The Future of Work: The Benefits of a Flexible Work Environment
With the world running on remote work, the pandemic thrust almost everyone into a new way of life. As things open back up and employers rethink their policies with absenteeism as an issue again, employees would like to continue working remotely.
It turns out that many employers are not so keen about this idea however; they fear losing control over their workforce if people were allowed to do it all from home or outside of office hours.
In some instances, flexibility for employees may be best achieved by asking them to come in to work one day a week (or two) instead of allowing more remote work opportunities… but the company must also address how they will provide equal access for people with caregiving responsibilities who are not able-bodied or cannot afford to take the time off.
Work is no longer restricted to a designated place or time. It’s more of an experience that can be had from anywhere. The flexibility of working at any place is now the reality and we need to continue embracing this new lifestyle doctrine and adapting as needed.
The business case for offering flexible work arrangements
There is a lot of information out there that demonstrates the benefits of flexible working arrangements and allowing people to work from home.
So I wanted to share a few tips with you.
First, providing remote workers competitive and flexible work options will give you a competitive advantage.
Second, casting a wider net for potential employees, without complicating an already complicated process, is the best solution when searching for flexible work options.
Third, allowing employees to work remotely or manage their own flexible schedule is a sign of trust. To demonstrate you trust someone it’s important to provide them with the resources they need and support them where necessary so they can reach their full potential.
Fourth, it’s cheaper. Lots of research has shown that if people are not coming to the office and you’re not paying for a mortgage and rent – along with snacks and electricity – you can save quite a bit of money.
The fifth reason for providing employees a flexible work schedule is around equity and inclusivity. This is an excellent time for employers to act on these priorities by adopting policies that offer flexibility as an option.
One final reason to allow people work from home is the idea of productivity.
There is already plenty of evidence that people who work remotely are in fact more productive because they feel a sense of having to prove themselves. They have to exercise their God given talents and demonstrate their true worth.
Some people find it natural to work in an environment where they set their own hours, rather than adhering strictly to a standard routine.
So if I need to run off during lunch on an errand or two, it doesn’t take long and then I can come back to work.
I now have a sense of control over what I do and, in turn, achieve more throughout the day. I’m not stressing out about all those little things as much because you know that they’ll just get done eventually.
Along with flexible work hours, people should also be given the flexibility to take over when their brain is working best.
That way, they can still get the job done without sacrificing quality or quantity.
The University of California Berkley has done some research on millennials and they found that 77% believe working from home is a more efficient work option.
There’s a lot of evidence that working remotely and having flexible hours will be hugely important for any workplace moving forward.
There are certainly more than I’ve mentioned here! Fully research which ones will be most beneficial for your company and start thinking about how they could improve business operations.
This courses discusses various points about working from home and flexible schedules. For employers who are unsure about the trend, this is a great way of making business cases for any number of reasons—from offering more freedom in balancing work and family life to increasing productivity.
The Challenges of Implementing Flexible Work Options
While there are a lot of benefits to flexible work solutions, certainly there are a lot of challenges.
One challenge on everybody’s mind is the burnout that we all face.
From a business perspective, providing more flexible work options may help reduce employee burnout. Employee retention and satisfaction are key to any company’s success. Though, this is easier said than done in the modern world.
It’s also important for managers to stay in touch with their employees.
Managers should give employees required breaks. If they notice that an employee is exhausted, their productivity will start to decline and the manager should check in with them. What can we do?
And also employees, it’s important for you to check in with your manager. And if you are starting to feel burnt out, communicate that.
The second challenge mentioned is relationship building. People tend to have a hard time forming relationships if they work from home or are in the office at different times.
Re-focus your thoughts and priorities. Consider something I’ve done when faced with a similar situation: enter a Zoom room.
The Zoom room is open all day and people can come and go as they please.
And it really emulates the fact that we used to be in a workplace together and could lift our heads up for chit chat.
A third challenge is providing the resources for employees to be productive from home.
So, not every employee is going to have a designated workspace.
Some might be working from their bed or a couch, and employers can really offset that by helping employees get what they need to have a safe, healthy work environment at home.
So employers, you can send an office chair, for example, to an employee who doesn’t have the right chair.
So that that person is working in a safe and healthy environment.
And employers definitely, you need to communicate about expectations around things like kids and dogs barking in the background.
And making sure that people aren’t anxious about those things happening if they’re on the call with the client, for example.
A fourth challenge is related to compliance, data security, cybersecurity, and those are very real important challenges.
Absolutely reach out to the experts out there and get them to get you set up for success.
The key here is communication and collaboration.
Talk openly about challenges being faced. Work together to come up with solutions. And that’s how you’re going to be successful with your flexible work.
Using surveys to identify workforce needs
Surveys provide a lot of benefit. Consider using a survey as you are looking at flexible work solutions.
Employee surveys allow employees to voice their opinions and identify any gaps in the company’s work culture.
By proposing a more flexible work environment, employers can be assured staff are happy and committed.
Getting their input on the industry, company and what they care about most can be a great help as you work to develop this flexible schedule.
As you’re figuring out what to ask in your survey, make sure you’re clear on the research question.
There are a number of employee engagement surveys, for example, but these surveys focus primarily on employee engagement.
So please focus on your flexible work options for this survey.
One of the first things to ask about is flexibility. How does that employee see themselves? Are they looking for a flexible work schedule, remote work, or something else?
Here are few more tips to add to your survey
It is important to make sure your questions are actionable.
Don’t ask people to rate the level of their burnout: instead, have them input a number that represents how “burnt out” they are.
Or are you burnt out?
That type of question is not actionable.
You should try asking questions you can actually influence responses on.
A better question would be: list your three most likely causes of burnout.
And tell us what the three biggest obstacles are that you see in working at home.
You would then act on those responses.
Secondly, we put open-ended sections at the end of every piece of this survey. After people have answered questions for 6-10 responses, they can type in any thoughts related to those specific topics.
The recommendation that I have for organizations is to review all of the open-ended feedback and find common themes.
To achieve this, we move the information to different sections of a report on bullet points that fit under each topic.
One best practice is to focus on building trust as you distribute the survey.
Employers can build trust with employees by using pre- and post-surveys to gather feedback.
You can set up this as something like an internal marketing-like
thing, where you’re saying that leadership listens to what’s going on and is trying to do the best for everyone.
Finally, it is essential to act on the survey results.
It’s important not to waste time gathering information and then not acting on it.
After you close the survey, you need to make sure that employees are aware of what’s happening next. You should explain what will be done with the data and how decisions will be made based on it.
And when you make a decision, use data to explain why.
That you’re using specific information and statistics to make the right decisions.