Flexible work is no longer something for only gig workers or freelancers—many “traditional” employers are offering flexible schedules to their employees as well. As an employer, you might be hesitant to offer flexible scheduling to your staff. After all, aren’t they the only ones who benefit?
While it’s true that employees benefit from flexible schedules, smart employers know that offering flexible schedules benefits them, too. From being a green company to having an edge in recruitment and improving diversity, the benefits of flexible work for companies can help your business stay ahead of the competition.
What Is Workplace Flexibility?
The easiest way to define workplace flexibility is to think of it as an agreement between employer and employee. The agreement usually consists of three components. Employees can:
- Choose where they work from
- Create a work schedule that works best for them
- Schedule their work day however they want
As an employer, you may think that this sounds like a freelancer schedule. And, freelancing is, indeed, one category of flexible work. However, flexible work can also include:
- Part-time work
- Fully remote teams
- Work-from-anywhere arrangements
- Compressed work weeks (working 40 hours over four days instead of five)
- Alternative schedule jobs (working second or third shift)
- Temporary work
- Seasonal jobs
- Gig work
As an employer, you can offer your staff one or more of these flexible work options, but keeping track of the different employment statuses and work schedules of your entire staff may seem like too much work for very little return.
However, the benefits of flexible work for companies goes beyond happier employees. Employers that allow their staff the freedom to work a flexible schedule can also find themselves a greener, more profitable, and more desirable company that people want to work for.
What Are the Benefits of Flexible Work for Companies?
To be clear, the above components of workplace flexibility aren’t as straightforward as they might seem. The reality is that even in the most flexible workplace, employers may still have to impose some restrictions on flexible work.
For example, while flexible workers may be able to work whatever hours suit their work style and let them get their work done, you may require that employees work certain “core hours” that overlap with other team members to ensure everyone can make the weekly team meeting or be available for clients in a certain time zone.
That said, there are five ways employers benefit from allowing flexible work schedules for their staff.
1. Improves Retention
Allowing your existing employees to work flexible schedules can help you retain valuable staff. Without a doubt, flexible schedules are one of the most important perks employees want from their employers.
A 2018 survey found that 80% of workers would choose a job that offers a flexible schedule over those that did not. In fact, 30% said that they value flexible work over additional vacation time. And 35% said flexible work is so important to them that they prioritize that over having a more prestigious title or position.
If that’s not enough, consider that a 2017 study found that job seekers are willing to take up to 8% less in salary if it meant they could work for a company that allows flexible work schedules.
This, of course, is not news to us. Our 2019 survey found that 30% of respondents left their job because the company didn’t offer flexible work options, and 16% were on the hunt for a new job due to a lack of flexible options.
Even more telling, 80% of respondents said they’d be more loyal to their employer if they offered flexible work, and 52% said they’d already tried to negotiate flexible work arrangements with their current employer.
Think of it in terms of dollars and cents. The average company’s cost per hire is around $4,000 to recruit, hire, and train one new staff member. Preventing your workforce from leaving because you offer flexible scheduling could reap you significant cost savings in the long run.
2. Attracts Top Talent
Given that many job seekers are more interested in a flexible schedule than other perks, and that flexible work benefits companies as much as it does employees, it stands to reason that offering flexible schedules can help you recruit more top tier talent.
If none of the above convinces you that offering flexible schedules to staff will benefit your company, consider that over the last 10 years, 83% of businesses have already or are planning to offer flexible schedules to their employees.
3. Improves Diversity
If you’re limiting your candidate pool to a single location (or even a few locations), you’ll have a narrower group of candidates. And if you’re in a homogenous locale, your workforce is likely to become less diverse. Even if you pay for relocation, you’re asking candidates to be part of a less diverse community, which could be a turn off and cause you to miss out. A 2019 study found that companies with diverse employees have better performing teams than less diverse organizations. By casting a wide and diverse net, you’re likely to end up with the best candidates possible. Not only will remote work help your company’s diversity, but it will help your bottom line.
4. Increases Productivity
One of the reasons employers often won’t allow staff to work flexibly is that they think if they can’t keep a watchful eye on their employees, they won’t work. However, working flexibly can actually increase employee productivity.
A 2019 survey of remote workers found that, on average, they work 1.4 more days per month than in-office employees. That translates into 16.8 more work days every year. In addition, in-office workers deal with workplace distractions an average of 37 minutes per day, versus the 27 daily minutes a remote employee experiences. Furthermore, when you’re in a flexible environment, it forces managers and leadership to evaluate their employees on what actually matters versus their presence in a physical location. This facilitates a results-oriented culture that emphasizes strong impact and thus, helps the business thrive.
And a study of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) employees backs up these observations. A two-year study found that USPTO staff who were allowed to work from home and work from anywhere were 4.4% more productive than their in-office counterparts.
5. Improves Employee Engagement
Engaged employees are those who understand what their role is and how what they do contributes to the company’s success. One of the ways companies create a culture of engagement is by creating a workplace that empowers and respects employees.
And, you guessed it, one of the best ways to empower your employees and show you respect them is to allow flexible work schedules. When you let people work flexibly, you say that you trust them to get their work done no matter how, when, or where that happens.
This investment pays off over the long run. Employees who are engaged with their jobs tend to perform better than those who are not engaged with their jobs. Engaged employees translates to:
- Fewer missed days of work. Sometimes a staff member is too sick to go to the office but not sick enough that they can’t get some work done. Allowing them to work from home in those circumstances means more work gets completed.
- Less turnover. Staff who work flexible hours are more likely to stay loyal employees because they can balance work and home without feeling like they are letting one or the other (or both!) down.
- Career longevity. Staff who have been around for a long time possess institutional knowledge, but they may no longer want to work full-time or live in a harsh climate. Allowing flexible work means the employee may continue working for you while you retain that “historical” data.
6. Provides a Cost-Efficient and Eco-Friendly Choice
Flexible schedules not only save both employee and employer money, they have a positive impact on the environment, too, and help support the UN’s sustainable development goals.
Employees with flexible schedules may not have to commute to the office every day. This saves them money on commuting expenses, work clothing, and eating lunch out every day. Employers save money on their overhead costs. They can rent a smaller office and use less electricity and water.
These changes also result in a lower carbon footprint for both staff and employer. Because staff aren’t commuting as often (if at all), no matter how they get to the office, they aren’t releasing as many harmful emissions into the atmosphere. And, when employers rent a smaller office and use less water and electricity, they also help reduce their negative impact on the environment.
The Work World Is Changing
Given all the ways that COVID-19 has changed and is still changing the world, it is entirely possible that the pandemic is a tipping point for flexible work.
Families have learned that flexible work can help them balance work and home life. And, employees have found that working at home has its benefits, including the ability to be productive. Employers have also learned that allowing flexible work keeps their company going in the face of an ongoing emergency.
Once the pandemic ends, there’s a good chance that workers aren’t going to want to go back to the “old ways.” The flexible work trend was on the upswing before COVID-19, but it’s become even more commonplace, meaning that job seekers are more likely to choose the job that offers flexible schedules over the one that doesn’t.
Work Smart, Work Flexibly
Flexible schedules benefit both the employer and employee in numerous ways. And though it may represent a massive shift in how you’ve done things before, embracing flexible scheduling now will help you succeed in the future.
FlexJobs has been providing expert advice and consulting on flexible work to companies of every shape and size since 2007. As a company that’s always offered flexible schedules (our team is fully remote!), we know the ins and outs of what works and what doesn’t.