The flexible work arrangement has made its way to the mainstream in the past year. Changes to our work styles have greatly accelerated in 2020 and continue to evolve in 2021. Gone are the days where every business observed the 9-5, Monday-Friday work schedule.
With so many changes to the ways we work in the last year, the question on the minds of organizations everywhere is “Is it time to make these changes permanent?” The response, in a lot of cases, is yes.
We’ve started to see companies like Salesforce and Spotify adopting permanent remote work policies and adding more flexibility to their work hours and paid time off policies. They likely won’t be the only ones.
What does a flexible work arrangement look like?
A flexible work arrangement is more than just the ability for employees to work from home. The goal of a flexible work arrangement is to achieve a better work/life balance. It could be full-time remote work, partial remote/partial office or it may include employees working split shifts or a variant of the typical 9-5.
What should you consider when making the switch to a flexible work arrangement?
Here are 2 key considerations when developing a flexible work arrangement for your business:
Where will your employees do their work? Home, office, wherever there’s an internet connection (when it’s safe to travel more freely)? Perhaps it’s time to rethink your physical office entirely. Does your business need a central office or multiple offices?
For example, if your business is centred in a major urban centre, do most of your employees live in the city or commute from surrounding areas? Do you need to have an office in the downtown core or is there a more affordable option in a different area?
The key here is ensuring your employees have a location (or locations) where they have what they need to do their job.
This could include modified work hours or split shifts to meet an employee’s personal needs. For example, an employee with children may only have access to childcare for part of the business day. In that case, it may benefit them to work while they have childcare but also be able to log in and work in the evenings.
Some employees may also benefit from a compressed work schedule. For some, working 10 hours a day, 4 days a week is more in tune with work habits and personal needs.
While the priority is taking your business needs into account, flexible work hours are a great way to build trust with employees and acknowledge that they have responsibilities outside of work.
How do employers benefit from flexible work arrangements?
While flexible work is often viewed as a major perk for employees, employers can see real benefits from making the switch too.
First, it may seem obvious but happy employees make for a happy and productive workplace. This trickles down to a better customer experience and can have a positive effect on your bottom line.
Next, if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that a lot of the things that seemed impossible on a large scale before can work for businesses. Not only that, but they can be done while maintaining productivity and engagement.
Finally, flexible work arrangements can also help businesses reduce their environmental footprint, commuting times, and operation costs.
Let’s explore these benefits a bit more in-depth:
Changes to your physical work environment can alter your carbon footprint and, overall, help decrease your impact on the environment. For example, if employees are only driving to the office two days a week instead of five, the environmental impact is reduced. Remote work may also see your employees doing more work digitally, reducing the amount of physical resources like paper.
The economics of running a business has changed in the past year. On one hand, businesses like Shopify have added employee allowances for internet service. This may be a new expense but you may also find yourself able to reduce expenditures in other areas (ie: office space). This will reduce your business’ overhead–especially if your core workplace is in a larger metropolis.
Hiring & recruitment
A flexible work arrangement can lead your business to a more diverse workforce and a new talent pool. Moving to a remote-only work arrangement removes restrictions on location. This helps you reach new talent who may have been excluded because of geographical location.
A shorter commute
While this can have an environmental impact with fewer employees commuting, employees also gain more hours in a day with their commute reduced or eliminated altogether. This found time can lead to increased productivity during work hours and provide for better work/life balance.
A flexible work arrangement can cause a shift in hours versus a loss of hours. Employees will have less stress if they know that they can make up hours, have fewer financial impacts, and still have time for doctors appointments, mental health days, or family events.
You may also find that some employees will still want to complete work when off sick, especially if they can remain in the comfort and healing space of home. There may be times when this works but remember to not expect employees to work when they are off sick. Having a detailed and flexible time off policy works hand-in-hand with flexible work.
How Do We Know If a Flexible Work Arrangement is Right for our Business?
A good starting point is determining your level of flexibility. Ultimately, you still want to be able to provide the same quality of service to your customers while also balancing employee needs.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Communication: What methods of communication do we have in place? Do we need to change how we communicate with each other? Is there equipment or software that we should invest in to facilitate this?
- Schedules: How will we coordinate schedules? A flexible work schedule may become more complex as the number of employees increases. You may need a new way to track employee work hours. You will also want to decide if employees will have total control over when and where they complete their hours or will you regulate it with minimum in-office days?
- Equipment: Do we need new equipment? An example of changes to equipment may mean tablets or laptop computers versus desktop computers, ergonomic chairs or desks, or the use of remote-access programs.
- Changes in roles or responsibilities: Do we need to make changes to employee duties and responsibilities? Some duties may become shared by multiple employees or a previously shared role may be taken on by a specific individual. It is important to include these duties and responsibilities in your flexible work arrangement so that neither employee or employer can take advantage of the situation.