The Results Are In: The Benefits Of Flexible Working Are Overwhelming

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workers interacting at work

The explosion of virtual work and working from home is leading to drastic changes in the professional world as employers take advantage of what they learn about flexible working.

However, the benefits derived from these various flexible work schedules aren't actually new.

Stay-at-home orders simply created a living lab from which employers could see the benefits of remote working and flexible scheduling, for themselves and their employees.

What does the data say about the benefits of flexible working hours and work-life balance?

1. There are more employer benefits.

According to Mercer, 83% of companies surveyed were considering some form of flexible work options.

A poll of higher-educational institutions found upwards of three-quarters of respondents said virtual work had at worst zero and at best a net positive impact related to productivity, work-life balance, and communication and collaboration with coworkers.

Mercer suggested that workplaces that continue to embrace virtual work as compared to those that return to pre-pandemic work norms will likely perform better, with respect to access to more highly skilled and competitivity ranked workers, overall recruitment, and retention.

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Furthermore, the results of a 2014 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that over half of the HR respondents noted that flexible work arrangements had a positive effect on productivity, absenteeism, retention, job satisfaction, employee health, and quality of life, company culture and morale, and the company's public image.

Employers are taking notice of the data. Gartner's 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey notes that 90% of surveyed organizations will allow employees to work remotely at least on a part-time basis. 65% said they would introduce flexibility in some form.

Findings such as these suggest big shifts in how people work are underway. Gartner notes the percentage of high performers in the workplace will increase when employees have some choice of where, when, and how much they work (i.e. radical flexibility).

However, this shift implies significant change, uncertainty, and stress. But, there should be a huge benefit after everything is settled.

2. There is more employee interest and benefits.

Flexjobs' survey of employees and their views on flexible work yielded many interesting relevant findings. Significantly, 83% of respondents were interested in flexible work.

20% were willing to accept a 10% reduction in pay in exchange for flexible schedules. Some respondents said they'd accept fewer vacation days as well.

75% of respondents said they seek flexible arrangements for improved work-life balance.

Time savings and commuter stress reduction motivated 45% and 40% of respondents, respectively.

With 43% reporting commute times of two or more hours, the result is not surprising.

For employers offering flexibility to their staff for work-life balance, there are 3 key elements.

1. Cultivate constructive flexibility.

The best way to create policies and processes around work-life flexibility is to be flexible with flexibility. Get staff input. Narrowly defined rules are not likely to suit everyone's needs or preferences.

Every staff member has unique circumstances, so offer choices. Empowering your staff to make good decisions has important benefits in and of itself.

Flexible work hours allow your staff to deal with pressing personal issues that otherwise might act as a distraction in the back of an otherwise conscientious mind and that can compete for their focus while working.

With flexibility, staff can more effectively allocate tasks to maintain maximum concentration and productivity where and when it's most needed.

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2. Make changes to staff well-being benefits.

Significant changes create stress and anxiety. Offer fully or partially equivalent well-being or wellness benefits so that staff can choose to allocate their benefits toward what matters most to them.

They may have a greater need for coaching or counseling due to loss, new family or personal challenges, or simply the rapid succession of change and resultant vulnerability.

With equivalent benefits, you don't necessarily need to increase all forms of benefits for everyone. You can let staff select and periodically update the allocation of their benefits when needed.

Create an internal discussion platform where staff can post questions and resources as well as choose to create private discussion groups around pressing concerns.

Adopt a set of policies and practices to reduce staff overwhelm and support staff well-being.

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3. Cultivate staff connection through new policies and practices.

Some staff members undoubtedly miss the interaction with their colleagues. In addition, they may feel some sense of alienation from the office while working virtually.

It's important to keep in mind not everyone prefers a virtual work environment. They may opt to do so only out of necessity.

Cultivate and build connections. Engage your staff in the process of creating methods for scheduling meetings.

Add time for informal interaction at the end or beginning of a meeting for staff who wish to participate in gathering informally. The use of a regular meeting format will allow staff to opt to attend or not without causing disruption.

Periodically check in with staff to make sure they're participating regularly, even if less frequently.

Make sure they maintain a connection with others. Another option is to allocate a day for an in-person or virtual social in the afternoon.

A review of the data on the benefits of embracing a flexible working schedule, both for the employer and employee, is positive and supportive.

Of course, a lot more can be said about the issues and options surrounding the transformation to a more flexible work environment.

Still, this is a good place to start.

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Patricia Bonnard, Ph.D., ACC is an integrated coach and energy healer who supports deep perspective-taking, problem-solving, and mind-body wellness. She offers virtual and in-person coaching in the workplace for leaders, mid-level managers, and other staff members. In addition, she customizes in-person and virtual workshops, such as Stress Resilience in the Workplace, Releasing Limiting Beliefs to Improve Performance, and other staff development workshops.

This article was originally published at starchaser-healingarts.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.