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Flexible work can achieve the main goals of both the employee and the employer:
- the employee can experience an improved work/life balance and enjoy a better place to work
- the employer can create a more productive and effective workforce.
- Improved work/life balance: Work flexibility offers an improved work/life balance for employees by offering more efficient travel options (e.g. by travelling in non-peak hours), reduced travel and parking costs and better time management.
- Increased employee health: Work flexibility can help improve the health of employees by reducing the stress of any work-life conflicts and emotional exhaustion, which is one of the biggest complaints in the workforce. Better managing life’s demands will help promote quality sleep and ensure that employees are more energised.
- Increased employee satisfaction: In turn, employees with a better work/life balance and a better health feel more positive about their job which increases their satisfaction level.
- Higher productivity: Improved job satisfaction leads to increased employee motivation, commitment and engagement, and as a result higher productivity. In addition, it has been proven that employees working from home are often more productive than their in-office counterparts. 95% of employees working in an environment where the manager is sensitive to work and personal life feel motivated to exceed expectations, compared to 80% of employees in environments where the manager is not sensitive to needs for informal flexibility [JP Morgan Chase].
- Reduced employee turnover: Satisfied and healthy employees are more likely to stay at their organisation which reduces the turnover as well as the need to recruit new employees. Moreover, happy employees are also more likely to act as advocates and recommend their organisation which helps an organisation to become an employer of choice.
- Access to a wider talent pool: Offering working from home or from different locations opens up opportunities to recruit people from different locations. Flexible working times and patterns also allow the recruitment of talent that is able to fit into a 9 to 5 business schedule. 57% of mums consider work flexibility as one of the most important benefits an employer can offer, which is above paid maternity leave [What Moms Choose, Working Mother Research Institute, 2011]. 73% of working adults are listing flexibility as one of the most important factors when deciding what organisation to work for [Harris Interactive, Mom Corps 2013 survey, 2013].
- Enhanced morale and trust: Flexible work options empower employees when given the freedom to structure their work. In addition, they are also provided with an environment of autonomy and trust. A more trusting work culture again helps increase employee satisfaction and therefore productivity.
- Decreased absenteeism: Flexible work schedules allow employees to maintain their working hours while being able to accommodate appointments or other events that would normally require time away from the office. Moreover, work flexibility improves the health of employees, which in turn, decreases sick leave.
- Saves money: Flexible work options can help employers to reduce costs by increasing the health of their employees and reducing employee turnover, which in turn decreases the need to recruit and train new staff. In addition, flexible work times and patterns allow longer operating hours without increasing total salary costs. A typical business can save space costs of US$500,000 for every 100 employees who work full-time from home or virtually [Leveraging the New Human Capital, Bururd and Tumolo, 2004].
- Reduced environmental impact: Organisations offering working from home often need fewer buildings to maintain and fewer used office supplies to dispose which helps to reduce the environmental impact.
- Enhanced workforce planning: Work flexibility allows a better match between the requirements of the business and the employee’s needs. Therefore, it helps improve workforce planning around business peaks and troughs.
- The offer of flexible work also makes it easier to comply with anti-discrimination and workplace laws.
- Employees who work flexibly have 30% less stress. Organisations have to spend 50% extra for workers with high stress levels. [Stress at Work, NIOSH, 2007 and WFD Consulting, 2009 ].
- 1 out of 5 employees considered leaving their job for another one offering work flexibility [New Career Paradigm, WFD Consulting, 2008, Personal Journal, 1990].
- 39% of full-time professionals would give up to 10% of their salary for a job with flexible working conditions [New York Times, October 10, 2004].
- 87% of full-time professionals look for work flexibility in a new job [New York Times, October 10, 2004].
The above objectives can be achieved by an employer providing work flexibility thus creating a win-win for both the employee and the employer. And flexibility doesn’t just mean allowing the employee to work from home. Flexibility comes in three main forms: the hours of work (the WHEN), the location of work (the WHERE) and the patterns of work (the HOW).
- Hours of work (e.g. changes to start and finish times)
- Patterns of work (e.g. split shifts or job sharing)
- Locations of work (e.g. working from home).
Staff can work earlier or later in the day with flexible start and end times. They could work part-time by working certain full days or parts of every day (e.g. from 9.30am to 2pm, which is between drop-off and pick-up time for children). Flexible working schedules with flexible break times can also be used.
Compressed work weeks enable staff to work longer days to provide for a shorter working week. Job sharing can also be used where two or more employees share one full-time position.
Phased retirement can enable full-time employees to work part-time hours and possibly start to receive retirement benefits. Part-year work can enable staff to only work for a certain number of months per year, which is often used to fulfill seasonal or short-term business needs.
Unpaid leave for certain periods, such as school holidays, may be really important to some staff. Time off in lieu can compensate employees for working overtime during an extended period.
Employees can work from home, mobile offices or public places. The OH&S implications of such work need to be considered. Some staff may also work across different office locations. It is also becoming more common for staff to use hot desks or move or rotate their workspace on a regular basis.