Prior to the pandemic, most executives believed that only 45% of the workforce was suited for working remotely. The coronavirus pandemic shattered this misconception. According to a survey by Mercer in late 2020, more than 90% of employers say that productivity has stayed the same or improved with employees working remotely, and 82% say they will implement flexible working at a greater scale post-pandemic.
Modern businesses have trended towards more flexible workplaces for many years, a movement that is only accelerating with recent events.
What is a flexible workplace?
Workplace flexibility emphasizes the willingness and ability to adapt to change, particularly regarding how and when work gets done.
Flexible workplaces empower employees to choose where and even when they work. This could be in a remote location of their choosing, in the office, or possibly a hybrid of the two. Sometimes called an ‘agile’ or ‘distributed’ workplace, the fundamental idea is that greater flexibility means that your workforce is optimized for high productivity and employee happiness.
What are some different types of schedule flexibility?
Generally, workplace flexibility promotes better work-life balance. This may include schedules outside of traditional 9-to-5 hours or the 5-day office commute.
Employers with flextime policies may allow their workers to stagger arrival and departure times as needed. During the COVID-19 pandemic this can be especially important to increase social distancing at high-congestion entry and exit areas. Flextime also provides opportunities to increase your business’ operating hours.
Not every employee needs (or wants) to work in the office. Remember when we used “telecommuting” instead of “zooming in” to work? No matter what it is called, telecommuting employees can work from home, a co-working space, or elsewhere. With video call technology it is easy to maintain face time with co-workers and clients.
Condensed or Flexible Schedules
Instead of a typical Monday-Friday work week, employees may work on weekends or evenings, or condense the same amount of work over a shorter period of time, like working four 10-hour days. Employees may take an additional day or two off during the week, but your company can benefit with needed staffing during non-traditional hours.
What are the business benefits of a flexible workplace?
Flexible workplaces increase resilience and adaptability.
Businesses that adopt flexible workplace models must embrace tools and systems that optimize peak performance no matter where their employees are located. This flexibility will improve workforce resilience and adaptability to outside forces like global pandemics. Schedule flexibility also allows businesses to adjust employee hours to accommodate the needs of the company.
Flexible workplaces reduce overhead.
Flexible workplaces reduce overhead for employers. Right-sizing office space to the actual needs of their workforce rather than having dedicated desks for every employee can have a huge ROI. In most major US cities, businesses pay $10k-$12k annually per employee for office space. In-office amenities like meal programs, coffee, and snacks further contribute to those costs.
Flexible workplaces attract a larger talent pool and can reduce turnover.
Flexible work creates access to a global talent pool. Companies can find the most qualified person for the job when they aren’t constrained to hiring within office commuting distance.
An Ernst & Young global survey of 9,700 workers found that more flexibility beat out just about all other job perks—including health insurance for some younger workers. On top of that, a Deloitte study of 10,000 people shows that a lack of work flexibility is the most likely reason a millennial would quit their job.
Potential hires now expect this as an option, especially post-pandemic. With industry leaders like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft adopting this model, companies competing for top talent must offer similar perks.
The increased employee satisfaction and work-life balance that comes with flexibility has carryover benefits. Improved morale and reducing employee turnover lowers the cost of recruiting and training new hires.
Flexible workplaces may be better for the environment.
Does your business care about the planet? Reducing the amount of time employees spend commuting helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Millions of people commute daily to work releasing toxic pollutants into the atmosphere, leading to poorer air quality and potential health problems. Global Workforce Analytics estimates that working from home half the week can reduce emissions by 54 million tons every year.
And gas consumption isn’t the only thing that’s reduced. By allowing employees to work remotely, employers cut down on the amount of waste produced in the office, from printer paper to plastic to catering containers.
With all these benefits, are offices obsolete?
We don’t think the office is going away anytime soon! While some employees with a flexible workplace may choose to work 100% remotely, there are benefits to maintaining some shared office space for your team.
Simply put, remote working isn’t viable for everyone or for all aspects of an organization. There are some roles and job functions that require an in-person presence. Additionally, many home situations aren’t conducive to productive work because of space or supply constraints, distractions and disruptions.
Businesses and employees find that shared spaces help creativity and collaboration bloom. Gathering together can be the foundation of great company culture. A 2020 Gensler survey found that while many workers wanted to work from home several days each week, only 12% of workers wanted to work from home full time.
Empowering employees — the very people who drive your business forward — with flexibility to choose where they feel comfortable, safe, happy and productive directly impacts the quality of their work. Flexible workplaces allow companies to hire, nurture, and retain the best talent in the world.