Flexible office hours were more the exception than the norm less than a year ago. While many younger members of the American workforce value flexible hours as a key benefit of employment, not many employers were open to the idea. As a result, it was mostly self-employed individuals, such as freelancers or gig workers, that could really enjoy the benefits of a flexible work schedule.
However, with the unprecedented disruption from the COVID-19 outbreak, modern businesses have undergone a massive transformation in a very short span of time. Today, at the time of this writing, most businesses than ever before are offering flexible hours and remote working options. Explore how these changes, born out of necessity, can actually prove beneficial to your business.
Defining Workplace Flexibility
Until recently, workplace flexibility used to be at the discretion of the employer. Certain employers would make agreements with employees at the time of onboarding to offer flexible job hours as well as remote working privileges. Typically, flexible work schedule agreements revolve around:
- Offering workers the option to work remotely.
- Offering workers the freedom to create their own work schedule.
- Letting workers schedule their workday at their own pace.
This policy applied not only to permanent employees, but part-timers, gig workers, remote teams, temporary staffing additions, and others. Of course, as you may imagine, many employers were wary of offering flexible work hours to employees for several obvious reasons.
A few years ago, tracking different work schedules and making them work sustainably would have been extremely challenging. This may have seen as an expensive perk to boost happiness levels alone, but the benefits of a flexible working format aren’t solely for workers. Offering remote working and flexible schedule options actually promotes several key benefits to employers in terms of productivity, including the following:
Improved Retention Means Fewer Resources Lost to Employee Turnover
Employee turnover has always been a major concern for business managers and hiring experts. An outgoing employee does not just represent a lost worker. Think of all the other costs associated with an experienced employee leaving your firm. You lose the expertise they may have acquired regarding their process. If the outgoing employee held a key position in the business process, you can expect bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
Consider also the resulting gap in company knowledge, often compounding the bottlenecks as teams struggle to bridge the gap. Moreover, the very real monetary and time costs associated with finding a replacement are also a concern. Even if your staffing agency locates a viable replacement quickly, you will still have to invest time and money in training and onboarding them, as well as letting them settle into the new workplace.
Inflexible or rigid work schedules are one of the leading causes of employee turnover. Employees, especially younger professionals, prefer the freedom to work remotely and flexibly while delivering quality work. When denied this freedom, many talented workers start looking for more flexible options instead.
During COVID-19, the need to offer flexible work is even more essential. Not doing so could jeopardize the safety of your workers as well as their productivity. A flexible schedule is likely to receive a positive response, which means you lose fewer workers, and your teams continue to perform productively and efficiently.
Increased Workforce Diversity Encourages Innovation and Improvement
One of the biggest advantages of offering remote working options and flexible work hours is access to a much larger talent pool. Instead of being limited to local candidates, businesses can reach out to talent on a global scale. Theoretically, this vastly increases your chances of hiring valuable resources that can add fresh perspectives and innovative value to the workplace (whether remote or not).
One of the outcomes of having access to the global talent pool is the increased diversity it offers. Maintaining diverse workforces isn’t just about meeting federal compliance benchmarks. It actually offers businesses significant value.
Diverse workforces imply individuals from a range of cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, and strengths. As opposed to a homogenized workforce, a diverse workforce is more likely to have multiple individuals that approach any given problem very differently from each other. These diverse approaches to finding solutions for current problems often jumpstarts workplace innovation. You are more likely to hire talent that can improve and modify your existing business processes and make them more efficient, thereby boosting productivity levels.
Flexible Schedules Often Attract Some of the Most Talented Candidates
Businesses value top performers. This is a fact in the world of commercial activity. Employees that perform the best usually bring in more revenue for your business. They also offer a higher standard for your workforce to aspire to, which you can further incentivize with productivity bonuses and higher commissions.
Annual performance appraisals are one of the most transparent ways to measure and reward employee performance. However, overall workforce performance is dependent on the quality of talent your firm attracts. You may not be a tech giant like Google, Facebook, or Apple, but that doesn’t mean you can’t attract top talent.
Offering flexible working models is an excellent way to attract top candidates from any talent pool. Remember: modern-day workforces prioritize a healthy work-life balance. In many cases, they may even be willing to compromise on compensation and other benefits in exchange for flexible remote working. And, as discussed in the previous section, access to the diverse global talent pool increases your chances of hiring a higher caliber of top performers. Needless to say, the better performers you have in your team, the more output your team generates, and the more workforce productivity increases.
Increased Workplace Flexibility Directly Increases Employee Productivity
Many employers are conditioned to think they always need to be keeping an eye on their workforce for them to work productively. That is why many are often initially opposed to the idea of remote workers and flexible schedules. But in real terms, most businesses see a direct increase in worker productivity as a result of offering flexible working options. There have been significant advancements in people analytics that let employers track remote worker productivity.
In 2019, a study found that remote workers work an extra 1.4 days every month than on-site workers. This means remote workers offer an additional 16.8 hours of productivity. This alone is staggering, but factor in the 37 minutes of distractions on-site workers face per day, further inhibiting their productivity. By comparison, remote workers typically have only 27 minutes of distractions and can deliver more productive output in the same span of time. In terms of direct results, offering workplace flexibility has a direct positive impact on workforce productivity levels.
Remote and Flexible Working Is Cost-Effective and Sustainable
Workplace flexibility seems to be the only viable option in a post-COVID-19 world. Businesses are faced with the option of either shutting down operations completely, or shifting to a remote working model with flexible hours. Of course, the choice is obvious.
Instead of completely scrapping productivity, businesses are able to keep working without overheads like rent, utilities, or support staff. The result is a much leaner way for businesses to operate, while still maintaining productive efficiency. Many businesses are even adapting their talent acquisition strategies to a remote model.
Given the current situation, a remote workforce doesn’t just offer a much-needed reduction in overhead costs but is also the safest and most sustainable way of helping your business survive the COVID-19 crisis.