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Flexible working arrangements are on the rise. Here’s why.

Flexible working arrangements
Nina Janza
Nina Janza
6 minute read

Work arrangements define when, where, and how work gets done. Flexible working is a promising alternative to the traditional ‘9-to-5’ workday, the standard workweek, or the traditional workplace. 

It allows employees to work hours that differ from traditional shifts, and to clock in and out from different locations.

That’s naturally a very attractive opportunity for employees and the main reason why flexible working arrangements are becoming more popular. 

Nevertheless, there are some important details every employer must know when it comes to flexible working arrangements. Let’s look at a few of them.

The old ways work was done

The main enabler of flexible working arrangements is technology. Technology has revolutionized the attitudes we have towards working and it also importantly shapes the work routines we build. 

The concept of work has been undergoing drastic changes for the last two decades thanks to the technological revolution.

One big change in all this is how work-life balance and time allocation is considered. For example, parents of the millennial generation had a clearly defined schedule and working hours in demarcated office settings. ‘Going to work’ used to mean clocking in at nine, staying in the office for eight hours, and clocking out at five.

After that, ‘work’ stayed strictly in the office until the next day. Afternoons and weekends were reserved for the individuals’ private life. The location of work was (hopefully) in close proximity to the employees’ homes, as they would need to commute to the office every working day to be able to complete their work assignments, and there was no other way to access company data and information.

»When you look at the high number of flexible small businesses punching above their weight and disrupting whole industries, then it seems that business is heading in one direction, and that’s home.« – Michael Ruffles, Virgin StartUp

The new, flexible working arrangements

Nowadays, almost everyone owns a smartphone, laptop, or a tablet. Pocket-sized mobile devices are never out of reach. Can we resist replying to a vitally important e-mail early in the evening during the movie night with our family? Should we resist, even?

So, when do employees clock in and out now? And where from? From the living room? This is of course feasible. Workdays have become a 24/7 possibility and workforces have become international. 

Companies have multiple offices around the world and employ remote workers from everywhere, unlimited by their GPS location. Virtual communication has advanced greatly, and the availability of information and databases is not restricted to the office anymore. The workplace can be anywhere.

You can increase work flexibility for your employees by changing three main parameters:

  • Working hours (e.g., flexitime)
  • Working patterns (e.g., job sharing)
  • Working locations (e.g., remote work, flexplace)

There are many different ways you can combine the above-mentioned factors and offer flexible working arrangement to your employees. Below are a few very concrete options:

  • Remote work – working from a location other than official offices
  • Job sharing – two or more employees sharing the same job
  • Part-time work – working fewer hours per week than the typical 40
  • Flexitime – keeping flexible as to when employees work during the day
  • Compressed work week -  allowing employees to work full-time hours over fewer days

Why should you offer flexible working arrangements?

The Boston College Center for Work & Family has conducted a study of flexible working in six large companies and concluded the following:

  • 70% of managers and 87% of employees reported that working in a flexible arrangement had a positive or very positive impact on productivity;
  • 65% of managers and 87% of employees reported that a flexible working arrangement had a positive or very positive impact on the quality of work;
  • 76% of managers and 80% of employees indicated that flexible working arrangements had positive effects on retention.

MIT came to similar conclusions in the Quality of Life survey among its employees. Of all the programs and policies suggested in the survey, flexibility was the one most highly valued by staff. 

The most valuable insights from the MIT study are:

  • Traditional, rigid workplace schedules are not meeting the needs or wishes of employees.
  • Shifting values are creating a widespread demand for a better work/life balance. Job location and scheduling are becoming as important as pay.
  • Organizations that fail to implement flexible working arrangements risk losing talent to companies who will offer their employees more flexibility and a better work/life balance.

Flexible working arrangements are a big opportunity to attract new talent

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that only 5% of employers offer flexible work to the majority of their employees on a regular basis. This percentage has risen only 1 point since 2003. 

Only around 10% of UK and US employees regularly work from home. According to one study, 43% of US workers can work remotely at least part of the time as of 2016.

These numbers are surprisingly low, bearing in mind the fact that flexible working can increase performance levels by 13%, as measured by Stanford University. This of course also means that if you are reading this right now and deciding to go for it, you are already one step ahead of the competition.

There is a long list of the observed benefits of flexible working for both the employee and the employer:

  • Improved job satisfaction and work/life balance,
  • reduced employee absenteeism,
  • greater commitment,
  • reduced turnover.

The new generations’ top talent will demand flexible work arrangements

On top of everything just mentioned, there’s one more thing to consider: a major shift in the mindset of the millennial generation. 

This generation and the ones to come do and will lead mobile and individualized lifestyles and have fresh attitudes towards their careers.

Having the flexibility to work wherever you want is one reason why some of the top talents are choosing to work for start-ups over the favourable pay at corporate companies.

Research shows that after salary, flexibility is the second most important thing people look for in a job. Managers can use flexible schedules as tools to promote positive work attitudes and productivity, enhance job satisfaction, and develop management and leadership skills. 

This will boost both the recruitment and retention of prospective employees. Don’t get left behind!

What should you do about flexible working arrangements?

There are now many flexible working arrangements available to handle the new requirements, whether it be through remote working, job sharing, flexitime or something creative in between. 

Just make sure to implement the flexible work policy that will best suit your business. Also make sure you use a time & attendance system that supports flexible work. Last. but not least, get educated about how to successfully implement a flexible work policy at your workplace.

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