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Rise of Workplace Flexibility (And Why It Matters)

When we recently wrote about work-life balance benefits, we realized one benefit in particular deserved its own article. That benefit is workplace flexibility.  The 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study reveals companies are investing more in workplace flexibility programs than ever before. Still, however, workplace flexibility remains more important to employees than most employers think. While 50 percent of employers ranked workplace flexibility as their most important benefit, 75 percent of employees themselves ranked it as their top benefit, placing well above the runner-up benefit of financial assistance (e.g. tuition reimbursement).

 

Productivity Factor

It may come as no surprise that having a workplace flexibility program in place was found to increase employee satisfaction by an overwhelming 87 percent. But did you know it also has been proven to increase productivity for nearly three out of every four workers?

“Our work environment is built around flexibility. There is no standard work day anymore; no edict from the executives on what someone’s work day should look like. That’s between the employee and his or her manager,” says Dan Medlin, manager of talent acquisition at ARM, the world’s leading semiconductor IP company. “I have recruiters on my own team who have proven that they’re more productive working from home, so I give them the flexibility to do that regularly.”

Medlin admits this environment of extreme flexibility—what he and many others in the human resource community call flexible work arrangements (FWA)—would not be possible without technology. With a global workforce spanning more than 30 sites worldwide, ARM relies on a sophisticated system of networking and communication tools to allow each employee remote, secure access to each other and their work whenever and wherever they need it.

“However, it’s not terribly expensive to adopt the technology needed to allow a flexible work environment,” he adds. “Tools like WebEx and join.me are low-cost alternatives to connecting staff, customers, partners or vendors virtually.”

The key, he adds, is in identifying the processes (not just the people) that need to be supported remotely and work the technology into those processes. For example, in working with the sales function the ability to conduct remote meetings is important, but so is seamless access to sales and reporting software. “Once you create the right remote work environment, employees will find their own ways to incorporate it into their lives, improving both their flexibility and their productivity,” Medlin says.

 

Keeping it in Check

The workplace flexibility study we cited earlier also holds key insights when it comes to flexibility as a recruiting tool. Nearly 70 percent of employers who have a workplace flexibility program in place use the program as a recruiting tool, while 54 percent said their programs positively impact their recruiting efforts.

Recruiting Manager Kevin Tougas of Austin-based global mobile commerce company Mozido has seen first-hand how flexibility equals recruiting success. With the software developers he recruits, many not only seek out but fully expect flexibility with when and where they work. His advice is to keep that flexibility in balance.

“While we don’t have traditional set hours, we do have core on-site hours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in order to promote our agile organization,” Tougas explains. “Drawing a line in the sand is difficult but we decided it was important to allow for face-to-face meetings while still supporting flexibility in work schedules.”  Mozido also puts family first, allowing flex time and telecommuting whenever necessary, which Tougas believes is just the right balance to pique the interest of recruits.

Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of using workplace flexibility both as a recruiting and a retention tool is those who are, in fact, interested in it. While it’s easy to assume options like working outside the office are most interesting to young professionals, Medlin asserts that’s not always the case.

“Our younger employees truly value being at the office, in a collaborative environment,” he says. “It appears to me that more of our mid-career individuals are asking for flexible work arrangements: Those with children at home or who have been in the workforce for a while and need a change of pace.”

The bottom line? Flexibility should remain just that: flexible. Forcing those who thrive in a traditional workplace environment into a flexible schedule or telecommuting situation can be just as detrimental to recruiting and retention as forcing those who crave that environment to clock into the office at 8 a.m. each morning.

We want to know what’s worked for you. Have you successfully incorporated more flexibility into your workplace? Are you considering do it soon? Let’s talk about it!

 

Image Copyright:  nexusplexus / 123RF Stock Photo