By Clare Kenny, Employee Wellbeing Specialist.
Working from home has become the new norm for many and with it, the option to work more flexibly.
Pre-pandemic, flexible working was often seen as an inconvenience granted only to those who really needed it. But the events of this year have prompted many companies to realise there are long-term and significant benefits to more flexible working environments.
With a return to normality now in reach, savvy leaders will be the ones who continue to embrace the benefits of more flexible working practices, of which there are many.
Increase employee satisfaction
Flexible working helps employees build a better work/life balance, cuts time spent commuting and lets them manage work around other personal commitments, all of which tends to lead to a happier workforce all round. According to TimeWise Jobs, as many as 93% of employees desire some sort of flexibility in their work.
By offering flexibility you are also likely to see an increase in employee engagement, which in turn boosts morale, productivity and retention. In a recent CIPD survey, 75% of employers said flexible working has a positive effect on retention, while 73% said it improves motivation.
Promote diversity and inclusion
A flexible working policy can open up your talent pool. The traditional nine to five, office-based model so often fails to cater for the needs of working mums for example, as they struggle to combine busy working lives with family commitments.
In 2020 there has been lots of positive conversation around how employers can better meet their needs – now that there is proof that flexibility can and does work. Making these conversations a reality can, in turn, lead to more women in senior roles, increase diversity at board level and help to address the gender pay gap.
When you’re no longer restricted to hiring employees within commuting distance, you’re also likely to attract a more diverse range of candidates to your roles. Flexible working also opens up opportunities for disabled workers, or those suffering with long-term health conditions who need an environment that’s set up for their specific needs or the flexibility to attend medical appointments.
Improve employee wellbeing
Wellbeing has been a hot topic in 2020 and it’s important not to lose sight of this when a normality begins to return. Flexible working can lower stress, reduce the risk of burnout and help people better manage their other commitments. According to CIPD, 54% of employees believe flexible working is a good way to achieve a better work-life balance. It frees up time for activities that help them keep their wellbeing in check, such as exercise or counselling. And let’s not forget how stressful and exhausting commuting can be – along with the added risk of picking up viruses or colds on busy buses or trains. Minimising the commute time can have a huge impact on both physical and mental health.
While flexibility improves wellbeing, it can also have a positive impact on the bottom line. Happier workforces reduce the costs associated with absence and staff turnover. More remote working options also have the potential to reduce the amount of office space needed: with fewer desks, less budget needs to be spent on office rent and facilities. Having fewer employees travelling to and from work daily also reduces your organisational carbon footprint.
And while many organisations won’t be able to provide pay rises or bonuses this year, offering flexible hours can be a welcome alternative. A recent survey run by Investors in People showed that a third of people would take flexible working arrangements over a pay rise.
Boost business growth
If you’re worried working from home may be limiting for your business, think again. By letting employees set their own work patterns, you’ll find different people will want to work at different times – some may be early birds, others may prefer late evenings. If you manage this effectively you can offer more accessibility and quicker response times for clients by increasing your service coverage across the day. You can even hire individuals in different locations and time zones without needing to set up any new offices – all of which creates exciting opportunities for a more global reach.
People working to their own hours are rarely late! By decreasing lateness and sickness through flexible working you’ll see an increase in productivity. Allowing employees to set their own work patterns means they can work when they are naturally more productive, energised and the least distracted. By empowering employees to own and control their personal workloads, you may even spark an entrepreneurial mindset, one that encourages not only productivity but more creative problem-solving too.
As we return to a more familiar workplace structure, business leaders must be careful not to enforce old ways of working on their staff. While not everyone will want to work from home permanently, most people will now want some level of flexibility as part of their role and by offering this as a benefit you will attract and retain the best talent. Having more engaged employees is likely to increase their longevity of service, not only guaranteeing a more stable and secure workforce, but also allowing for better client experiences and the retention of knowledge and experience within your company – business assets you can’t put a price on!
About the author
Clare E. Kenny is an experienced change management and employee wellbeing specialist, and an expert on the issues affecting leadership, management and workplace culture today. Clare works with organisations of all sizes, helping them to develop and embed wellbeing strategies that lead to happier, healthier and more productive workforces. Prior to founding her own business, Clare led a 40-strong team as head of client operations at the global leadership strategy firm, YSC.
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