Flexibility in the workplace is becoming increasingly important and has only been heightened because of COVID-19. With so many people forced to work from home over the past year during the pandemic, research has shown workers prefer the flexibility a remote schedule has provided. As a result, an overwhelming majority of the workforce does not want to go back to the rigid, 9-5 in-person office work schedule that was previously the traditional norm. Read on as we delve deeper into why flexibility is key in the post-pandemic workplace, starting with defining and breaking down exactly what is work flexibility.
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What is flexibility in the workplace?
Alison Doyle, job search expert at The Balance Careers, a career services website, defines flexibility in the following way: “Workplace flexibility emphasizes the willingness and ability to adapt to change, particularly regarding how and when work gets done. In a flexible workplace, the needs of both employee and employer are met. Workplace flexibility is often used as a tool for retaining and engaging employees. It can also help an organization reach its goals thanks to improved productivity.”
Embracing workplace flexibility has been a global trend over the past year, driven by the pandemic, since public health concerns forced most industries into a remote modality. In fact, the Australian government has put out guidelines on its Fair Work website, with a description reading in part, “Flexibility in the workplace allows employers and employees to make arrangements about working conditions that suit them. This helps employees maintain a work/life balance and can help employers improve the productivity and efficiency of their business. As long as employees are still receiving their minimum entitlements, employers and employees can negotiate ways to make their workplace more flexible.”
Types of Flexible Work
Flexible work can be done in many different ways, including working remotely, working in-person at the office or a combination of both. Flexible work can also include shifting schedules to do more or less work at a particular time.
Writing for Toggl Track, a time tracking software company, Kat Boogaard put together a list of different types of flexible work:
- Flextime: This is likely the first approach to pop into your mind, and is about giving employees the freedom to structure their own workdays and weeks–often including when, where, and for how long they work.
- Compressed workweek: Using this approach, employees get a shorter workweek but typically still work the same number of hours. For example, an employee might work four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days. It still adds up to a 40-hour week, but the extra day off provides some added flexibility.
- Job sharing: This is less common, but can still be effective. With job sharing, two part-time employees share the job of what would traditionally be one full-time employee. This is ideal for candidates who are qualified for a particular position but would prefer the flexibility of a part-time job.
- Remote work: Telecommuting or remote work involves arrangements where the employee spends some time–or, even all of their time–working from home or another location that isn’t the office.
- Permanent part-time arrangements: With this arrangement, an employee fills a part-time role that doesn’t require a full-length workweek.
The numbers are clear. Research has shown that when it comes to schedules, workers do not want to go back to the way things were before the pandemic.
Smartway2’s Return to Work survey found that only 2% of people want to return to full-time, in-person work, with just 6% saying they want to continue working from home full-time. The data is clear, considering 92% of people want a hybrid modality with a mix of in-person and remote working, allowing flexibility and the decision of where and when they work.
In an article for Flexjobs, a website founded in 2007 to help find flexible and remote jobs, Emily Courtney, a writer, editor and content specialist at Flexjobs, found that 81% of those surveyed said they would be more loyal to their employer if they had flexible work options.
Dragomir Simovic, a staff writer for SmallBizGenius, a company that offers product reviews, statistics, news, and industry insights, compiled the below list of statistics regarding flexible work. Simovic’s findings present concrete examples and shed light on the way people now want to get their jobs done.
- 40% of people feel the greatest benefit of remote work is the flexible schedule.
- 16% of companies exclusively hire remote workers.
- Companies allowing remote work have 25% lower employee turnover than those that don’t.
- 76% of workers would be more willing to stay with their current employer if they could work flexible hours.
- People who work remotely at least once a month are 24% more likely to be happy and productive.
- The number of people who work from home has increased by 140% since 2005.
- 4.3 million people in the USA work from home at least half the time.
And if the statistics presented by Simovic leave any questions, below is a list of companies that have already transitioned to offering flexibility for their employees. This list, published by Workest by Zenefits, a cloud-based software company, was compiled by Cinnamon Janzer.
- American Express
- UnitedHealth Group
- NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Paperless Post
Flexible Work Benefits
Research has found that flexibility in the workplace is important for health, personal and professional reasons. Below we will provide some examples of the benefits identified by experts, including improved work-life balance, the happiness of employees and productivity.
Flexjobs, which we cited earlier, has put together a comprehensive list of advantages of flexibility in the workplace:
- Improves Retention
- Attracts Top Talent
- Improves Diversity
- Increases Productivity
- Improves Employee Engagement
- Provides a Cost-Efficient and Eco-Friendly Choice
According to an article in Business News Daily written by staff writer Joshua Stowers, flexibility can improve employee satisfaction and productivity:
- 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
Smartway2 offers unique workplace scheduling software for modern, agile and collaborative companies. Our flexible software can enable you to increase productivity, optimize your space and reduce your carbon footprint.