Everybody got a taste of employee flexibility in the workplace during the pandemic, whether it was their choice or not. And what the whole world discovered, to the surprise of many, are the myriad advantages for businesses that embrace flexibility programs. Of course, HR plays a key role in making sure it all plays out successfully.
Employee Workplace Flexibility: A Definition
Workplace flexibility for employees means that both the organization and the worker are prepared to function, at times, in a non-traditional setting. This can mean that the employee works outside of a typical 9 to 5 schedule, or does their job from somewhere outside the office, normally from home.
Of course, there are jobs that have always been “non-traditional,” such as military service (where work is often around the clock) and first responders. “Flexible jobs” refers to those that were once office-bound, but as a result of new technologies and attitudes, have moved outside of the workplace.
The Benefits of a Flexible Workplace
Clearly, an employee enjoys the improved work-life balance that comes with workplace flexibility. But organizations also experience important benefits when they implement a workplace flexibility strategy. For instance:
- Reduced travel time translates to more time to work at home
- There is less stress on an employee when they are more available to handle personal affairs (sickness in the family, needs of children, etc.)
- Morale is improved when a worker sees that their employer is accommodating their needs
- Companies are more attractive to job seekers when they offer flexibility
- Organizations can save overhead through the sharing of office space
For reasons such as these, more than 80% of US employers feel that their remote work programs have been successful. Some industries even state that flexible work is a better arrangement. Almost 70% of IT companies report that their productivity has increased due to remote work setups.
How HR Fits In
Two of the keys for a successful workforce flexibility strategy are change management and organizational culture. New ways of working require both HR and management to adapt schedules, workflows, and communications, just to mention a few factors.
The culture must also change to be more accepting of flexible workers, such as in the case of “proximity bias.” Within some companies, different assessment standards have been applied to remote workers as compared to regular employees, which creates a two-tier system. HR departments need to ensure that the same standards apply across the organization.
Variety and Flexibility
Another means of accommodating a flexible workforce is to enable a number of flexible work situations. In reality, nearly all managers believe that workers need at least some time in the office in order to maintain a strong company culture. However, almost 80% of managers are satisfied with employees being four days or fewer in the office each week. It’s HR’s task to find a good compromise. Here are some creative options to consider:
In this system, an employee performs most of their duties from an off-site location. This could be at a customer’s location, a shared office space (like a WeWork), or even at an Internet bar. Telecommuting is ideal for employees who are often on the road for meetings, but the concept can be extended to make life easier for other workers.
Whereas a telecommuter might go into the office once in a while, it’s rare for a remote worker to do so. Their main office is their home office. In a remote work situation, it’s common for coworkers to never have met in person. This setup makes sense for companies that have an international workforce, or which does business around the clock.
Work from Home
WFH is actually the situation where many people found themselves during Covid-19. Work from home is less permanent than remote work, as employees usually go to the office a few times per week (when there isn’t a pandemic raging). When HR wants to improve the work-life balance of employees, they often turn to a WFH model.
Some workers are early birds, others are late risers. Whether it’s 7 to 3, or 10 to 6, flex time is a system where employees choose their daily hours. Obviously, their schedule needs to fit within the requirements of their position. They must also agree to be present occasionally for meetings outside of their chosen hours.
Compressed Work Week
There are employees who willingly trade an extra-long day for a day off. Compressing the work week means covering, for example, a 40-hour week in four days instead of five.
Although unusual, job sharing is sometimes used in companies on an informal basis. In this system, two workers perform the task of one full-timer. Job sharing often happens when experienced employees can no longer commit to a full-time position and form an agreement with their manager to split their tasks.
Build a Flexible Workplace with GrowthSpace
The many modes of a flexible workplace require skills like self-management, leadership, and change management. Your employees will naturally have differing levels of ability in each area. So what’s the best way to get them prepared for new ways of working?
GrowthSpace enables HR to build personalized L&D programs with top-rated experts and easy admin functions. It’s also flexible, so that, if your people need both remote and live instruction, GrowthSpace will accommodate any setup. And finally, GrowthSpace was designed so that any course and expert can be assessed, to make it easy to track how your L&D is performing–no matter where it’s taking place.