Workplace Flexibility is Strategic Imperative: Bring Work-Life into Better Alignment or Look in Mirror and Make a Choice…

Workplace flexibility leads to increased worker commitment and engagement and ultimately business profitability ~Corporate Voices

A strong economy demands a productive and engaged workforce. Workplace flexibility offers a means of achiev­ing this outcome while benefiting both employers, workers.  Workers of all ages, professions, and income levels need workplace flexibility to meet the often competing demands of work and personal life.

A significant number of workers report that they do not have the flexibility they need to succeed at work and still fulfill their personal obligations, whether those are care-giving obligations for a child, spouse partner, parent; volunteering in the community; attending religious services; or obtaining advanced training. Older workers, who often can provide expertise and experience, may require workplace flexibility to remain active in the workforce.

Many employers recognize the pressing need for workplace flexibility and are implementing effective policies and practices to suc­ceed in a competitive economy. But too many others follow dated policies and practices that limit workplace flexibility and do not serve the interests of employers and workers. Flexible work arrangements give workers a fair chance to juggle competing demands of personal life and work successfully, particularly when older workers need to work longer to secure retirement and women’s labor force is on the rise.

In both private and public sector today, we need to deploy the best talent management tools possible– and flexible work arrangements represent one of these tools. Employers and workers must openly discuss mat­ters and develop flexible work arrangements that best meet their respective and mutual needs. 

Also, it’s critical to include creative public policy ideas for flexible work arrangements, as part of a broader economic recovery conversation, so that the new economy will not suffer from the same structural mismatch as old one. Helping to modify our work­places so that flexible work arrangements become part of the norm will advance everyone’s interests…

In the article The Business Case for Workplace Flexibility by abetterbalance.org writes:  Employers who provide flexibility to their workers with regard to where and how the work gets done, can gain a tremendous financial benefit and competitive advantage in today’s economy. Workplace flexibility is a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining workers. A few statistics:

  • Nearly a third of U.S. workers consider work-life balance and flexibility to be the most important factor in considering job offers.
  • A survey of two hundred human resource managers found that two-thirds identified family supportive policies as the single most important factor in attracting and retaining workers.
  • Nearly 80% of the managers surveyed said that workplace flexibility enhances their ability to recruit workers.
  • Flexible work practices reduce stress, the leading cause of unscheduled absences and a factor in high turnover, which costs U.S. employers about $300 billion per year in lost productivity and increased healthcare and replacement expenditures.
  • A study suggests that telecommuting workers find it easier to balance work and family life. Telecommuting alone cuts absenteeism by nearly 60%.
  • In a survey of 150 senior-level corporate executives, 90% said that flexible workplace strategies help organizations to meet business goals.
  • In a two-year study of 1,400 workers; 70% of managers and 87% of workers reported that workplace flexibility increased productivity.

In the article Flexible Work Arrangements: Win-Win for Organizations and Workers by Bridgespan Group writes: Balancing work and personal life is pressing challenge in society today, and the ability to develop work schedules that accommodate the challenge is an extremely attractive proposition for potential workers. Once thought of as solely domain of working mothers, flexible work arrangements are increasingly important to other groups as well, for example; older workers who are considering options for post-retirement work.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 80% of older workers approaching the traditional retirement age expect to continue to work, and a recent survey by Merrill Lynch found that while most older workers want to continue to work, only six percent want to work as full-time workers. According to Laurie Young; flexible work time means thinking about desired outputs rather than face-time. It means opening up options rather than setting limitations.

It’s about strategic hiring, and that might mean; part-time schedules, telecommuting to avoid the inefficiency and stress of a long commute, seasonal contract work, job sharing, compressed work week, or simply flexible full-time work. But, for flexible work arrangements, you don’t think about the structure first; you think about what you want this person or position to accomplish, and then you think creatively about the schedule or structure that will get you the results…

In the article Employers See Benefits of Workplace Flexibility by Ruth Mantell writes: Workplace flexibility, e.g., telecommuting, flexible hours, other worker arrangements– is an idea growing on employers who are trying to grow their companies out of the recession. While the idea of workplace flexibility is familiar, e.g., companies have been working for years on strategies to enable workers to have some say over when, where they work– it becomes, however, more appealing for firms looking to retain workers stressed by higher productivity demands, and attract those searching for a better spot…

Workers are maxed out, says Kyra Cavanaugh. Companies just can’t get anymore productivity out of workers coming out of the recession, and they are starting to leave their workplace. People are fed up. Market forces are making flexibility a more strategic alternative to some of the other ways that companies used to manage growth. Longer-term trends may also push firms to adopt more flexible policies.

Women continue to obtain high levels of education, incentivizing them to remain in the workforce, and creating demand from families for increased flexibility. Also, there’s evidence that younger workers, who will make up a large chunk of the workforce as baby boomers retire, place more emphasis on the work product, rather than hours spent in a cubicle.

According to a 2010 report; benefits of flexible work arrangements are; less absentee and turnover, improved worker health and productivity– can outweigh costs. Coming out of the recession, Cavanaugh says; she is seeing companies shifting to more structured policies about the flexible workplace, and away from one-off arrangements for individuals. The key with flexibility from cost and function perspective for workers and managers is to make sure it works for both parties…

Workplace flexibility is a strategic business tool that benefits both employers and workers. Some of the best workers are leaving business because of ‘rigid rules’; changes are needed to help workers reduce stress and stay engaged while still meeting and exceeding their goals.

According to Ellen Galinsky; it’s a results-based work environment that says; you can work whenever and wherever you want, and when you’re most productive and most engaged, and we will adjust the culture; but what really matters are results. Oftentimes, flexibility is viewed as a benefit that only professional or high-salaried workers receive. This need-not be the case; hourly or shift-based workers are often the people who need workplace flexibility, most. Just like flexibility can benefit businesses with large numbers of salaried workers flexibility can also benefit businesses that depend on hourly workers…

According to a Hudson survey; nearly a third (29%) of U.S. workers considers work-life balance and flexibility to be most important factor in considering job offers. Compensation matters, of course, but it finished second (23%) behind lifestyle when workers were asked to name the primary reason they accepted their current positions. Money will always be important to people, but in this age of Internet powered remote access where there are so many virtual options, workers place a much higher premium on flexible work arrangements, says Robert Morgan.

As the pool of qualified candidates shrinks, it seems that employers can compete more effectively for talent if they can offer work-life balance to go along with the competitive pay…

According to Laurie Young; workplace flexibility is important to many different groups. Working mothers remain the most prominent group when we talk about part-time and flexible arrangements, but fathers are also becoming more likely to want some flexibility, as are both men and women with elder care issues… The economy has changed– it’s much more global, companies no longer operate only 9-to-5, the costs of commuting are high, and technology makes it easy to be productive anywhere, anytime.

Meanwhile, the labor market is getting tighter again, especially the skilled labor market. So the combination of individual needs and economic realities leads to greater willingness to pursue and accept a variety of flexible arrangements. Clearly, workers benefit from flexible arrangements, but what are the benefits for employers? This is a huge win-win situation for employers; especially in this economy as labor market tightens and skilled labor pool shrinks– who need to think about how best to attract and retain talented workers.

We know workers in flexible arrangements are happier, more productive, and more loyal to employers. For employers, flexible work is about output rather than face-time and performance rather than an  arbitrary 9-to-5 block of time.

Employers must realize that this is a strategic way to attract talented, experienced, committed workers; conversely to lose them, if they are not willing to be flexible… Those who embrace workplace flexibility will have significant competitive advantage over those who do not…

There is no such thing as work-life balance… there are only work-life choices and you make them; but, they also have consequences… ~Jack Welch