Flexibility in the Workplace

Hiring Success Glossary

Table of Contents

What is flexibility in the workplace?

The concept and implementation of workplace flexibility was growing in popularity even before COVID-19 forced employers to consider such arrangements. Now that safety demands such flexibility, employers are giving staff far more latitude in deciding when, where and how they work.

Workplace flexibility and talent attraction

Even after the world finds its way out of the pandemic, workplace flexibility will continue to be a boon to employers. For one, such flexibility is very attractive to potential hires. Allowing employees to manage their own time means that they don’t have to prioritize work over family or vice versa. Rather, they are free to decide which parts of their lives demand their focus at a given time. Further, employees with flexible schedules and the option to telecommute are able to spend less time in traffic. Not only does this free up more time to work, it also eliminates the stress of the commute. Not only is there more time to work, but the work will almost inevitably be better when done by an employee with less stress. In addition, the option to work remotely opens up a larger talent pool for any employer. Potential employees need not be within driving distance if they don’t have to come to an office for a virtual interview. The entire world becomes the talent pool. Further, many employees in markets with lower cost of living are willing to accept small cuts in pay for the option to work remotely. Lastly, employees who manage their own schedules have greater senses of satisfaction and self-determination. Such employees are easier to retain and will often recruit on an employer’s behalf. This offers savings in both training and recruitment.

Employers and flexible workplaces

Workplace flexibility will not only help employers save on HR-related matters, but also on office space and supplies. For example, if your company's design team is now allowed to work remotely, even partially, they don’t need the same amount, or type of desk space at the office. Further, while their employers generally provide the necessary technology and broadband for their jobs, employees who work remotely are not regularly depleting office supplies.

How to manage a flexible workplace during COVID-19

Even with the myriad benefits of workplace flexibility, management, especially during COVID-19, is not without its challenges. Chief among them is employee engagement. When employees can’t safely interact in close quarters, making sure they stay motivated and attentive is no small task. Managers must schedule regular video meetings, have frequent email check-ins and ensure that some fun is mixed in as well. Virtual happy hours are a popular way to maintain contact, and setting clear deadlines and project goals is imperative. When the pandemic no longer looms, it will also be important for flexible companies to set aside time and money to ensure that even fully remote employees visit their coworkers and managers in person at least once or twice annually. Despite the way most people think about workplace flexibility, it need not be a binary choice between working entirely in an office or entirely at home. Flexibility involves embracing any number of strategies that can yield a more nimble and productive company. Job sharing for instance, is an option. A company can have two part-time employees responsible for the same job, so that slack can easily be taken up when necessary and reliance on a single person can be reduced. Most companies can add flexibility simply by embracing flexible scheduling. Give employees more control over their time so that they can take time off when necessary and appropriate. They can care for loved ones or new children should the need arise. The main requirement for companies who embrace workplace flexibility is deep knowledge of their operations and their staff. Managers must know how to motivate those for whom they are responsible and they must be able to efficiently marshal resources and provide guidance on goals and standards. So long as companies hire well at the top, they should be able to attract the sort of talent, and realize the sort of savings that make workplace flexibility not just an option, but a must.
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