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Empowering Freelance Workers

Flexibility in the Workplace Is No Longer an Anomaly

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., CEO of the Society for Human Resource, explains why flexibility is the future of the workplace.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.

CEO, The Society for Human Resource

How is the workforce changing in terms of flexibility and work-life balance?

We’re hearing more companies call it “work-life fit” or “work-life integrations” rather than “balance,” because it is more descriptive of what we, as employers, are supporting through our flexibility policies.

“Balance” implies that work and personal life are two discrete worlds competing against each other in a zero-sum game. But increasingly, employees are seeking a lifestyle that unifies and integrates them both. For many younger employees, when and where work gets done is less important than what gets done — the work itself. This is especially true for the millennial generation, which comprises nearly half of today’s workforce.

Employers are responding to this shift towards greater flexibility. According to Society for Human Resource’s (SHRM) 2019 Employee Benefits Survey, remote work continues to rise in popularity and, in turn, telecommuting of all types is increasing. Ad-hoc telecommuting is offered by a large majority of organizations (69 percent in 2019), and more than one in four organizations now offer full-time telecommuting.

How can companies ensure they are staying competitive when it comes to offering work-flexibility initiatives?

Organizations need to understand that employees expect flexibility. And that expectation will only grow stronger as technology continues to make remote work increasingly seamless.

To meet these employee wants and needs, employers should survey staff to understand what works best for both their culture and operations. Employers should also check their competitors’ benefits and consider how offering increased flexibility might improve recruitment and retention.

Today’s record-low unemployment rate means employers must work harder than ever to attract and retain quality workers. There are more jobs than qualified workers today, so applicants can be more selective than ever, and current employees can weigh their options. That makes flexible work policies a critical tool for American businesses to compete for top talent.

After all, flexibility policies are great ways to remind employees that they are valued.

Why is the work-life balance so important to today’s modern workforce?

In today’s workplaces, employers and employees alike require more flexibility to meet their unique needs. Currently, there are five generations at work, each with its own reasons for wanting more flexibility.

At one end of the age spectrum, younger workers are getting degrees and starting families; at the other, older workers are caring for aging parents, and perhaps looking for less demanding schedules as they approach retirement.

These different stages of life do not fit neatly into a 9-to-5, Monday through Friday work week.

Add to that, in 2020, Generation Z, will start graduating from college and joining the workforce. They are used to remote everything, from classwork to dating to grocery shopping, so work is another dimension of life they’ll expect to digitize.

Have you seen a correlation between productivity levels and work flexibility?

More research needs to be done. However, employers have reported higher productivity and lower staff turnover after implementing flexible work policies. SHRM was a partner in a 2016 study that had some interesting findings: Employees in more effective and flexible workplaces are more likely to have greater levels of engagement in their jobs and higher levels of job satisfaction. Meanwhile, nine percent of employers cited increased productivity as a reason for developing flexible work arrangements.

What resources can companies utilize when looking to implement new employee initiatives like telecommuting or teleworking?

SHRM provides numerous resources that can help employers asses the opportunities and challenges of implementing workplace flexibility policies.

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