
Managers can use flexible schedules as tools to promote positive work attitude and productivity, enhance job satisfaction, and develop management and leadership skills. This will boost both, the recruitment and the retention of perspective employees. Don’t get left behind!
What should I do next?
There are now many flexible working arrangements available to handle the new requirements, whether it be through remote working, job sharing, flexitime or something creative in between. Just make sure to implement the flexible work policy that will suit your business.
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