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The benefits of offering flexible work arrangements

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The nine-to-five office grind doesn’t work for everyone – some workers prefer more flexibility. By offering flexible work arrangements, both employers and employees can enjoy multiple advantages.

The “Flexible Working Arrangement” Definition

The term “flexible work arrangement” can mean many things, but all definitions of this term are related to when and where employees work. Traditionally, employers have well-established rules for when workers clock in, where they work and when they clock out. These strict requirements may be necessary for some positions, such as customer-facing jobs with defined shifts or hourly pay. However, in many industries and roles, such rigid working terms are not required. In these cases, flexible work arrangements can challenge the status quo and give workers more freedom.

Flexible Hours, Remote Work and Job-Sharing

Flexible work arrangements can take many forms, including:

  • Hybrid work arrangements enable an employee to work from home some days but to be in the office on other days. Such options may be ideal for positions that have a limited amount of face-to-face interaction with clients or coworkers or that only occasionally require the use of company equipment or materials.
  • Remote work arrangements allow an employee to work from home or another location every day, which can be perfect for those who do all their work online.
  • Three- or four-day workweeks reduce the number of workdays for full-time work. The employee works fewer, longer days to reach the full 40 hours.
  • Flextime arrangements allow workers to choose the hours they work. Some workers may come in early and leave early, whereas others may come in late and leave late. Workers can vary their start and end times to suit other commitments, such as doctor’s appointments or childcare duties.
  • Job-sharing arrangements enable two or more workers to split a full-time job. This can be ideal when workers need to cut back their hours – for example, because they’re sick, acting as a caregiver or going back to school but don’t want to quit their position.

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Workers Want Flexible Working Arrangements

Recent research has shown that workers crave more flexibility. Before you rule out flexible work, consider these findings:

  • When workers are offered flexibility, 87 percent of them take it, based on McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey.
  • Women value job flexibility so much that 29 percent would take a 10 or 20 percent pay cut in exchange for a flexible schedule, according to FlexJobs.
  • Only six percent of workers want to work entirely on-site, according to a Gallup survey. Most workers want remote or hybrid arrangements.
  • Younger workers want remote working options. Based on a study from Axios Harris 100, 84 percent of millennials say that remote work is important to them, compared to 68 percent of Baby Boomers.

How Workers Benefit from Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work arrangements are popular because employees know these arrangements will help them tackle many of their personal and professional challenges, such as:

  • Finding a work-life balance. Sometimes, employees’ personal lives are just as demanding as their professional lives. This is especially true for the millions of caregivers in the workforce, whether they’re caring for young children or aging parents. Balancing work and life is difficult – or downright impossible – when you have a rigid work schedule, but job flexibility can help workers find the balance they need to juggle all their obligations.
  • Reducing stress and improving mental health. Many workers are suffering from burnout and mental health issues – they need to find ways to alleviate their job-related stress. In a survey from Deloitte, 43 percent of professionals named reduced stress and improved mental health as the top benefits of work flexibility.
  • Optimizing their daily schedule. Even if workers can work a nine-to-five office job, they may not want to. Some workers want to work from home to ditch the daily commute or to be with their pets. Others want flexible hours because they aren’t morning people and would rather work late if it means they can sleep in. Workers may also want the freedom to take time off to go to events or pursue certain hobbies. Flexibility is a job perk that can make work more enjoyable.

How Employers Benefit from Flexible Work Arrangements

Workers aren’t the only ones to benefit from flexible work arrangements – employers can also reap the benefits. Flexibility can improve:

  • Productivity: There are many ways flexible work policies could support productivity. For example, if workers don’t waste time on a daily commute, they may have more time to focus on their work. Workers may also achieve more if they’re allowed to choose when and where they work. For instance, if they’re naturally night owls, they may produce better results if they’re allowed to work later in the day.
  • Recruiting: When you’re competing for top talent, you need to convince workers why they should choose your company. Research shows that workers prioritize flexibility, so if you offer flexible work arrangements, job candidates may be more likely to choose to work with you.
  • Retention: Sometimes, employees are forced to quit jobs they like because they can’t keep up with all their responsibilities. For example, if a working mom needs to pick up her child at 3 p.m. every day, but her boss won’t let her leave at that time, she may have no option but to quit. By providing flexibility, employers can make it easier for their workers to stay and improve employee retention.
  • Benefits Cost: Employee benefits can be expensive, but flexibility doesn’t need to cost employers anything. It’s an attractive option for companies looking for more ways to please their workers while maintaining a tight budget.

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The Potential Downsides to Flexible Work Arrangements

Although flexible work arrangements offer many benefits, employers should also be aware of possible downsides.

  • Workers may take advantage of flexibility. For example, they might work fewer hours than they’re supposed to or pretend to be working at home when they’re actually doing other things.
  • Workers may feel isolated. If they’re working from home or working odd hours in the office when no one else is there, they may miss the social interaction.
  • Building corporate culture may require some extra effort. When your team isn’t together, camaraderie and corporate values may be diluted.
  • Some types of work are hard to do well without face-to-face interaction. Although it’s possible to do a lot of work online, in-person collaboration may still help with projects that require teamwork and brainstorming.

Employers and employees can work together to overcome these challenges. It’s important to acknowledge what could go wrong and to collaboratively discuss how to avoid potential pitfalls.

Implementing a Flexible Work Arrangement

If you want to embrace the flexible work arrangement trend, take steps to make it a success. You should consider the following questions before implementing flexible work arrangements for employees:

  • What type of flexibility will you allow? There are several options when implementing a flexible work arrangement, such as hybrid work options or a flexible work schedule.
  • What are the limits of work flexibility? For example, you might allow workers to set their start and finish times, but you may still require eight hours a day or have employees use time and attendance tracking software. You might also set limits as to how early workers can start or finish to avoid having workers in the office at midnight. It’s also important to consider how different work schedules could impact janitorial services and building security.
  • Who is eligible? Certain positions may be unsuitable, such as positions that are customer-facing or that rely on the use of company equipment.
  • Will flexibility be offered on a temporary or permanent basis? Instead of committing to a permanent policy, you may want to try out flexible work for a limited amount of time to gather HR metrics and assess its suitability for your workplace.

Finally, clearly document and communicate your flexible work policy to eliminate any ambiguity. Flexible work arrangements work best when the entire team clearly understands the terms and knows that their productivity and results will be measured.

Do you need help implementing flexible working arrangements? Higginbotham’s HR services can help. Learn more and talk to a member of our team today.

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