A flexible workplace can offer a wide range of benefits both to employees and to organizations.
There are a number of reasons why:
- Flexible workplaces make work life flow more smoothly for employees
- Flexible work options (see below) can also improve productivity and efficiency
- A better work experience keeps employees happier
- Talented employees are more likely to work for companies that offer flexible work options
- Flexible workplaces can also help create a culture that is more relaxed and flexible
In short, flexible workplace options don’t just make employees happy – they can improve the entire workplace.
What a “Flexible Workplace” Means
What exactly is a “flexible workplace”?
In some cases, a flexible workplace is used synonymously with teleworking, telecommuting, or remote working.
When used in that context, it simply means working at a location separate from an organization’s main office. Remote workers may work from home, a shared office, or anywhere that they can connect to the internet.
However, this meaning is far less popular than the other synonyms mentioned above.
Others use “flexible work” to imply changes to the traditional 9-to-5 full-time work schedule.
From that perspective, flexible work includes a range of modern practices ranging from virtual teams to contract-based work to flexible work hours.
Based on these two definitions, here are a few ways that businesses can make their workplaces more flexible:
- Scheduling flexibility. Flexible scheduling can mean a wide number of things, depending on the circumstances. But in general, it means offering more scheduling options to employees. This can mean flex-time, providing more options in terms of holidays or vacation time, offering more options when it comes to unpaid time off, and so forth.
- Flex-time. Flex-time is a specific type of work schedule that allows workers to change the start and finish time of their workday. The total hours worked remains the same, but workers may choose to come in earlier and leave earlier or come in later and leave later.
- Remote work. Remote working, or telecommuting, means working at a location other than a company office. A remote worker may work from home, shared office spaces, or virtually any location that they can set up a laptop.
- The physical workplace. Dress codes, interior decoration, communication protocols – all of these things have an impact on an organization’s climate and culture. The more flexible an organization can be in areas such as these, the more relaxed employees will feel. Of course, it is necessary not to go too far and compromise business operations.
- Employment arrangements. Many organizations follow certain hiring and employment practices out of convention. But today, there are countless options when it comes to employment. Remote contract workers, part-time contractors, per diem employees, gig workers, and consultants are just a few examples. By expanding employment opportunities, an organization will make its workers happier and it will have a wider talent pool to choose from.
We now know what a flexible workplace is, but what are the benefits for the organization?
Here are several reasons that organizations should consider adding flexibility to their workplace and employment practices:
- Improved employee engagement. Flexibility in the workplace improves the employee experience, which improves employee engagement.
- Better worker performance. The positive benefits of flexible workplaces translate into improved engagement, job satisfaction, and ultimately better performance.
- A better employer brand. Employees naturally prefer better work experiences – so, if given the option, they will search for businesses that have a reputation for flexibility and remote working.
- Lower costs. Organizations can also save money with many of the programs mentioned here. Remote working, for instance, cuts down on office overhead for organizations – and commuting costs for employees.
Next, let’s see some examples of how a business can earn these benefits.
A Few Concrete Ways to Add Flexibility, Starting Today
Here are a few practical steps any organization can take to become more flexible:
- Introduce remote working and flex-time options. If employees have the right digital skills, then it is easy to transition workers to a telecommuting program or flex-time options. The challenge, in most cases, is securing buy-in from business leaders.
- Change the dress code or introduce “casual Fridays.” Another easy strategy for improving workplace flexibility is by allowing workers to dress casually every Friday. This is a small step towards making the workplace more flexible and relaxed, but it is easy to implement and most employees will be happy to oblige.
- Use social activities to help relax the culture and the atmosphere. Social activities are another easy tactic that can help relax the workplace and improve team spirit. And, like casual Fridays, it helps to infuse the culture with a more “business casual” atmosphere.
- Ask employees for input. Employee surveys are easy to send out, making them an easy source of ideas. This approach also ensures that whatever solution you do come up with is actually something that employees want – which will enhance its impact.
The more flexibility that an organization can offer its employees – without compromising its operations or services, of course – the easier it will be to attract and retain top talent.
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.