Flexibility: The Key to Happiness in the Future Workplace? – #EWS2015

slinkyI‘ve partnered with Spherion to provide insight and information from the 2015 Emerging Workforce Study but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.

A friend of mine lives a life to which many of us can relate; she has a demanding job and a demanding personal life trying to juggle her career while successfully managing hearth and home. Her husband heads in direction A each morning, she heads in direction B, and their teenager heads in Direction C. During any given week there are doctor appointments, school activities, sports, after-hours work commitments, and community or professional events. Long drives, long days, and long nights; she often first arrives home at 8 PM or so after spending countless hours behind the wheel and traversing many miles. There’s no such thing as balance…it’s more a matter of making sure it all gets done.

I get exhausted just contemplating her schedule.

Luckily though she works for a company that realizes flexibility can improve worker engagement, retention and motivation. While she is somewhat tethered to her phone 24/7 at least she has accessibility to flextime and periodic telecommuting as needed. Her employer, reliant primarily on tech workers and in-demand professionals, long ago grasped the need for flexibility in order to attract, retain and engage employees.

And that, my friends, is one of the findings from the EWS; increasingly more employers are offering work/life balance programs:

  • More employers are offering formal and informal work/life balance programs this year, like telecommuting (53%), flex-time (60%) and sabbaticals (39%). This is great as workers are willing to take advantage of these programs, even if their company didn’t offer them:
    • Flex-time: 52%
    • Telecommuting: 46%
    • Paid time off for community service: 32%
    • Sabbaticals: 29%
  • A new trend that the Emerging Workforce Study uncovered is employers offering sabbaticals to employees. Sabbaticals have significantly increased as a work/life balance program offering for workers (39% in 2015 versus 17% in 2014).
  • Employers are also increasingly adjusting their offerings to include work/life balance options that workers desire. And they are noticing that it’s positively affecting worker satisfaction (81%), productivity (73%) and recruitment (62%).

I think that last distinction is important; the offering of work/life (#workflex) balance options can be a differentiator in recruiting top talent (62% of employers see a positive impact on ability to recruit). I, for one, have noticed that candidates are increasingly asking about flexibility options very early on in the talent acquisition process. And it’s not like all employees expect to work 100% from home; what I have found (anecdotally of course) is pretty much in alignment with what was uncovered in the EWS:

  • Workers indicate that if they could choose the ideal work arrangement, the following would be most appealing to them:
    • Working full-time both in an office and remotely: 37%
    • Working full-time in an office: 27%
    • Working full-time, but remotely: 18%
    • As a remote freelancer or contractor: 8%
    • Working part-time in an office: 5%
    • Working part-time but remotely: 4%
  • Employers agree that working full-time both in an office and remotely is the most beneficial work arrangement (44%) and working full-time in an office is second most (37%).

There’s an important distinction to be made here though; not every business model allows for flexibility of this sort. The reality is that a number of people work in 24/7/364 operations (health care, hospitality, manufacturing) where employees must, obviously, be on-site – scrubbed, shiny and ready to greet the public. We can’t all work from home in our yoga pants.

The concept of flexibility, and “balance,” can be incorporated in sensible ways across positions or departments. It may be as simple as allowing employees to have more input in scheduling or eliminating draconian HR policies that require managers to chastise an employee who steps from her cubicle to take a personal phone call. A gradual evolution to a new way of working can be more palatable as companies distance themselves from old-school “command-and-control,” “butts-in-seats,” “I need to see my staff to know they’re working” management models.

Yoga pants not necessary.


Disclosure Language:

Spherion partnered with bloggers such as me for their Emerging Workforce Study program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any idea mentioned in these posts. Spherion believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Spherion’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.


One thought on “Flexibility: The Key to Happiness in the Future Workplace? – #EWS2015

  1. This is so encouraging. Right now I’m watching a corporate culture that is dragging formerly remote workers back in the office, and making everyone who was working remotely within 60 miles of the office return. It’s basically the opposite of what other companies are doing, and while I recognize the C-suite has its reasons for doing this, we are losing some great employees because of the lack of flexibility. (Even within the office, there is perception that, because one group tends to arrive early and leave early, to avoid Houston traffic, they are somehow not working as hard as others.)

    While yes, some of us do need to keep regular office hours, and some fields don’t lend themselves to the ability to work from home, it’s important to be flexible with employees, and work with them when they need a “human minute” rather than letting the “flex time” only work in favor of the employer. It’s a little frustrating to watch it happen, even when I personally wouldn’t benefit here because of the nature of my job. (Having “old school” bosses is harder than we’d like to admit.)

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