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A Guide to Enabling Employee Flexibility

Flexibility in the workplace refers to leaders and employees being able to adapt to continuous changes and challenges. It involves giving employees more freedoms with the caveat that they’ll manage it responsibly. Fostering employee flexibility has many benefits for leaders and employees alike. According to a Cambridge University study, employee flexibility is a “valuable corporate intangible” that helps companies better manage risk. Another study found that giving employees more flexibility increases their performance, leading to better business outcomes.

Being able to quickly adapt to change makes a business more sustainable and enables it to capitalize on trends, current events and customer feedback. Businesses that value flexibility at work empower their workforce and enable them to better manage circumstantial changes. This article covers the benefits of flexibility in the workplace and how to promote it without compromising efficiency.

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What is employee flexibility?

Employee flexibility refers to the ability of employees to adjust their work to better suit their needs. It’s also a measure of how well they can adapt to new challenges and unfamiliar tasks. By factoring in an individual’s unique working style and allowing more flexibility, leaders can capitalize on employee differences. In today’s economy, an increasing number of employees are seeking job flexibility.

Benefits of flexibility in the workplace

Historically, employers have mostly opted for operating under a nine-to-five working schedule. While this has its merits, it comes with the downside of not accommodating differing work styles. When employers don’t offer job flexibility to their staff, it may result in employees being inflexible in return.

In contrast to what many leaders may believe, creating flexibility at work doesn’t just benefit their employees — it benefits them, too. Here are some advantages of promoting a flexible workplace:

1. Adaptability

By encouraging employee flexibility, your business will be better equipped to adapt to continuously changing market trends. It accommodates the fact that requirements are not fixed but are ever-changing. When it comes to fostering flexibility, it works both ways — if employers give their staff more flexibility, they’ll be more open to helping when requirements change or immediate attention is required.

2. Increased employee satisfaction

Many employees find working under a flexible philosophy more fulfilling. While beneficial in itself, it also leads to better business outcomes and higher employee retention. Making efforts to improve employee satisfaction saves you money in the long run. With less turnover, you don’t have to spend extra time and resources training and onboarding new employees.

3. Competitive talent pool

Since many highly skilled people seek job flexibility these days, by offering it, you’ll be more likely to attract top talent. The more skilled or qualified a person is, the more leverage they have in choosing jobs. By not offering enough flexibility, you may risk losing them to competitors who offer a more flexible role.

4. Risk management

Flexibility goes hand-in-hand with adaptability, and because adaptable people are better able to handle unanticipated challenges, they help to reduce general risk for businesses. For this reason, market changes are less threatening for companies that foster a flexible workplace culture.

How to promote employee flexibility

Flexible employees aren’t afraid to take on new tasks and expand their remit. They’re willing to try to solve problems outside the domain of their usual job description. Having employees with this type of open attitude is extremely beneficial. If you want flexible employees, you’ll need to create an environment that promotes that mentality. Here are some ways to promote flexibility in the workplace:

1. Discuss flexible working

It may be worth hosting meetings to discuss the concept of flexible working. Figure out what kind of arrangements your employees want. While it may not be possible to grant every request they have, you may be able to grant them some extra freedoms. Employers can consider making some of the following changes:

  • Allowing remote working
  • Granting a four-day work week
  • Giving them choice over task division
  • Encouraging them to try new types of tasks

Let them know that flexibility is important to you and that it should work both ways. Show them that you’re willing to be lenient on certain things as long as your objectives are met. When employers provide options that help their employees manage their work and personal lives more effectively, they’re more likely to benefit from reciprocal flexibility.

2. Lead by example

Employers that demonstrate a flexible attitude encourage their employees to model that behavior. Show them how being flexible can be more beneficial, fulfilling and productive. Let them see you prioritizing work when the pressure is high but maintaining balance by taking enough breaks when things are less hectic. If you expect them to consistently meet deadlines, make sure you do the same.

3. Recruit for flexibility

Flexibility isn’t just something employers can offer their staff, it’s also a desirable employee attribute. List employee flexibility as an attribute that you’re looking for in job descriptions when recruiting new candidates. Mention that you offer job flexibility in return for a reciprocally flexible, hard-working attitude.

Applicants value the ability to manage their own time, so organizations that offer that can increase the number of applicants for a role. By using robust hiring practices, you can recruit staff that appreciates a two-way flexibility work arrangement.

4. Encourage creativity

Creative thinking helps employees see problems from different angles and come up with innovative solutions. It also allows them to be more adaptable when things don’t go as planned. Moreover, creativity is contagious, and when one person starts thinking outside the box, it can inspire others to do the same.

As a result, encouraging creativity in the workplace can help promote a culture of flexibility and adaptability, setting your business up for success in an ever-changing landscape. You can encourage employees to be more creative by:

  • Asking them to try new tasks
  • Setting the stage for brainstorming
  • Acting on their good suggestions
  • Engaging them in stimulating conversations
  • Practicing creative leadership

While there’s always risk associated with getting employees to try new things, they’ll learn from mistakes and continue improving, making your business stronger and more adaptable.

How to ensure productivity

In a truly flexible workplace, presenteeism is eliminated and everyone focuses on results rather than how many hours they worked. When switching to a more flexible workplace model, leaders can be hesitant and unsure of how to ensure productivity among their employees. This concern isn’t totally unfounded, but luckily, there are a number of ways to ensure that offering flexibility doesn’t compromise productivity:

    1. Set KPIs

    Determine the impact of flexible working practices by conducting a trial run. By implementing measures to gather data, you can identify potential issues. For example, you can set key performance indicators (KPIs) as measures to identify which employees are meeting targets and which are falling behind. This information can be used to provide additional support or coaching to struggling employees.

    2. Be clear about objectives

    Let them know that flexible working only works when goals and objectives are met. Emphasize how much you appreciate it that they’re willing to put in extra effort when it’s needed and that you’re willing to compensate for that extra work when things are quieter. If you’re allowing them to work from home or chose their own hours, communicate deadlines clearly and reinforce their importance.

    3. Schedule regular check-ins

    By regularly checking in on their progress, they’ll naturally feel more motivated to stay on top of their work, so they have positive things to report to you. This can also help you identify who can’t handle the extra responsibility of job flexibility. Regular check-ins are particularly important in the beginning but less so when your team finds its flow.

    4. Use productivity tracking tools

    Tracking tools come in many shades, but they all share one goal: to help employers understand how their employees are spending their time. This information can be used to identify areas where employees are struggling and need additional support, as well as areas where they are excelling.

    Productivity tracking can also help employers develop better policies and procedures for offering job flexibility. This way, employers can ensure that their employees are productive, engaged, and satisfied with their work.

    FAQs about employee flexibility

    How can I measure employee flexibility?

    Collecting employee feedback is a great way to assess whether they perceive conditions as flexible or not. Additionally, when you have a task that spontaneously needs doing, you can assess whether your employees are enthusiastic about it and willing to help. The more willing they are to help when it’s needed, the more flexible they are as an employee.

    How can I ensure employees are still being productive?

    First, be clear about objectives, deadlines and quality expectations. If you set clear goals and let them know that flexibility only works when they consistently meet them, they’ll be motivated to perform well. Additionally, you can use time-tracking software to see how they work and schedule regular check-ins to track progress.

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