Modern Work

5 Ways to Increase Workplace Flexibility in 2018

Illustration of a man split between office and family time

Why is workplace flexibility such a hot topic nowadays? There are plenty of challenges and hurdles that companies need to overcome. 

But, one of the biggest and most continuous? Employee retention.

In fact, one-third of new hires will actually quit their new jobs after about six months. For that reason, 78% of business leaders rank employee retention as urgent or important.

Yes, encouraging your best talent to actually stick around for the long haul can seem like a never-ending uphill battle that’s always at the forefront of employers’ minds.

And, unfortunately, your perks like your ping-pong tables, beer kegs, and office-wide guacamole contests are nice—but they aren’t going to fit the bill when it comes to addressing your engagement and retention issues.

So, what’s the secret to improving your employee happiness, boosting performance, and keeping your very best employees around?

It all boils down to two words: workplace flexibility.

When thinking about offering your employees more flexibility, a time tracking tool like Toggl can be a huge help to ensure the necessary work is still getting done.

Employee Flexibility at Work: What Exactly is it?

Chances are, this isn’t the first time you’re hearing about the growing need for flexibility in the office.

However, this has turned into somewhat of a buzzword—what exactly does flexibility at work mean for employees?

Leadership expert and author, Shawn Murphy, provides a suitable definition in his post for Switch and Shift:

Work flexibility is when businesses put into place practices that give freedom to employees. The freedom focuses on letting employees do their best work in a manner that aligns with their needs.

In other words, workplace flexibility means empowering your employees with the trust and autonomy they need to get their work done—without breathing down their necks and dictating exactly how things should be accomplished.

This can apply to a lot of different facets of employee life—such as giving employees the freedom to control their own career paths or own their projects, for example.

But, for the purpose of simplicity, we’ll look specifically at flexibility as it applies to work schedules for this article.

Why Workplace Flexibility Matters

Without giving it too much thought or research, it’s not hard to imagine why your employees might crave a less rigid work schedule—who wouldn’t want to be able to head in and out of the office whenever they please?

But, that only scratches the surface—there’s far more at play when it comes to the importance of flexibility in the workplace, for both you and your employees.

First things first, there’s a growing demand for at least some degree of flexibility—particularly among younger workers.

Believe it or not, 45% of Millennial employees will actually choose flexible schedules over pay. Even further, 86% of workers say that work-life balance is a top career priority.

Needless to say, by emphasizing flexibility and balance, employers can increase the happiness and satisfaction of their staff—which reduces turnover.

90% of organizations who have implemented work-life balance programs say it has improved satisfaction, with another 74% saying it actually improved retention.

When it comes to benefits of increased workplace flexibility, your employees aren’t the only ones who win. There are numerous positives for your company as well, in addition to the decreased turnover (by the way, a remote worker is 50% less likely to quit a job!).

For starters, plenty of studies illustrate that employees are far more productive when they have the ability to work from home and avoid the standard distractions of the office environment.

Additionally, another study from Vodafone concluded that companies can experience other benefits from focusing on workplace flexibility, including:

  • 61% of global respondents said flexibility led to an increase in profits
  • 83% saw an improvement in productivity
  • 58% believed flexibility improved the company’s reputation
  • 61% of companies in the United States saw an uptick in teamwork
  • 77% of American companies saw an improvement in employee morale

Plus, there’s another big benefit to consider: When it comes to hiring for open roles, if you’re willing to consider flexible working arrangements, you’ll widen your candidate pool—meaning you can fill your open positions with the very best talent out there.

Increasing Flexibility: How to Implement it For Your Own Staff

At this point, you don’t need further convincing about why it’s important to begin incorporating more flexibility into your work culture.

However, there’s another key thing you need to address: How to work on flexibility.

  • How can you improve workplace flexibility at your own company?
  • What are some ways to increase job satisfaction in the workplace?

Fortunately, there are tons of different things you can do to provide more flexibility and boost morale. But, if you’re looking for a place to get started, here are some key tips and tactics to consider.

1. Broaden your definition.

When it comes to the definition of flexibility in the workplace, it’s easy to limit yourself into thinking that it applies only to letting employees come and go as they please.

However, there are numerous other categories, arrangements, and examples of flexibility in the workplace to consider.

Robert Half does a great job of breaking down the different types of flexible work arrangements in this post. Here’s a quick look at some of the different things you could look at providing within your own office:

  • Flextime: This is likely the first category to pop into your mind, and applies to giving employees the freedom to structure their own workdays and weeks—often including when, where, and for how long they work. While employees are given plenty of autonomy, some companies that use this approach do have some core hours that they expect employees to be working.
  • Compressed Workweek: Using this approach, employees get a shorter workweek but typically still work the same number of hours. For example, working four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days. Even though employees still work a 40-hour week, the extra day off provides some added flexibility.
  • Job-Sharing: This tactic 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.
  • Telecommuting: Telecommuting (oftentimes referred to as remote work) involves flexible work arrangements where the employee spends some time—or, even all of his or her time—working from home or another location that isn’t the core office.
  • Permanent Part-Time Arrangements: With this arrangement, an employee fills a part-time role that doesn’t require a full-length workweek.

As the above examples show, there are plenty of ways to offer more flexibility for your employees, aside from letting them have total free reign over their time.

So, when thinking about how you can increase engagement and give employees the flexibility they crave, don’t limit yourself into one way of thinking.

2. Understand your team.

In addition to understanding the differing categories of flexible work, it’s also important that you understand your team.

The best place to start is by looking at the existing positions on your team.

Not all jobs are conducive to time or place flexibility. However, most have certain duties that are amenable to being done at alternate times and places other than the office,

-explains Scott Behson in an article for Harvard Business Review,

If you look at the jobs you supervise and break them into their component parts, it is likely you’ll find that some tasks, maybe even up to a third of an entire job, lend themselves to time and place flexibility.

Of course, the most flexible jobs will enable employees to have total autonomy.

But, as Behson suggests, it’s important to go through the steps and see how you could offer more flexibility for all of your employees.

Additionally, if you’re eager to figure out how to be more adaptable and flexible at work, you also need to understand exactly what your team members want.

Consider utilizing a short survey to find out what your employees are looking for in regards to increased flexibility.

  • Do they want the ability to work remotely?
  • A shortened workweek?
  • Unlimited PTO?

Those are important things to know before figuring out how you can use flexibility to truly boost happiness in the office.

3. Encourage breaks.

Occasional breaks are another key component of adaptability and flexibility in the workplace. They give your employees a chance to rest, recharge, and connect with their colleagues.

Yet, one study states that only 33% of employees actually take breaks during the workday.

If you’re curious about how to raise morale in the workplace, actually encouraging your staff to step away from their desks every once in awhile can be a big help.

One idea to encourage breaks is to have a break room or to force employees to leave their desk during lunch by providing free food or incentives,

-explains Dan Schawbel in an article for Forbes.

If you have the option, you could even lengthen your standard lunch break so that team members could run errands or take care of personal needs in the middle of the day—adding to their sense of work flexibility.

Give your employees the encouragement and opportunity they need to actually leave their work for even a quick five-minute break, and they’re bound to feel less frazzled and far more balanced.

4. Limit your meetings.

One of the biggest concerns when it comes to increasing workplace flexibility is that it limits work time. But, rest assured, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Limiting the amount of meetings your employees have to attend is an effective way to give them more flexibility (they won’t have as many scheduled commitments!), while also increasing the amount of time they can actually be heads-down in their own work.

Middle managers spend about 35% of their working time in meetings.

Even worse? Executives consider 67% of meetings to be failures—meaning they’re totally unproductive.

By doing away with all of those unnecessary sit-downs that are only wasting time anyway, your employees will instantly feel like they have more control over their own work schedules.

5. Encourage personal interests.

As mentioned previously, workplace flexibility all ties back to a greater desire for balance. Employees don’t want to feel as if their careers make up the majority of their lives. They’re desperate to even the scales a little bit.

This tactic has almost nothing to do with schedules, but can make a huge difference in recognizing the fact that your team members have lives outside of the four walls of your office building.

Encourage them to pursue their hobbies and passions, and even bring those into the office.

Perhaps you’ll institute regular lunch-and-learn sessions where employees can teach their colleagues about something they’re interested in. Or, maybe you want to start an office-wide kickball league.

These are all things that show your staff that you care about them as people—and not just as employees.

So, brainstorm some ways that you can incorporate some more life, passion, and enthusiasm at work. Your employees will be much better off for it.

Over to You

From improved retention and increased engagement to raising morale in the workplace, there are plenty of reasons that you’d want to incorporate more workplace flexibility into your company culture.

Fortunately, it’s easier than you might anticipate—particularly if you’re willing to think outside the box a little bit.

Put these five tips to work, and you’ll not only notice an increase in workplace flexibility, but in your employee happiness as well.  

November 30, 2017