Flexible work is any work arrangement or schedule that strays from the 9-to-5, in office setup. Flexible work may include job sharing, shift work, and remote work. But as of recent, flexible work is being used as a synonym for hybrid work.
Is a flexible work environment really a good idea?
That question can’t be answered with a simple yes or no because the benefits vary depending on the nature and characteristics of the organization. However, in most cases, the benefits of flexible work outweigh the disadvantages.
Employees have more personal time
When implemented correctly, a flexible work schedule makes it easier for employees to balance their personal lives with their professional lives. Instead of having to be up at 6am and out the door at 7:30am, spend roughly an hour commuting to work, and spend another hour (or more) on the trip home, staff can wake up and log on. This can be particularly beneficial for those with families or other caregiver duties.
Not only do they have more time, but employees save an average of $4,000 annually. They end up paying for less gas or take fewer transit rides.
It’s easier to attract top talent
Companies that are equipped to offer meaningful flexibility are much more likely to attract quality candidates when new positions open up. Most workers want more flexibility, and companies may have the option to choose from a national or even global talent pool if they are willing to hire staff that are entirely remote.
Companies save money
Flexible work models help staff save money, but they can be financially beneficial to businesses as well. Firstly, companies are more likely to retain good workers if they have the option to work from home or can adopt a more flexible schedule. Rehiring and retraining people is costly. Leaders must invest their own valuable time sitting in interviews, assessing candidates and onboarding new hires. Teams are also less productive when key roles are missing. Strong employee retention helps ensure business continuity.
Then there are the furniture and technology costs. When staff only come in some of the time, there is less wear and tear to desks, keyboards, monitors and chairs. Many companies have already reduced the number of workstations available in their offices, and some have even downsized to save on rent.
Productivity is generally higher
Happy workers are productive workers, and it seems that people are much happier when they have the option to work from home. Several studies looked at productivity levels during the pandemic. While it is hard to standardize this measurement, most participants reported that they were indeed more productive while working from home. Most companies could not prove otherwise.
Increased productivity is likely due, in part, to the fact that workers can do their most focus-intensive work away from office distractions. Without impromptu meetings and having to overhear other people’s phone calls, staff can really focus on the tasks at hand.
There may also be smaller things that make it easier for people to be more productive. Instead of having to rush out of the office right at 5pm to catch a train or pick up children, staff have a bit of extra time at the end of the day to polish off thoughts or wrap up tasks.
The line between work and home becomes blurry
With no clear delineation between work and home, some employees feel pressured to work more. This can lead to burnout.
Leaders may overlook staff who don’t come into the office
Some managers and team leaders who are used to seeing their staff in person don’t like the idea of having to adjust to a new management style. It can be hard to trust that staff are doing what they need to get done.
Furthermore, leaders may favor employees who come to the office more often. They may get chosen for important projects, and may be more likely to receive raises. This may be a subconscious act, but it hurts those who are performing just as well while working from home.
A small percentage of workers won’t put in the work
Unfortunately, there will be a small number of people who won’t work well from home. They will put in as little work as possible and hope that no one notices.
Best practices for flexible work environments
Flexible work will be an ongoing reality for many companies. The pros outweigh the cons, and even though some leaders preferred the standard 9 to 5 office routine, most employees are happier with having some choice about when and where they work. Below are some best practices companies may consider following. Each company will have different needs and requirements, so not all of these things will work for every business.
Create a flexible work policy
Every company should have a policy that addresses the current flexible options available to employees. This is necessary not only to provide information to new hires, but to assist current employees as well.
The policy should include things like:
- Hours that employees must be available
- Who should/must be informed about work schedules
- Who to inform if there is a request to change a current work schedule
- Breaks and lunch
- Dress code
- Technology/equipment requirements
Policies help ensure that everyone is clear about what is expected when working from home or working different hours.
Take advantage of cloud-based software
Since it’s not likely everyone will be coming in every day of the week anymore, cloud-based programs will be essential, especially for file sharing and communications. The best thing about online software is that it can be used from any computer, so staff don’t have to travel with their laptops when they do come into the office. This software also makes it easier to implement a desk hoteling system.
Share schedules and contact information
There should be a master contact list with emails and contact numbers of everyone in the company. If people work flexible hours, that information can be included as well. This way, staff aren’t receiving calls at 4:30pm when they finished work half an hour ago.
The contact list should be easy to find, but still stored in a protected space such as a file share program or work chat app.
Establish a booking system
Speaking of apps, a desk booking app will be absolutely essential for companies that are operating on a hybrid work model. It’s the most logical and reliable way to ensure that:
- there is always enough space for everyone who comes in
- staff can have access to the workspace or room that they need to get specific projects done
- people can get down to work as soon as they come in instead of wondering around for a spot
When employees come into the physical office, the entire process needs to be as easy as possible. Something like Office Control is ideal because it is affordable, easy to set up, and staff can book their favorite spot using their smartphone and the app.
Be open to feedback
This last point is very important. Leaders should seek feedback from employees to see how the flexible work arrangements are serving them. While you may think you’re doing something good for the company, it may have some unintended negative consequences.
You can ask for feedback via email, a survey, or set aside time for small meetings. Encourage staff to be honest about their experiences, and see if they have any ideas about how things could be improved.