‘Flexible’ over ‘Fixed’ Culture!

By Swati Kungwani

Business owners have a tough time managing and engaging their employees with a 9-to-5 schedule. To run the business profitably, a company has goals and it pays their employees to work their best foot forward and contribute to the growth. It’s give-and-take for the owners and the employees. That’s how we describe the relationship between business owners, organisation and the employees working for them. This post helps the business leaders to understand the increasing preference of flexible schedules and its impact on running a business.

For a business owner, employees are the assets who can take the organization to the next level of success. If the employees are able to deliver the performance, they are in for more growth and success. If not, they may have to seek an alternative. Sometimes, this can come at the cost of stress, missing important occasions, leaving your passion, being over-occupied, being unable to pay attention to your family, friends, etc. leading to an imbalanced work-life. This imbalance and a hectic schedule have led the business owners to think beyond the ‘Fixed’ schedules and consider the freedom of ‘Flexible’ schedules.

According to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—Mexico, despite having the world’s longest average work week at 41.2 hours (including full-time and part-time workers) had the least productive outcome. On the other hand, Luxembourg emerged as the most productive country with an average workweek of only 29 hours.

These statistics clearly show that there is no harm in considering flexible work arrangements for your workforce. But, it is better to gain knowledge about the flexible structures, its implications, impact on business and employees profiles.

Why companies are afraid of giving this freedom of flexibility?

As they say; with great power comes a great responsibility. Business owners have a fear of losing the track of their employees, their commitment and their performance. They believe that once the employees have the power to work according to their convenience, they may take undue advantage of this freedom. There is a fear of employees misusing the flexible schedules leading to the waste of time and money without any positive outcome.

Business leaders hesitate because of the lack of proper strategies. It is true that not all job profiles can offer a flexible schedule to the employees. But, there can be variations to suit the employees’ demands. There can be various degrees of flexibility. It is necessary to at least create a culture of trust with a slight change in the arrangements with the use of right technology. The idea is to create a win-win situation for both- the employees and the business with flexible schedules.

What are the main benefits of flexible work arrangements?

Well, if a company takes good care of its employees and their needs, there are higher chances that they will put their best foot forward to deliver a flawless experience to the customers and achieve the business targets. Happy employees are more engaged. They will contribute in a true sense rather than being forced. Listing a few benefits of flexible schedules-

Work-Life Balance

Maintaining work and personal life in a balanced way is on the top priority for millennials. One of the most crucial drivers of the ‘FlexSchedules’ is integrated work and life. For instance, being able to attend your child’s sports match, being there for your ill parents, be present in your friend’s promotion party or pursuing your hobby classes instead of missing it will definitely make you grateful. The statistics in WEF’s report show the increasing preference for work-life balance-

Let us consider one such example of ‘The Five-Hour Workday’ strategy by Collins SBA. Since February 2017, it has been allowing its employees and managers to work five-hour days. They get paid for “full-time” even when they leave at 2 p.m. if they’ve completed their work. Jonathan Elliot, managing director of Collins SBA believes that the incentive to leave early has created a culture of getting things done. Employees are impatient with anyone who wastes their valuable time, and they work as teams to find the best and quickest ways to get their work completed without sacrificing quality. And their sick leave dropped by 12%.

When a company allows their employees to pay attention to their personal lives too, they are able to meet the demands of their families and social circle. They have less personal stress which leads to a focused approach at work.

Autonomy and Sharing

Job-sharing allows the companies to split a full-time job into two part-time jobs with a flexible work arrangement. The idea is to recruit talented people and adhere to their personal needs. It requires caution. But, communication and collaboration can be helpful. The work output doesn’t suffer while the employees have their share of personal and professional growth. Job sharing allows splitting the responsibility according to pre-agreed terms and outcome. Thus, it will require lesser attention from the company’s side.

The U.S. federal government offers job sharing opportunities within its departments. The aim is to offer flexible employment and simultaneously help the employees in taking care of their families, pursuing education, or giving time to the other spheres of life.

Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI) explains in its guide to agile working, “Where employees are given the autonomy and empowerment to choose where and when they work, as long as their job can be done, a culture is created that removes the artificial measures of success, such as time and attendance, and focuses on results and performance.” Allow the employees to be responsible for their work.

Reduced Expenses

Offices are attractive, but they also lead to heavy costs. Maintaining an office incurs huge expenses in the form of infrastructure, electricity, network, amenities, facilities, extra resources, etc. Freeing the employees from the cubicles will not only promote creativity but also help a company to save on some costs.

Offering flexibility in the form of telecommuting also leads to greater savings for an organization. According to an estimate, it helps to achieve around $11,000 annual savings per telecommuting employee. These savings are in the form of the reduced carbon footprint for each remote-worker. It also contributes to sustainability. Besides that, a poll of 1,500 technology professionals revealed that 37% would take a pay cut of 10% if they could work from home.

Employees working on their own don’t engage in office gossips. They don’t just come to the office to gaze at a clock and move out. Instead, they know the value of their time and resources. A company’s investment in the form of technology to connect employees is worth than an office set-up. For instance, Mobile Worker app for the field workers helps a company to track their workforce and also allow them to update their task status without having to spend time and fuel to commute to the office.

Employee Engagement and Retention

Engaging employees has become more than necessary. Considering the costs involved in recruiting and training the new employees, it is better to retain the existing employees because they know your business, customers and product. And, to engage them, a business must ensure that the employees are happy.

In a recent survey by recruiting company Hays, flexible working options were “very important” or “important” for 89% of employers for staff attraction and retention. 33% of the professionals said flexibility influenced their decision to work for an employer and stick to it. 63% said it was “nice to have,” while only 4% said flexible work was not important.

Companies proposing flexible schedules are able to attract and retain efficient workforce who in turn promise to produce better results. They are willing to do their work without any compulsion or forced supervision that follows the clock. Nick Gray, founder & CEO of Museum Hack, a fully-remote company, feels that it is empowering for the employees to have the flexibility of choosing their own hours and work locations leading to highly effective results.

Customer Experience

Giving a flexible work environment directly affects employees’ absenteeism. They are more inclined to work and support the business growth. It means that they are more willing to give a better experience to the customers because they are happy with the company taking care of their needs.

The results of  “Flexible: Friend or Foe?” study carried out by Vodafone included over 8,000 employers and employees. 61% of those surveyed, reported increased profits and 83% reported improved productivity as a result of the flex work options.

Actually, flexible schedules prompt employees to work longer and extend their time whenever required. It helps a business to attend to its customers’ needs with employees’ support. Companies make use of policies like unlimited vacations, mandatory leave, half days when there is lesser work, and allow the employees to govern their work schedule and arrangements. In turn, the employees are ready to meet the deadlines and keep the customers happy at any cost.

The Future is Flexible!

In the recent Future Workforce Small Business Report 2018, Upwork found that in the next 10 years, small businesses predict that 35% of their employees will work predominantly remotely. 58% of workers showed a greater interest in embracing flexible work arrangements. Clearly, the future will see more business owners taking the flexible approach to retain the talent and meet the demands of the new-age workforce.

Swati Kungwani is the Project and Comms Mannger at iTouchVision, a UK-based customer service platform. She specialises in customer experience management and driving new project initiatives. Connect with her on Linkedin. Join iTouchVision’s social network: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

Flexible worker stock photo by Ralf Geithe/Shutterstock