How to have happier workers: flexible working arrangements could be the silver bullet to transform your workforce.
Is your business looking to improve output and productivity? Are you aiming for the holy grail of optimal workforce productivity?
The key to any level of business transformation is to have happy employees. But happiness is subjective, right?
In a post-COVID world, contentment and happiness are more important in worker’s mindset than ever before. And the need for a balanced life has become critical.
During COVID, workplaces across the industrialised world were forced to close their doors, leading to an unexpected experiment in remote work. Now, three years later, organisations across the globe have adopted new working norms that recognise flexible work is no longer a temporary pandemic response but a permanent fixture in the modern working world.
Through flexible workplace practices, employers can tap into a new operational ‘norm’ that boosts productivity, workforce engagement and output.
Today, we’re looking at flexibility in the workplace, and its powerful dual impact: that of happier employees, and improved productivity. A win-win in the employer/worker relationship.
Flexibility In The Workplace: The Data
Increasingly, we’re seeing more and more data coming from a multitude of sources about the importance of flexibility in the workplace for workers, and the benefits realised by organisations.
The biggest conundrum about flexibility for employers is their traditional need to see work completed on-site. The notion of work being undertaken either all remotely or all in the office is flawed because typically neither option is feasible. This is a true ‘both/and’, not ‘either/or’ scenario.
The reality is workers want more control over their schedule and their working lives. And the data showing their need for flexibility is here:
- According to a study by Atlassian, 55% of knowledge workers have the option to work from home or the office, while 51% have the freedom to reside in a location that is different from their workplace.
In addition, the 2022 data showed that 43% of knowledge workers adopt a hybrid approach, splitting their time between working remotely and in the office, marking a significant increase from 27% in 2021. Furthermore, the number of people working fully remotely has declined from 34% to 22% since last year, while those working exclusively in the office have also decreased from 39% to 35%.
- According to a study by LiveCareer, all generations expect flexibility in their working lives. Specifically, 76% of Millennials, 69% of Gen Z, and 64% of Gen X express this expectation. Additionally, when asked about the most valuable benefits, 38% of Millennials, 33% of Gen X, and 32% of Gen Z identified flexible working benefits as a top priority.
- According to McKinsey’s 2022 American Opportunity Survey:
- Given the chance to work remotely, 87% of workers would take up the opportunity from their employer.
- The opportunity to work remotely differs by industry. But workers in digital roles, demand it.
- A flexible working arrangement is one of the top three motivators for workers looking for a new job.
Flexible Working Arrangements: The Leading Factors
Establishing flexible working arrangements for optimal productivity involves a combination of strategies and approaches. Here are the leading considerations:
Allow employees to have flexible work hours, enabling them to work when they are most productive. This could involve staggered start and end times or compressed workweeks.
Offer the option for employees to work remotely, which can reduce commuting time and create a more comfortable work environment.
Provide employees with the autonomy to choose how they tackle their tasks, allowing them to work in ways that suit their strengths and preferences.
Goal Oriented Work:
Emphasise goal-based performance rather than strict hours worked. Focus on what employees accomplish rather than the time spent at their desks.
Invest in technology that supports remote collaboration and communication, making it easier for teams to work together regardless of location.
Implement wellness programs and encourage employees to take breaks, exercise, and manage stress, which can improve productivity.
Maintain open and transparent communication channels to keep everyone informed and connected, especially when working remotely.
Feedback and Evaluation:
Regularly assess the effectiveness of flexible practices and seek input from employees to make improvements.
Training and Development:
Invest in training and development to help employees adapt to flexible work arrangements and develop necessary skills.
Ensure that employees have clear boundaries between work and personal life, preventing burnout.
Establish key performance indicators that align with the goals of flexibility and monitor progress.
Foster a workplace culture that values results, trust, and flexibility, while minimising micromanagement. From the Atlassian study mentioned earlier, given the opportunity for flexible working arrangements, 83% of workers have a positive outlook on their organisation’s culture compared with 47% of those without flexibility.
The Results:What Does Flexibility In the Workplace Achieve
There are many benefits to be realised by organisation’s adopting flexible working arrangements. Here are just a few:
Flexibility can lead to higher productivity as employees are often more motivated and engaged when they have control over their work schedules. Improved productivity comes in multiple iterations such as:
- Reduced absenteeism.
- Increased autonomy: workers are empowered to manage their work schedule in a way that suits them best leading to improved time management and productivity.
- Customised working environments where workers create comfortable and productive workspaces tailored to their needs. This has the potential to improve focus and output.
- Workers in flexible arrangements tend to experience better professional morale and job satisfaction. This leads to higher levels of engagement and output.
- Happy employees will willingly go above and beyond when needed, simply because they’re happy.
The potential cost savings that can be achieved from flexible working arrangements include:
- Reduced office space: with employees working remotely or on flexible schedules, employers can downsize office space, leading to significant savings in rent and utilities.
- Lower overhead costs: fewer people in the office mean reduced expenses for office supplies, equipment, and maintenance.
- Attracting talent: offering flexible work options can make it easier to attract and retain top talent, reducing recruitment and training costs.
- Reduced turnover: satisfied employees with flexible work arrangements are less likely to leave, reducing turnover and onboarding costs.
- Energy savings: lower energy consumption in the office can lead to lower utility bills.
- IT savings: you’ll need to invest in technology to support remote work, but these costs can be offset by reduced IT costs in the office.
Attraction Of Diverse Talent:
Flexible working arrangements will help your organisation attract a wider pool of talent, fostering diversity and inclusion. Also, flexible hours can allow you to tap into a global talent pool, and expand your hiring reach.
Remember that the right balance of flexibility will depend on your industry, organisation, and the specific needs of your employees. It’s important to adapt and fine-tune the strategies outlined here, to best suit the unique circumstances of your organisation and your workforce.
In today’s competitive landscape, employers need to recognise the importance of accommodating the needs of top performers and the workforce more broadly. It’s vital to understand how much flexibility your talent pool expects and invest in technology, adapt policies, and train employees accordingly. To create a workplace that integrates people working both remotely and on-site, employers need to strike a balance to ensure how workers are managing their days is suited to their environment; for example, NOT spending time working offsite on Zoom calls.
There will definitely be logistical challenges when adopting flexibility in the workplace, especially at the outset. And it’s important to bring teams together in person from time to time to establish and strengthen personal connections between team members. Having said that, the advantages of flexibility are many, and progressive, talent-minded organisations will ensure that degrees of flexibility exist now, and into the future.