Much of the structure that defines the nine-to-five office job is based on tradition and expectation.
Increasingly, both companies and their employees are recognising this. As a result, they are pursuing more flexible arrangements that preserve worker productivity, as well as lifestyle choices. Yet the gap between what flexibility employees need, and the access they have to it, remains a problem in the majority of businesses.
Annie Dean and Anna Auerbach are co-CEOs of Werk, a startup championing the power of flexibility in the future of work. In a recent report, they broke down the flexibility supply and demand gap faced by 1583 white-collar professionals in the United States.
Six types of flexibility were analysed:
- Unconventional hours – the ability to work outside the standard schedule in order to optimise the day. Employees with long commutes might be partial to this option, or those who have school-aged children.
- Adaptability – the option to finish work early one day, and make up hours later in the week. This is ideal for employees who would prefer to set personal appointments outside of peak periods.
- Location flexibility – employees can choose to work outside their traditional office for a certain period of time. Great for those who benefit from an occasional change of environment.
- Location independence – allows employees to work wherever they choose. Similar results to location flexibility.
- Minimal travel – employees can rely on a predictable schedule that doesn’t require them to travel on more than 10% of their annual work days. Minimal travel means less disruption and higher output.
- Reduced hours – the option to work on a part-time basis.
Across the board, Dean and Auerbach discovered that of the 96% of employees who expressed interest in one or more of these options, only 47% reported having access to it.
That’s a serious issue for white-collar industries around the world, though many leaders are unlikely to see it that way. Instead, they perceive the push towards flexibility options as a way for employees to preference lifestyle over work.
Of course, the business should always come first, but here’s the thing: Dean and Auerbach’s study also highlights three benefits that being flexible provides.
- Employees who are able to more flexible are twice as likely to be satisfied with their work, and half as likely to leave their job for a more flexible alternative.
- They are also more likely to act as advocates for the company which, when linked to employee net promoter scores, results in increased revenue.
- Finally, employees are 22% more likely to be engaged and active in sharing ideas for the company’s growth, and up to 34% more productive.
The writing is on the wall. As an understanding of the power of flexibility in the future of work becomes more widespread, businesses will be required to more actively meet the needs of employees. Not only will doing so instill greater health and happiness in those who shoulder the daily operations of the company, but provide the growth and support needed to take it to the next level.