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FLEXIBLE WORK: The New Organizational Culture

Amazing employees are a company’s most valuable asset.  

However, like so many truly valuable assets, it can feel like exceptional employees are hard to find  – and even harder to keep.

Increasingly,  job seekers are holding out for more than just an exciting title and description.  Top talent want and expect to be part of a great company culture.  They’re even willing to leave their current position or overlook a higher-paying opportunity in order to meet that expectation.

Creating a company/workplace where people enjoy what they do and want to come to work seems like a no-brainer, but research indicates that too many businesses are still missing the mark.

Realizing the financial black hole that is lost productivity, turnover, and the shockingly high costs of workplace stress, more employers recognize the value in fostering a company culture that is both socially conscious AND individually supportive.

In 2019, a truly great company is not only measured by its profitability, but also by how happy its employees are about working there.

Luckily, there’s an easy answer for companies looking to dramatically increase the desirability of their open positions, while simultaneously laying a foundation for one of the most sought-after employee perks in the workplace.

What’s the (not so) secret answer?

Flexibility.

It’s a deceptively simple concept that carries huge implications for delivering a top-notch company experience to employees.

In terms of organizational culture, flexibility is both a strategy and a mindset.

First and foremost, incorporating flexibility into the organizational fabric of a business acknowledges two very important realities:

  1. Employees are dynamic, multi-faceted individuals with full lives outside of work;
  2. Happy, healthy, well-adjusted employees are more productive (and more profitable).

The truth is, the more flexible an organization is, the more resilience it will have to face ongoing challenges, and be adaptable to change.

While a flexible approach to work (and life in general) naturally brings many fringe benefits, employers have now realized there are certain areas where structured flexibility can have the greatest impact on productivity and employee satisfaction:

Case in point: their schedule.

Turns out, flexible scheduling and work options are a make-or-break differentiator when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.

In fact, the expectation for flexibility is rapidly evolving from a “nice to have” perk to a deal breaker for employees and job seekers.

Here are some of the stats:

  • In a survey, 33% of employees claim flexible working options were critical to their remaining in their current employment.

  • The 2018 Emerging Workforce® Study commissioned by Spherion indicates that 41% of employees would only work for employers offering flexible scheduling and options.

  • A report from the UK reveals that 11% of workers have actually refused a new job because of the lack of opportunities for work-life balance.

Clearly, the emphasis on flexibility and work-life balance is not going anywhere. Glassdoor studies show that 85% of employees and job seekers expect support from their employer to balance work and personal commitments.

That’s why businesses are getting serious about finding ways to meet the needs of their employees on a more personalized basis.

Promoting work-life balance and offering a great company culture is a smart way for employers to leverage competitive advantage and fill qualified positions.

Flexibility presents an incredible opportunity for employers and hiring managers to offer a truly meaningful perk to their employees.

Flexible Scheduling –  Laying the Foundation

Simply put, flexible work options are all about giving individuals greater control over when and how they work. Allowing employees greater freedom and autonomy in executing their role coincides with higher levels of engagement and overall satisfaction at work.

There are a few important elements that must be in place behind the scenes in order for flexible scheduling to function effectively within an organizational culture. Once correctly implemented, however, the benefits speak for themselves.

Trust

Essential to any successful company culture, trust is especially important when it comes to implementing flexible scheduling options. It often means trusting employees to work without supervision. It can mean trusting team members to mutually confer and delegate tasks. It also means trusting that employees will ask for the support they need to do their job well.

As a by-product of good leadership, respect, and organization;  trust blossoms in an environment where co-operation and personal responsibility are supported and encouraged.

Communication

Just like in any healthy relationship;  communication between employees, departments, and management teams must be clear, and open. This is especially true when employees are operating on variable schedules.

While technology can’t (yet) make up for the pitfalls of poor relationship skills, it can certainly provide employers and teams with a myriad of resources for staying in touch on an ongoing basis.

Online meeting rooms are replacing old-school board rooms. Task management software makes it easy for teams to share projects and timelines. Emails and texts mean that communication is only a few clicks away, granting coworkers more flexibility than ever to stay connected  – even when they’re not in the office.

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Expectations

Operating alongside with trust and communication, expectations must be clear, defined, and achievable in order for teams to thrive on flexible scheduling.

Knowing exactly what is being done, when, and by who is imperative to having confidence that each employee is performing optimally in their role (and that they have all the support they need to do so).


Examples of Flexible Scheduling
Flextime

This type of scheduling requires employees to work a designated number of hours, however, the employee has full or partial freedom to choose their preferred times. Sometimes, flextime schedules include a set number of hours where all staff is required to be physically present.

This is a great option for companies to maintain shared office space and stay closely connected with their employees while offering a significant amount of flexibility for individuals.

Compressed workweek

A compressed workweek allows for a full-time schedule to be condensed into less than the traditional 5 days per week, 8 hours per day. A popular version of the compressed workweek is 4 ten-hour workdays with 3 days off.

Having 3 days off per week gives individuals a better opportunity to manage their personal and family obligations while providing refreshing time away from work  – helping to decrease stress and improve productivity.

Alternate work schedule

An alternate work schedule is simply an alternative arrangement for working hours made between an employee and their employer. This could look like coming in 30 minutes early, or staying late every day in exchange for every second Monday off.

It could simply be an arrangement to accommodate an employee with small children, a night class, or even another job. It may allow for an easier commute. This type of flexible scheduling can be determined on a case-by-case basis. For employers, alternate work scheduling often represents an easy and cost-free adjustment which can make a profoundly positive impact on individual employees and their families.

Other Flexible Work Options

The New York Times recently reported that “flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job.”

Success-seeking companies, take note: Lack of appreciation is the primary reason given by 79% of employees who’ve left their jobs.

Integrating a flexible approach to organizational culture and employee scheduling is an undeniably easy and cost-effective way for employers to show that they care.

To be honest, there’s a good reason to care. The number of people who say they’ve quit a job specifically due to lack of flexibility more than doubled between 2014 and 2017.

Correspondingly, over 60% of employers are planning to increase their flexible scheduling and work options.

Here are a few more strategies companies are using to lead the way in flexible organizational culture:

Remote work/telecommuting

Remote work is on the rise. In a survey we conducted last year, 57% of over 1,200 respondents said their employer offers remote work as an option. We’ve been watching this trend develop in the workplace, and it’s not going anywhere.

  • For an in-depth look at the work-from-home phenomenon, check out our recent blog entry: Remote Work 101.

It’s not for everyone  – after all, home does not always provide the distraction-free sanctuary we like to envision.  However, for a growing portion of the workforce, remote work/telecommuting greatly enhances their quality of life.

According to Gallup, 35% of employees said the ability to work remotely on a full-time basis is the number one perk they’d leave a job over.

Part-time and Freelance

While a small number of employees may represent the quintessential “worker bee”, most are deeply invested in other areas of life outside of work.

Employees have families, dependents, and volunteer pursuits. They may also be students, have other jobs, be dealing with health conditions, or juggling personal circumstances which prevent them from committing to a full-time work schedule.

Part-timers and freelancers can bring an incredible amount of enthusiasm and talent to an organization, and should rightly be recognized for the valuable contributions they bring. Employing them is a great way to support full-time workers and fill in any gaps in the organizational structure.

Major Benefits

A survey of over 3,100 professionals found that lowered stress and improved quality of life were two of the main benefits people expect to experience if they’re able to work more flexibly.

In terms of retention, the numbers are there, too. A survey by the Society of Human Resources reports that 89% of companies report better retention simply by offering flexible work options. The desire for a flexible work program is so strong, in fact, that the act of implementing one is often enough to inspire employees to stick around.

Where productivity is concerned, the results are similarly encouraging. As many as 91% of remote workers say they are equally or more productive from outside the workplace.

Flexible work options also open the door to an unexpected pool of talented, experienced (and possibly overlooked) candidates for hiring managers. The National Institute on Aging found that older workers want to stay active in the workforce but often rely on opportunities that offer some degree of flexibility  – specifically, flexible schedules.

About 60% of retirees would be willing to return to work with a flexible schedule, and 20% of those would be willing to take a 20% hourly wage reduction to have a flexible schedule. Accommodating employers will be the first to benefit from these disciplined, hard-working employees.

“Flexible” is becoming the new “normal” for workplaces.

Picture this: it’s Friday afternoon. The office is empty, except for yourself. Most of the team didn’t come back after lunch. Some hadn’t come in at all. One or two of them haven’t been seen in days.

And yet, that’s okay. In 2019, this is business as usual, and a small price to pay for a thriving, productive, and profitable company culture.

With so much to gain, companies will continue to adopt flexibility as a core value, and a top strategy for meeting the needs of their current and future employees.

As for us, we’ve already got our yoga pants on.

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Rejean Martin

Rejean is the Marketing Manager at PurelyHR but some people also know him as the guy who lived in a bus in the prairies. As a world traveller and nature lover, Rejean can strongly attest to the power of time off in the workplace.

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