The business world is certainly a different place compared to what it looked like maybe ten years ago. Advancements in technology have led to more efficient ways of working, allowing businesses to become more responsive and proactive to both internal and external challenges. But whilst more than two thirds of employees are working longer hours than they were two years ago, only 10% think they are more productive.
This is where flexible working has stepped in and revolutionized the way we see the working day.
So we decided to look at the ways in which flexible working actually improves workforces around the nation and increases productivity.
The importance of flexibility in business
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” – Unknown
Ready for Change
The core reasons to implement flexible working policies surround the idea that businesses need to be change-ready, possessing the ability to anticipate new methods and adapt quickly. This ‘smart working’ philosophy puts businesses in a position of control being that issues can be resolved remotely and information can be shared globally. To achieve agility, your business must be able to operate outside of a stagnant office. By responding to digital trends and having the structural capacity to move fast will increase productivity in the sense that you’re providing staff with the technology they desire and need.
Out of Hours
Unsurprisingly, just under half of all employees (47%) want more control over their work patterns, with the CIPD speculating that this may derive from the fact that working extra hours alongside fixed contracts has become the ‘unwritten norm’. Whilst many cite they do so to meet customer demand, 14% do it to coincide with their preferred pace of working. This presents employers with a nice opportunity to leverage the fact that 45% of employees engage in work matters outside of their core hours. Whether it’s subconsciously checking emails or finishing an urgent task in the comfort of their own home, people are servicing their organization when it’s not necessarily required – which is brilliant news for business. Offering flexible working solutions creates a culture where your staff are happy to associate work with private lives, which in turn boosts productivity.
Research has shown that advanced technologies in the workplace foster a more unified, transparent and collaborative culture. Collaboration between your workforce is crucial for effective communication and organizational efficiency to thrive, creating a more enjoyable company culture to inspire motivation. The improvements in regards to a better work-life balance and time management generally reduce stress levels, so it’s interesting to find out that 56% of employers saw a reduction in absenteeism after adopting flexible working practices. Having a business culture that enjoys turning up to work is something not many businesses can report.
Empowering employees with a flexible approach to working is proven to drive down operational costs. A YouGov poll conducted in 2013 found that flexible working can save British businesses £34bn a year. If your business has employees who operate largely out of the office, you can save money on office space, equipment and energy costs, all whilst contributing to the environment by reducing the carbon footprint of your workforce. The lack of commute time for employees that work from home is a real productivity booster being that they can begin work without having endured stress propelled by train delays or traffic jams.
Studies show that organizations that offer workplace flexibility have less absenteeism and turnover, and higher levels of engagement and productivity. Again, it comes down to control. We all need to feel in control of our lives, and by working with talent on flexibility, you grant them real control. They feel trusted and valued, and their investment in the work, and in the organization, grows.
Many organizations today view workplace flexibility as a strategic move, not an employee benefit. The bottom line is that progressive companies have an easier time attracting and retaining talent. People with a lot to offer want to work at companies that treat them like adults and have empathetic, energetic, progressive cultures. On a more prosaic level, telecommuting can save costs on supplies, real estate, and utilities. Unilever, for example, permits 100,000 employees — virtually its entire workforce except for factory workers — to work anytime, anywhere, as long as the work gets done.
Truly engaged employees don’t leave the job behind when they’re off the clock. They carry their current projects with them 24/7, and are always open to new inspiration or insight. Ideas are all around us. Employees who are telecommuting, or working on schedules that they helped design, are out in the world more, open to input, away from an office environment where stagnation can set in. An employee with a well-rounded, active life will bring value-add to any job, and may well find inspiration – that can then be brought to the project at-hand — in surprising places.
For many employees, inflexibility may simply be a lack of confidence in work skills. Concerns about stepping out of one’s comfort zone and making a mistake are very real fears. Nobody wants to look stupid or incompetent. It’s important that everybody understands the necessity to work together and each other’s roles so that they can fill in for each other. Flexibility is good for the long-term future of your business and it’s good for team morale and cohesion.