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Should we join the Flexible Work Revolution?

IN: Accountability & Engagement.14 MARCH, 2019
Should we join the Flexible Work Revolution?

Should we join the Flexible Work Revolution?

Flexible Work arrangements are becoming more and more attractive, especially to younger generations. They are the promise of a perfect lifestyle, in which any individual can choose when to work and when to enjoy some free time, as well as where they are most productive at each type of task. In fact, studies show that 70% of the Millennial generation believe flexible working arrangements make a job more attractive, while 81% of women say the same. Is flexible work an actual solution for today’s main human capital challenges, or is it just a nice perk to attract relaxed Millennials?

 

Types of Flexible Working Arrangements

There are many names and types of flexible work, which tend to cause some confusion. Here are the main 8 ones:

  1. Part-time: working less than normal hours, normally half of the 8 hour/day schedule.
  2. Flex-time: the number of working hours is scheduled by the employer and the employees can come in and out as they please.
  3. Working Remotely/Telecommunicating/ Telecommuting/Flex-place: employees are allowed to work away from the office, either at home or at other preferred place, such a coffee shop or a park.
  4. Annualized hours: employees are expected to work for a certain number of hours for a year, but the hours are flexible when they work.
  5. Compressed hours: employees are expected to work for a certain period, which can be “compressed” into less working days.
  6. Staggered hours: different starting, break and finishing times for different types of employees.
  7. Flexible leave/Flexible paid time off: employees have a greater level of flexibility to choose the type of time off they need, to celebrate special religious holiday or birthdays, for mental health breaks or wellness days.
  8. Sabbaticals: employees are able to take an agreed amount of time off, without pay, but having the security of returning to their job. This option is common at Universities, in which professors request one or more semesters to work abroad or in a different topic of investigation, as well as in big consulting firms, where employees are advised (and sometimes even obliged) to take six months to a year off, for an MBA or a volunteering experience.

 

Advantages and Disadvantages, for workers and for companies

Independently of the type of flexible work, one can identify many advantages and disadvantages of this arrangement, both for workers and for companies. Here are the most relevant ones:

 

For Employees

For Companies

Top Advantages

 

  • Flexibility to better meet family and personal needs
  • Reduced commuting time, stress and gas expenses
  • More control over working schedule and environment
  • Reduced probability of burnout due to overload
  • May decrease external childcare hours and costs
  • More respect for mental and physical health conditions

 

  • Boost in employee morale, which leads to loyalty and retention
  • Attract top talent and a more diverse workforce
  • Reduced tardiness and absenteeism
  • Enhances company image as a family-friendly place to work
  • Savings in office space and supplies
  • Possible increase in productivity
  • Building a trust company culture
  • Reduced overtime expenses
  • Possible improvement in relation between employees and managers
  • More flexible client support times

Top Disadvantages

 

  • May mislead others about availability
  • No clear dividing line between home and work - sometimes that means work all the time
  • May disturb the concentration and cause errors
  • Hard to apply for team-oriented environments where regular meetings are required
  • Challenging to manage owns time and tasks alone

 

 

  • Possible procrastination and lack of productivity
  • Compressed work weeks may affect availability for client support
  • Feelings of unfairness when only certain employees can work remotely
  • Big change in supervisors’ roles
  • Jobs that require customer-facing or hands-on responsibilities only allow certain types of flextime
  • Can cause a rushed and an unsatisfactory output for the company

 

Going through this list of advantages and disadvantages for both sides, it’s clear that both win and lose with this type of work. Five topics pop out in this comparison that need to be better analyzed:

 

How to make flexible work - work?

 

There are several ways to promote a productive flexible work culture, here are a few:

  1. Understand if your company’s culture and way of working may accommodate flexible working – if it’s very hands-on or if it has a very traditional culture, with mostly senior employees, maybe this is not the right type of work to invest in.
  2. Understand your company’s purpose, values and priorities, and how your job relates to them – this way, you will also be able to prioritize and build a common sense on what is acceptable and what is not.
  3. Set clear expectations and simple rules for flexible work – how to share the tasks each employee is responsible for, in which dates are they due, how and when to communicate, etc. You can also set core days or core hours during which everyone needs to be in the office for meetings.
  4. Build trust and a general sense of accountability – share responsibility with employees and let them know you trust them to make the right decisions to benefit the company. Give them regular feedback and offer them coaching, in order to help them grow and build skills, while bringing value to the company.

 

Concluding, flexible working arrangements can be a win-win situation for both companies and employees, if - and only if - both sides promote a positive culture of trust, accountability and respect for each person’s needs. If you believe your company and employees are able to do that, then you should, for sure, join the Flexible Work Revolution!

 

Inês Andrade

Marketing Manager at Bright Concept

 

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