Employees aren't robots! They're humans, and humans are social beings with interconnected limitations. We are not pre-programmed to function per optimal conditions suited to a particular job profile. We have inhibitions, strengths, motivations, goals, boundaries, families, social networks, weaknesses, concerns, and challenges. That doesn't mean we cannot be productive. It simply implies that if you want to maximize productivity out of your bunch, you need to consider these influencing factors. While you cannot reduce the scope of these influences, you certainly can award employees with some workforce flexibility to cope with these external influencing factors.
So, what exactly is Workplace Flexibility?
In general, flexibility refers to the ability to effortlessly adapt to new or sudden changes as and when they pop up. An employer who offers flexible working may allow staff to work at their convenience as far as timings and venue are concerned as long as tasks are accomplished. On the other hand, an employee may respond to such leeway by offering employers the flexibility of working at short notice on some project that may require immediate attention or even working overtime because he trusts the employer to compensate with time off or additional pay. Flexibility by the employer will result in flexibility by the staff. It's a circle! If you give your team the freedom to work according to their preferences, they'll respond by working more efficiently and better than the outcome of dictated terms. So everyone wins!
And what all does workforce flexibility encompass?
While the pandemic highlighted 'remote work,' this isn't the only form of flexible working. If the 'where,' 'when,' and 'how' are adjusted to suit both employer and employees, we can assume some degree of flexible working is happening at the organization. This means staff gets more room to choose:
From where they wish to work:
This can be from the office, home, or even a café. They could even work from another continent if it pleases them and is feasible for operations. At the end of the day, it's not about where you work from if you consistently deliver quality work. If your staff is happy sitting under a banyan tree amid a circus and that environment is conducive to their creativity, let them decide what's best as long as the job gets done! If a mother feels more productive working from home where she can attend to her little ones simultaneously, it shouldn't bother anyone as long as she matches the productivity levels that would have accompanied working from a desk.
When they wish to work:
If employees meet deadlines, why should employers care if their staff choose to work all night against the circadian rhythm? If employees are available to attend to work calls and complete their assignments without hampering any workflows, an employer may consider allowing them to begin their work day when the staff deems it best. Some companies don't care when you begin your work as long as you clock in eight or nine hours daily. Some organizations also allow employees to do split shifts. And some companies even allow staff to choose their off days and work rotational shifts to better plan and save their leaves.
How they wish to work:
Some companies allow professionals to take a brief sabbatical beyond the minimum maternity and paternity leave. Or even if an employee wishes to study further and upskill, on returning, these employees are welcomed with the same benefits they were accustomed to without having to worry about having a break in service or losing out on loyalty benefits and job assurance. Some workplaces even offer a 4-day work week with extended shifts so staff can enjoy a more satiating weekend and return refreshed and rejuvenated to be their productive best. If you find top-quality talent who wishes to devote their time to multiple sources of income, you may offer them a freelance or part-time option, so you don't lose out on good talent. Of course, all this is subject to operational feasibility and depends on the type of industry, company, size, market, and specific conditions.
Defining the terms of Flexible Working
As you can see, flexible working encompasses a broad spectrum of work arrangements, making it essential to define the terms in advance. So, you and your staff must thoroughly comprehend the expectations, responsibilities, mode of delivery, conditions, and policy retraction, leaving no room for disappointment.
Benefits of supporting Flexible Working
Why limit candidature to a specific location when you can increase your chances of successful hiring by broadening the horizon? In fact, by offering flexible and remote work, you are certain to attract top-quality, sought-after talent with a dearth of other options. For instance, certain states produce more IT graduates than others, while some are better known for churning out more hospitality professionals. If you open the doors to hybrid work conditions, you'll gain access to a better choice of top-notch talent without succumbing to geographical limitations. This will also bring a diverse work culture into play, so you'll easily comply with several labor laws and get better help ideating.
If you had to ask your staff what they'd prefer from a choice of several perks, most of them will likely pick flexible working. This has become even more prominent in recruitments since COVID. Professionals have gotten accustomed to remote work and the likes and are unwilling to give up such jobs. In fact, studies reveal that several loyal professionals have also begun job-hunting in an attempt to switch to companies offering flexible working conditions.
Picture these situations now: what if you had an ailing child that could not go to school and needed to be monitored by an adult? Do you take a day off? Do you lie and make up dramatic excuses? Do you go to work all the while feeling guilty about abandoning your child at the mercy of some caregiver who volunteered last minute? And if such incidents occur a little more frequently than you wished, do you quit your job, citing an inability to cope? Or what if it's raining cats and dogs at your end, but all your colleagues, fortunately, live in an area that never gets water-logged, or maybe it didn't rain around your workplace? Do you feel terrible about missing a crucial meeting while someone else swooned in to charm in for your spot? Or maybe you're the best candidate for the job, but you're just too exhausted commuting to and fro for hours daily!
Remuneration is why most people wake up and get going, but motivation is what makes and keeps professionals productive. Staff who have access to flexible working have better work-life balance and a greater chance of being productive, having job satisfaction, and remaining loyal. Lesser compromising on other fronts means lesser guilt and more peace of mind, all of which contribute to a healthy work environment. Unfortunately, many employers are skeptical about breaking the barriers that welcome workforce flexibility simply because they believe in conventional methods of minding their staff like a teacher would a class!
Although you don't get to monitor every move or control the work environment in remote work conditions, why should it matter? If your staff are more comfortable working in their pajamas, so be it; only their performance matters. You will realize more productivity when you become accommodating to the external influences in your employees’ lives. They’ll feel more respected, appreciated, and personally invested in the well-being and success of the company. They’ll take pride in their contribution and will ensure they give their very best in return for your kind consideration.
Unless you huddle up your entire team and offer lodging within the office premises or in quarters nearby, your employees are shuttling to and fro work and home. They're probably using multiple transport means and routes to get to the workplace. Can you imagine the traffic they're causing and the fuel they're burning unnecessarily? If you offer workforce flexibility, you eliminate or diminish the need to commute regularly, significantly reducing the load on the environment. In addition, big, spacious offices consume much power with centralized air conditioning and highly lit-up corridors, lobbies, and pathways. You can cut down on all these and use just as much as is required with a lesser reporting headcount.
When we shift to sustainable working, the cost factor inadvertently reduces. Sure, your staff save on transport costs, maybe even on purchasing food and professional clothing, but even you save a lot of money. Here's how: firstly, you may not even require a physical office. Cloud computing and IoT allow storing all work-related information, files, and documentation in easily accessible intangible locations. So, you'll be saving big bucks on commercial real estate or rent with remote work.
Additionally, you can reduce all expenses towards replenishing and maintaining stationery, toiletries, and sundry. Besides, you can drastically diminish your electricity and water bills. And you either won't need to maintain a cafeteria or can reduce the commercial space dedicated to it. Even administrative staff that are required to manage these and your facility will not be necessary, so you don't bear the burden of extra overheads. Instead, you can dedicate these resources towards hiring quality talent, progressive training & upskilling, and employee engagement programs directed towards making work something your staff looks forward to.
As the working conditions around the globe continue to evolve, the fact remains that unless it is imperative for your staff to be physically present at the workplace, professionals are looking at workplace flexibility as a determining factor while accepting jobs. So the question of whether you are agile enough to support workplace flexibility is one you need to answer. Given the right tech tools and support, you can set up the most productive and efficient flexible workforce.
So, talk to one of our experts at Exela HR Solutions today to discover the secrets to building an infallible workforce!
DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is for general information purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws governing the subject matter may change quickly, and Exela cannot guarantee that all the information on this site is current or correct. Should you have specific legal questions about any of the information on this site, you should consult with a licensed attorney in your area.