During the pandemic, the world was forced to explore unparalleled levels of flexible work options for non-frontline workers. Now that we have seen patterns and have data from the last two years, organizational leaders should consider leveraging the benefits of flexibility to recruit and retain staff. From setting their own work schedules, to working remotely, to limiting or eliminating their commute times, a large portion of the workforce got a taste of a less-rigid work structure. As the world found its footing in a time of uncertainty, many employees also found an increase in work-life balance, increased accommodations for personal schedules, a steep decrease in gasoline and car usage, and an overall work vibe they hadn’t experienced before. Hand in hand with increased flexibility, much of the workforce rose to the occasion with an increase in productivity and work satisfaction and a decrease in wasted time at the office (see report by Apollo Technical).
What is workplace flexibility and why does it matter so much? Generally, the term refers to what used to be considered “non-traditional,” varied, and adaptable work environments and the extent to which the employer is willing to match these non-traditional employee desires. Some examples include remote or hybrid work options, not adhering to traditional workday hours, increased access to outdoor workspaces, unlimited P.T.O., job sharing or part-time options, parental leave, allowing employees to have more control over their schedules, and implementing flex-time policies. Unsurprisingly, due to the pandemic, one of the most widely implemented examples of workplace flexibility growth since 2020 has been the increase in remote work.
From an employer’s standpoint, the benefits of workplace flexibility extend beyond decreased overhead costs of office space. According to one Gensler study, employees who adhere to a hybrid schedule “appear more deliberate with how they use their time, have a better awareness of what their colleagues are working on, and have higher job satisfaction overall.”
DeYoung Consulting Services has always employed a flexible work environment that includes flexible schedules and hybrid work options. More recently, a week-long companywide shutdown has been implemented, giving staff a chance to unplug and recharge. Personally speaking, since starting with DeYoung Consulting Services 4.5 years ago, I have noticed a steep increase in my work satisfaction, experienced a better work-life balance, and have reaped the benefits of being able to work a flexible schedule based on when I am most productive and my family needs. To preserve our positive and collaborative team culture while remaining flexible, we have worked together to establish efficient and effective communication methods, prioritize regularly scheduled in-person meetings, and make an effort to regularly communicate with each other to ensure we are all moving in the same direction on a daily basis.
As the endemic emerges, many employees have experienced flexibility in the same way our team has craved a continuation of this newfound work flexibility. Considering it is a job seeker’s market, employers may want to examine whether their policies and procedures appeal to the current job-seeking workforce. Current employment trends indicate that if employers want to appeal to existing and potential employees, they need to explore implementing work flexibility policies. According to this Bankrate report, 55% of the 2500 survey respondents indicated that flexible work environments were more important to them now than prior to the pandemic. Only 52% said the same about an increase in pay. Moreso, 81% of employees indicate that their workplace loyalty would increase if they had flexibility in the workplace. In other words, lots of people don’t want to return to the in-office, Monday-Friday 9-5 grind.
Although the pandemic forced many companies to be flexible with little preparation, implementing effective flexibility policies doesn’t happen overnight. Building a flexible culture requires time, collaboration and most importantly, trust between employees and leadership. For leadership, this shift to a flexible mindset can feel like unchartered territory. One of DeYoung’s sweet spots is helping organizational leaders guide their organization through creating meaningful change in a way where they and their employees feel listened to and respected.
It’s important to recognize that there are people who can be found at every point on the “flexibility spectrum.” Some employees thrived with pre-pandemic traditional work hours and a more traditional work environment. It’s important not to leave these employees behind when planning for organization-wide flexible work policies. Talk to your employees about the type of environment in which they can thrive, be productive, enjoy a positive work culture and be trusted to do their jobs in non-traditional work settings.