A growing number of businesses are discovering the many benefits of flexible working: lower costs, greater flexibility around family and travel, happier employees and improved productivity.
It's also clear that not only companies benefit from a more flexible way of working. Remote work, either full-time or part-time, is a lifestyle and workstyle that is becoming increasingly popular and appreciated by employees.
In this guide to flexible working, let's look at the benefits for businesses and their team members and explore how each can embrace a more flexible way of working.
What is flexible working?
Before we dive into the benefits of flexible working, let's have a look at what it actually means.
Flexible working, sometimes referred to as flextime or flexitime, is a term describing a wide range of non-traditional working arrangements that are based on each individual's personal needs and preferences, rather than strict company rules.
Flexible working often involves some degree of remote work, and can include all working arrangements that differ from the traditional nine-to-five norm.
The future of work
Many factors are driving the change towards flexible working. One is demographic. A large part of the modern workforce consists of tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z. As digital natives, they grew up connected and online, and they've come to expect the same agility, flexibility and user-friendliness at work as they've gotten used to in their private lives.
Millennials tend to value work-life balance highly, which means they're often not interested in sacrificing their personal lives and time to climb the corporate ladder.
Studies show that a majority of millennials prefer remote work and that 75% would happily leave an office job for a remote one. By offering flexible working conditions, your company will have a better chance of attracting qualified millennial employees.
The trend towards a more distributed workforce, where team members are often scattered all around the globe, is also a driving factor behind the evolution towards more flexible work arrangements. It's increasingly dawning on companies, as well as on individuals, that for knowledge work today the when and the where has little or no importance.
The tech you need to make flexible working successful
With the rise of cloud-based EaaS solutions (Everything as a Service), teams today can have access to all the tools and tech they need - regardless of location and device.
Some of the technical solutions that make flexible work possible include:
- Cloud-based communication and collaboration tools, such as Slack or MS Teams.
- Cloud-based project management tools, such as Asana or Basecamp.
- Performance and employee engagement tools, such as Trackstar.
- Cloud-based CRM systems, such as Salesforce.
- Tools for syncing contacts in real-time between apps, such as PieSync.
With the right tech stack and access to quality hardware, your team will be set up for success, wherever and whenever each individual prefers to work.
3 benefits of flexible working – for the employer
From an employer's perspective, the benefits of flexible working go on and on. Let's have a closer look at three of the most commonly cited upsides of a more flexible way of doing things.
1. Increased productivity
70% of remote workers say that telecommuting has improved their productivity. The reasons cited for the higher level of productivity include fewer distractions and interruptions, less stress from commuting and fixed schedules, and less noise.
2. More cost-effective
Flexible working allows for cost savings in many different areas. With a significant percentage of an organization's employees working remotely, the need for office space and maintenance diminishes. In 2018, companies were estimated to have saved $5 billion by allowing employees to work from home part of the time. As many as six out of ten employers consider cost savings as a significant benefit of telecommuting and flexible working.
3. A happier workforce
Many studies indicate that employees appreciate flexible working. 81% of remote workers are satisfied with their job situation, a figure which is 57% higher than average job satisfaction. 55% of commuters in the United Kingdom report increased stress levels due to their commute, and 23% of Americans have quit a job due to a bad commute.
52% of employees who work for companies that do not offer flexible working conditions and remote work opportunities say they wish that their employer would allow them to work from home.
3 benefits of flexible working – from the employee's perspective
From the employee's point of view, there are also numerous benefits of a more flexible work culture. Here are three of the main advantages of a more modern take on work for team members:
1. More freedom
Many employees appreciate the freedom that comes with flexible working. 20% of people say they would even be willing to take a pay cut of more than 10% in order to work remotely, while 83% reported that flexible working at least some of the time would be the decider between two similar job offers.
For some employees this can mean freedom to travel, while for others it can be more time to enjoy time away from their desk or at home with family.
2. Less stress
Another upside of flexible working is that it significantly reduces the stress that comes with commuting and adapting to rigid schedules. 80% of remote workers say that they experience less job stress than they would in a traditional office job.
3. A more sustainable lifestyle
Flexible working also enables people to lead a more sustainable life also from an environmental perspective. Studies indicate that working from home half the week can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 54 million tons every year.
Best practices for flexible working that will help your business thrive
Put it in writing. Clarity is crucial to make sure that expectations are managed and that everyone is on the same page. Ideally, define the terms in each employee's contract.
Use the right tech. Make sure everyone has access to the tools they need to be able to perform at their best.
Don't micromanage. The whole point of flexible working is flexibility. If you micromanage, you've ruined it. Trusting your employees is essential to make your flexible working arrangements work.
Level up your communication. It's much easier to misunderstand each other in writing when you don't have body language and other cues to help you interpret the other person. When working remotely, you will need to communicate more and better. Make sure to book regular 1:1 and team meetings with your direct reports.
Don't communicate outside of office hours. One of the downsides of flexible working is that the lines between work hours and free time easily get blurred. Not chatting, calling or emailing outside of work hours will help prevent that.
As an increasing number of companies and employees embrace a more flexible way of working, processes, practices and technologies will continue to evolve. And by enabling a work culture based more on freedom and flexibility rather than on rigid control systems, companies embracing the change will have a competitive edge when it comes to attracting and keeping talented employees.