In the last five years, the business landscape has evolved rapidly. We have entered an era of increasing opportunities and complexity where workplace flexibility has become a must. The tools that made it possible to overcome quarantine conditions and expand international business networks have also caused a change in the way business is conducted. The concept of a traditional 9-5 has given way to a more dynamic and adaptive approach to both scheduling and work locations.
In a time where it is just as easy to work from home as from a hotel anywhere in the world, flexibility in the workplace has taken a prominent role in employee satisfaction and overall business resilience. Workplace flexibility is no longer just a perk, it has become a necessity.
This blog will delve into the practicalities of implementing a flexible work model, along with its potential challenges. Step into the future of work with us as we explore the many facets of workplace flexibility and its critical role in shaping a more dynamic, responsive, and human-centric business landscape.
The Evolution of Workplace Flexibility
The journey to workplace flexibility has been long and hard-won. Let's start with an interesting timeline as we follow business norms, trends, and global events that led us to where we are today in regard to scheduling and location flexibility.
A Foundation of Presence and Predictability
For centuries, really thousands of years, work was dependent on presence and predictability. People needed to be present to do their jobs and set schedules were required to know that someone would be available when they were needed. Even after computers and networks overtook the business world, most networks were local and physical presence was necessary to access business resources at a hosted workstation.
Hybrid and Remote Work as a Privilege
Even long after internet and portable technology introduced the ability to work from home, most businesses were hung up on the idea that productivity hinged on presence. While hybrid and remote work existed, it was considered an executive-level privilege and doled out sparingly - or used as a way to attain outsourced services without making room in the office.
As cellphones, laptops, and early cloud platforms were introduced, some businesses and individual professionals adapted to the newfound mobility. Work while traveling became easier, and 24-7 availability introduced working from home even if professionals came into the office every day. Some industries adopted mobile technology rapidly to enable employees greater mobility while others staunchly resisted migrating off their secured onsite-only business networks.
The War for Talent, Wellness, and Work-Life Balance
In the years before the pandemic, however, the tides began to turn. Studies revealed that being tethered to an office chair all day posed health problems. The newest generation of workers who had seen their parents give up everything for stressful jobs were prioritising work-life balance. But more importantly in terms of change, the War for Talent began as the demand for highly skilled professionals began to outpace the supply. As enticing employee packages became more of a priority in negotiations, wellness and work-life balance - and their relationship with flexible workplace policies, began to take prominence.
It should be noted that during this time, digital migration was still a problem for many older companies who were dragging their heels about technological development even as Azure and AWS built build their cloud-hosting empires.
Quarantine and the Emergency Shift to Remote Work
Then the pandemic happened. Suddenly, millions of professionals needed to quarantine and businesses that had sworn up and down about the inefficiency of at-home work were suddenly connecting via Zoom and sharing documents through Google Workspace just to stay afloat.
What mattered most, however, is that they did stay afloat. Most businesses that made a rapid remote-work transition survived and - in fact - thrived as they discovered that people working from home often achieve greater productivity (and job satisfaction) due to the ability to control their own flexible work environment and daily schedule.
Cloud Technology Introduces Global Access and Freedom
Once the remote-work cat was out of the bag, cloud technology took off like a rocket. Businesses rapidly adopted cloud-migration. New companies were founded on cloud-based infrastructure. On this foundation, it became possible to connect remote employees to business resources and collaborate on projects from anywhere. Not only did the cloud migration unlock endless remote work possibilities, it also made it possible for employees to travel and work freely, and for companies to hire global remote talent without relocation.
Combining travel, working at home, and global partners was the last step in decoupling routine business from the 9-5 schedule.
The Great Migration/Resignation and Flexible Work Revolution
Lastly, there is the post-pandemic workforce response. What some call the Great Resignation, others see as the Great Migration. New possibilities and priorities unearthed during the quarantine phase led many people to leave toxic or poorly adapted businesses and seek better opportunities with companies that have adopted positive, purpose-driven, and flexible workplace policies.
Why Workplace Flexibility Matters
Workplace balance makes a significant difference in recruitment, in team-building, and in individual employee experiences. The benefits of workplace flexibility touch on nearly every aspect of business health and growth.
Increase Employee Satisfaction and Engagement
Enforcing rigid schedule policies only works for some people some of the time. Providing flexibility in scheduling and location allows employees to create situations where they acheive greater satisfaction, which leads to greater employee engagement with the job.
An employee who has time to get their kids to school or daycare can focus on work instead of worrying about the family. Disabled professionals can more easily make an accessible office at home than asking for accommodation at corporate headquarters. Flexibility even makes it easier to handle emergencies because there are already structures in place that adapt to changing conditions.
Better Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is how employees are able to lead personal lives in addition to their work life. Work-life flexibility makes it possible for employees to spend more time at home on their personal life and to fit their working hours around other demands. An employee with a spouse who works the night shift might choose different hours from a parent whose child is at school from 7-3 every day. Those who travel can even enjoy their adventures and tune in for work using the same flexible structure.
Enhance Productivity and Efficiency
One thing the quarantine remote-work era revealed is that many people are more productive and efficient when they can define their own flexible schedules. Night-owls work better at night, while others are more productive in the early morning or late afternoon. Allowing your team to define their best schedules and environment will lead to minimised distraction and greater dedication to the work, not less, in most cases.
Workplaces that decouple their operations from a central location also ensure business continuity. For example, should a disaster or power outage render the company office space inaccessible, cloud resources and remote employees can keep the business running. It becomes possible to pick up and move locations rapidly, to set up at new job-sites and engage with new clients without a hitch. And if corporate headquarters moves 100,000 miles away, anyone who can't relocate can transition to remote work, instead.
Greater Talent Attraction and Retention
Lastly, flexible work policies are in high demand. Companies are still competing for top talent, and workplace flexibility is a big selling point. Some people can or will only work remotely, some want a hybrid schedule. Some need the ability to work around medical treatments, family events, or take mental health days. Companies with the flexibility to accommodate personal working styles will be much more appealing to top talent and able to keep the best talent on staff.
Implementing Workplace Flexibility
How can your business implement workplace flexibility to enjoy the many benefits and increase your desirability as an employer? Consider how your workflow and business model can adapt to less strict hours, leave, and location policies in ways that enhance productivity while avoiding the risk of losing focus.
Types of Workplace Flexibility
There are many ways to implement flexible work arrangements and create a truly flexible workplace. Here are the tpes of flexible working that can encourage employees to build their own flexible arrangements and achieve greater wellbeing through the freedom to attend to personal needs.
Allow employees to move their shift to a different slot during the day to suit their best hours or other time demands.
Remote and Hybrid Work
Allow employees to work remotely all the time or some of the time. Remote work can be from anywhere in the world while hybrid work still requires employees to live in commute distance.
Allow employees to split a role and cover for each other.
Business Travel and Working Vacations
Provide employees with the opportunity to travel or allow them to work remotely while they travel for pleasure.
Soft Leave Policies
Restructure leave policies to ensure employees get the time they need and work better with a more flexible system.
Steps for Implementing Flexible Work Policies
You can implement greater flexibility in the workplace by maintaining a flexible mindset and building policies that support more flexible work arrangements.
Decouple Schedules from Productivity
Evaluate productivity based on work completed, total hours worked, and deadlines met rather than specific hours spent in the office. It's easier to stop worrying about schedules when you can assess a team's success based on their work production.
Enable Remote Access and Collaboration
Provide the tools and support necessary for employees to connect, work, and collaborate remotely. Better tools will lead to greater efficiency as flexible policies are implemented.
Bring the Team Together
Schedule routine team meetings and collaboration sessions to unite a more dispersed team. Creating weekly check-in meetings and set times for synchronous teamwork will help everyone on different schedules and in different locations retain the benefits of teamwork.
Implement Feedback and Improvement
Monitor success and ask for feedback. Then make improvements to your flexible system based on the results.
Potential Challenges and Solutions
Some roles require coverage during specific hours of the day. Do your best to provide flexibility around these schedule-based and sometimes location-based requirements.
Fairly Granting Equal Flexibility
Create flexible work policies that ensure everyone gets equal consideration and that no policy is abused by or denied to any particular employee.
Tracking and Transparency
When you decouple schedules from productivity, replace the old schedule system with time-tracking and activity-tracking to maintain transparency and the ability to evaluate progress.
Remote Work Security
Take additional cybersecurity measures to ensure remote employees have the same data security protections as those working on-site. Provide secure routers or hotspots, company devices, security technical support, and industry-specific precautions so that work at home or traveling is secured.
The Future of Workplace Flexibility
Workplace flexibility has already unlocked more potential than most employers five years ago could have foreseen. Professionals with family obligations or medical handicaps that would have kept them out of the workplace can now work freely from home. People traveling with a partner can attend work meetings and clock in their hours remotely. It is possible to recruit top talent across the globe because relocation is no longer a necessity in many roles and industries.
As cloud technology and mobile devices are fully embraced, businesses will continue the trend of becoming location-agnostic. As workplace wellness, employee well being, work-life balance, and a compressed workweek yield greater productivity - not less - we will see employers becoming partners in lifestyle creation rather than edifices to be worked around.
Workplace flexibility paired with consumer trends like mobile shopping and hybrid AR experiences will unlock a future more adaptive than even the futurists of fictional writing have envisioned.
Adapting to the changing business landscape means embracing workplace flexibility, and that's where Shiftbase comes into the picture. As a comprehensive workforce management software, Shiftbase makes it possible to create adaptable schedules, track time efficiently, and manage absences effectively, all of which are vital in implementing a flexible work model. Whether your team is working from the office, home, or halfway around the globe, Shiftbase helps you stay on top of productivity and maintain a harmonious work environment.
Ready to embrace the future of work? Sign up for a 14-day free trial of Shiftbase and discover how workplace flexibility can revolutionize your business.