65% of the employees in the USA view flexible working as the most important factor when deciding whether they accept a job offer or not, according to a Jabra research.
And 51% of the UK-based candidates.
The way you respond to this shift in priorities for the employees determines whether you’ll stay competitive and attract the best talent out there.
But before you jump on rethinking your benefits packages, and implementing any type of flexible working arrangement, you’ll want to ask yourself:
- “What is flexible working?”
- “What are the different types of flexible working arrangements to consider?”
- “What are key benefits (both me, business-wise, and for the employees)”
- “How can I make flexible working… work inside my organization?”
And these are precisely the questions that we will be answering in this article.
Let’s dive in.
What Is Workplace Flexibility? What Is Flexible Working?
Workplace flexibility is adopting a flexible mindset both as an employer and as an employee.
For you, it means giving your employees the opportunity to do their work in ways that best match their work styles. Their personal needs and their specific responsibilities.
It comes down to giving them different options as to when, where, and how they can complete their tasks.
Whereas for the employees, workplace flexibility means being adaptable and responding to new challenges and expectations. Like learning new skills or new software to streamline a process.
Or adapting to a new role, with whole new responsibilities. Or offering solutions instead of complaints to new problems that might arise.
“And what is flexible working then?” you might ask yourself.
Flexible working is an alternative to the traditional “9 to 5 in the office” way of working.
One that’s agreed on by the employer and the employee and adapted to the latter’s needs. With trust and the right technology as the 2 secret “ingredients” needed to make it work and be beneficial for both parties.
For you’ll need to trust the employees to give them the freedom to work anywhere (and anytime).
And you also need the right technology to manage flexible working teams.
Now, since flexible working can take on many forms, from remote work to job sharing, keep reading to find out what are the main types to consider.
The 8 Types of Flexible Working Arrangements
Before you even start to consider incorporating them into your benefits package, you’ll first want to know how many types there are.
And what type of employee needs each one of them will meet.
1. Hybrid Work
Hybrid work is the working arrangement that allows employees to work on-site and off-site (aka remotely). Meaning remotely on some days of the week and on-site the rest of the week.
A flexible working policy allowing employees to work from wherever they want to as long as they meet the agreed deadlines.
And this shifts the focus from where the employees work to how they work. With the goal of increasing their performance.
Which employees does this type of flexible working arrangement fit best?
- Employees who feel more productive outside the traditional working hours.
- Employees who need to balance their professional lives with other personal life responsibilities.
- Employees who’d rather stay away from office distractions when working on high-focus tasks.
Telecommuting is working from outside the traditional workplace.
The employee could be working from home, a coffee shop, co-working space or from anywhere he has wi-fi access.
He/she no longer needs to commute to a central place of work.
The main challenge you’ll need to consider when choosing this type of flexible working arrangement is technology.
To provide employees with the technology they need to be able to do their work and connect with their teammates and colleagues. All while checking objectives like productivity and security off the list.
Note! While this type of flexi working arrangement means that an employee isn’t working from the office anymore, he still needs to be able to get there on certain agreed occasions (e.g. key meetings, catch-ups with his manager and co-workers).
So, living nearby is, in many cases, a requirement for the employees to meet for this type of arrangement to work properly.
3. Remote Work
In way too many cases “remote work” and “telecommuting” are used interchangeably.
And that is because the differences between these two types of flexible work arrangements are very subtle.
But they do exist and you should be aware of them when advertising your own jobs.
In a “remote work” arrangement, the employee is not expected to be able to attend teambuildings or office meetings. Attending video conferences might be the only expectation he’ll need to meet.
In short, he/she can carry out his tasks from anywhere on the globe as long as the technology and equipment at hand allow him to do his work.
In other words, he’s not expected to live somewhere nearby. Not even on the same continent.
4. Condensed Workweeks
A condensed workweek (or compressed workweek) is a flexible work arrangement where the full-time working hours within a week are condensed to fewer days.
In this case, employees might benefit from a 3-day weekend or they can take their day off in the middle of the week. The agreed arrangement might vary.
Still, keep in mind the fact that this type of arrangement is not a one-size-fits-all one. While some employees might appreciate this level of flexibility, others won’t find the resulting longer working days suitable for them and their own needs and work style.
Flextime (or flexitime) refers to flexible working hours. Employees are free to choose when they start and finish their working days as long as they work their contracted number of hours.
For instance, some of them can start their workdays at…11 am on one day and finish at 7 pm and work from 8 to 4 the next day.
And this is one of those key workplace benefits that candidates have started to place a high value on when considering new job opportunities.
As this type of arrangement allows them to solve their daily commute challenges. And to better squeeze their other commitments into their schedules.
Like taking kids to preschool or continuing their education online.
6. Part-Time Work
Part-time work is the form of employment where the employees have fewer contracted weekly hours.
How is it beneficial for them? It enables them to earn money all while carrying out other personal life responsibilities. Like child-raising.
Whereas for employers it turns out to be an effective type of work arrangement when the work to be carried out doesn't justify a full-time position.
Or during those “off-season” periods throughout the year when they just need to keep their business operational.
In this type of flexible working arrangement employees are not entitled to all the benefits offered to full-time employees.
7. Shift Work
Shift work is the work arrangement where a working day is segmented into multiple shifts.
And employees are allocated different shifts so that the full 24-hours day of work gets covered.
This way, employees end up working different hours from one week to another and even from one day to another.
Word of caution! While it does offer clear benefits for employers (work gets done at all times throughout the day) it’s been proven that shift work can negatively impact employees’ wellbeing.
So, make sure you think this through. That you set the benefits you get against the negative side effects this type of flexible work arrangement has on the workforce.
8. Job Sharing
Job sharing is the type of flexible working arrangement where you have 2 part-time employees carrying out, together, the work of a full-time employee.
Basically, their work is combined so that each one of the 2 employees can do his own part of the work, and, together, carry out the work of someone working full-time.
The main challenge here is to have their tasks so cleanly divided that each part-time employee knows exactly what he has to do.
And what the other one’s tasks and responsibilities are at all times.
So, good communication is critical to make this arrangement work.
And it’s a win-win type of work arrangement:
- Employees get to earn money without neglecting other commitments in their lives.
- Employers find 2 candidates willing to work part-time more easily than one candidate willing to take a full-time role.
Benefits of Flexible Working
Now you know how many types of flexible working arrangements there are. And how each type comes to serve the needs of different employers and employees.
Time to talk benefits, too. For both parties.
6 Key Benefits for Employees
1. Better Work-Life Balance
With the hours wasted on long daily commutes that they now can save and the flexible work schedules that they benefit from, employees can better balance their work and home life.
They gain more time to handle their personal life commitments and responsibilities.
And employees who regain their sense of control over their personal lives tend to have a greater sense of control (and responsibility for) over their work life, too.
2. Better Time Management
With office distractions, daily commute, and the freedom to schedule work during (their) quiet times, employees manage to make the most of their working time.
They regain more time and better focus to work on their tasks and meet the agreed deadlines.
3. Improved Wellbeing
Take the dreaded daily commute, 5 days a week, out of the picture, and you get less stressed employees. With more free time at hand to invest it in their health and personal wellbeing.
4. Improved Efficiency
A study by the University of Standford has shown that employees working from home are 13.5% more efficient.
With the freedom to work at their most productive hours of the day, they manage to carry out more of their tasks at a higher quality, faster.
5. Improved Engagement
Since they’re no longer constrained to a rigid working schedule and a fixed workplace — which would have been quite energy-consuming — they’re more motivated to delve deep into work.
They have more energy to fully dedicate themselves to their tasks.
6. Higher Job Satisfaction
And improved engagement and motivation reflect in the level of job satisfaction, too.
According to a survey conducted by Stats Canada, 79% of employees who benefit from flexible working hours are satisfied (or very satisfied) with their work.
Being free to schedule their work around the hours that best suit their specific needs has a huge impact on their level of happiness at work.
4 Key Benefits for Employers
1. You Reduce Employee Turnover
As you’re offering flexible working opportunities you keep yourself competitive in the “battle” for top talent.
Highly qualified employees will no longer be tempted to leave for companies that offer them more flexibility.
In other words, you improve the levels of engagement, loyalty, and retention in your organization when you meet your employees’ need for flexibility in the workplace.
Which brings us to…
2. You Meet Employee Expectations
Employees are expecting some level of flexibility at the workplace and this type of demand is going anywhere but up.
They already expect their employers to include flextime, telecommuting, hybrid work, or other forms of flexible working in their benefits packages.
And meeting those expectations helps you stay relevant in today’s competitive job market.
3. You Build Tech-Savvy Teams
As you incorporate flexible working arrangements into your organization, you draw your employees into using the latest technology to make flexi work… work.
And so you gradually reach that level of digital transformation that you aim for your organization.
4. You Reduce Costs
By retaining top talent, reducing absenteeism, and, overall, less overhead (reduced need for office space) you cut down costs.
To this, add the financial gains that come from keeping your employees more engaged, more motivated, more productive.
What Are Employee Expectations - Top 4 Workplace Benefits
So what are the employee expectations on the rise?
Those top workplace benefits that make them choose a job offer over other (seemingly) similar ones?
Which, as you’ll see, go well beyond compensation.
1. Workplace Flexibility
Employees now expect more flexibility in their schedules and work locations.
They’ve already got used to the level of flexibility that remote work offers them. And the perspective of going back to a 9-to-5 work-in-an-office type of work doesn’t appeal to them anymore.
They did discover that they can be more efficient and fulfilled with their work this way and that they can keep a better work-life balance.
And according to a survey done by the IBM Institute for Business Value and Survey Monkey, 51% of the interviewed people ranked work-life balance as the most important factor for them when choosing a job.
In this case, a hybrid type of work arrangement comes to meet both the needs of the employees expecting more flexibility and of organizations willing to preserve some kind of office culture.
2. Home Office Allowances and Reimbursements
Employees will always favor those companies committed to providing them assistance to set up their home office. And to further pay for their home office expenses.
With 40.7 million American professionals predicted to be fully remote by 2026, this is the type of expected workplace benefit you can’t afford to undermine.
3. Mental Health Support
Employees’ expectations for mental health benefits are on the rise.
And those employers who care for them holistically — their healthy, mental and financial wellbeing — will continue to stand out and win candidates’ attention and employees’ loyalty.
Some examples of such initiatives are meeting-free workdays and regular disconnect days.
4. Continuous Learning Opportunities
Employees expect the opportunity to learn new skills. And to be rewarded for continuously polishing and growing their skillset.
They want to be given the opportunity to succeed and to grow, to stay competitive in their fields.
So you, as an employer, should consider creating and fostering a learning culture. One that nurtures the skills of your employees.
5 Flexible Working Myths
Now you know what employees’ top-ranked workplace benefits are, with flexible working arrangements on top of their lists.
And you might still keep your level of skepticism and go for a more prudent approach for you can’t help wondering: why haven’t all the organizations implemented flexible working policies already?
Because of these 5 top myths around flexible working that are still lingering:
Myth #1: Loss of Control
Some organizations still fear that if they introduce such types of policies their offices will be empty and… there’ll be no one working anymore.
There already are tried-and-tested ways to bust this flexible working myth:
- Provide structure and clarity: design your flexibility policies and communicate your standards with clarity.
- Make sure you train your staff around the systems you implement for supporting flex work.
- Give them clear guidelines around the type of flexible working arrangement(s) you offer them: remote work, job sharing, compressed workweeks, etc.
Myth #2: Loss of Culture
How do you keep the culture across your organization when employees don’t see each other every day?
When they can’t have lunch together or chit-chats at the coffee machine?
- First of all, you define what “culture” means for you.
- Next, you implement a regular video-conferencing or in-person meetings policy.
- Then, you create opportunities and scenarios for people to meet online and interact.
From online cooking classes to happy hours, to making the most of those hours when everyone’s physically present at the office.
When they could participate at events and have 1:1 time with their co-workers.
Myth # 3: Loss of Collaboration
How do you keep teams collaborating effectively in a flexible work arrangement?
Here are some of the key initiatives that’ll help you bust the myth of “poor collaboration” in the context of flexi work:
- Implement a “keep in contact” policy where employees are expected to be responsive to calls/emails and keep tabs on the projects they’re assigned to.
- Encourage them to meet in person regularly to keep healthy team relationships with their colleagues.
- Consider implementing regular virtual hours for informal collaboration and feedback on the progress of the tasks they’re working on.
- Incorporate the technology that’ll facilitate and enhance collaboration from a distance (e.g. virtual breakout rooms).
Myth #4: Loss of Contribution
How do you know if your employees will be actually working when they’re not at the office, right?
But… how do you know whether they’re actually working when they’re sitting at their desks, in the office?
To overcome the fear that no one will be doing their work in a flexible working arrangement all you need to do is communicate, very clearly, what your expectations are.
From each one of them.
And to trust that they will carry out their tasks within the agreed timeframe.
For effective flexible working policies call for a shift from the importance laid on the actual time spent in the office to the one laid on the quality of the work employees deliver.
To their ability to meet the agreed performance objectives.
Myth #5: Loss of Connection
The right technology is your best ally to beat this fear.
Pick the best video conferencing app, calendar-sharing app, rely on the best tech for networking events.
Or go even one step further and set up your own systems for facilitating connection.
Like one that enables scheduling virtual coffee chats among the employees themselves or them and your different partners/associates.
How You Can Enable Flexible Working: 4 Steps
Before you even consider the best ways for incorporating more flexibility into your work you need to be realistic about the whole process.
And getting rid of all office desks and shifting to a 100% flexible working schedule from day 1 is anything but realistic.
Instead, what you’ll want to do is take baby steps towards a happier, more engaged, more productive, less rigid workplace.
1. Start to Discuss with Your Employees about Flexible Working
Listen to what they expect in terms of a flexible working arrangement and be realistic about your offering.
You might not be able to offer, at this stage, a remote work type of arrangement. But maybe you are ready to switch to telecommuting instead.
Or you might not be able to implement huge changes in the working hours, but maybe you can offer them more paid time off.
2. Communicate All Goals and Deadlines Clearly
And this comes down to being clear in your business objectives.
Your employees first need to know what these objectives are and to understand them.
Then, they need to be aware of the deadlines for completing the work that gets your organization closer to these specific objectives.
Next, you’ll need to trust them. It is a key ingredient for developing a flexible mindset as an employer.
Trust that they’ll complete their tasks within the agreed deadlines, in their way, and on their schedules.
3. Encourage Creativity and Cultivate Trust
Trust your employees and make them feel free to share their ideas.
Creating a work environment where trust, freedom, and creative thinking are the 3 main pillars will make your team(s) more capable to face and overcome any unexpected challenges that arise.
4. Reconfigure Your Office Space
Approach the office layout, too, with a flexible mindset.
For instance, you could designate different areas for work around the office.
Put standing desks in quieter corners of the workplace, create a common space where employees can get together and connect, and so on.
And How Do You Create a Flexible Workplace?
Your office space has a huge impact on work flexibility.
So, how do you reshape the physical layout of your workplace to make it truly flexible?
You reconfigure your office space design if it still preserves that subtle hierarchy common in the open-space layouts of the old days? You know what I’m referring to: the walls between departments, the sightlines of the desks…
And, instead, opt for one where people can choose to work in different areas: the active collaboration area, the conference center, the learning zone, the quiet focus zone, etc.
Where employees can choose when and where they can do their best work.
What about you? What practices and new policies have you already implemented to accommodate more flexibility into your company culture?