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6 Upsides to Flexible Work Environments

As recruiters, we ask all of our candidates what they ideally look for in their next roles, from salary and location to company size and job title. What we find is that an overwhelming number of people say one of their most important issues is flexibility, whether that’s allowing opportunities to work from home, work part-time or shift hours as needed.

More and more people nationwide are working remotely, even as some major companies such as Bank of America, Best Buy, and Yahoo have scaled back their work-from-home programs, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report. The study showed that 43 percent of employees worked at least some of the time in a location different from that of their coworkers, up from 39 percent in 2012. In addition, 31 percent were spending more of their time—at least 80 percent—working remotely, up from 24 percent in 2012.

In fact, 68% of workers surveyed by PwC say they expect their work futures to include flexible hours and working remotely on scheduled days. As a hiring manager or employer, it’s important to know that offering work flexibility not only can help you attract top candidates, but it also has been shown to improve employee well-being and retention, making it a win-win for everyone.

Here are six important ways a flexible environment can help your business:

Improved time management. Allowing employees to find an optimal work-life balance by structuring work in flexible ways makes it easier for them to manage responsibilities and meet deadlines. It makes it less likely that stress from one area of their life will spill over into another area and increases job satisfaction.

It also reduces the possibility of turnover. Consider this: The Gallup poll showed that similar numbers of employees (51%) say they would change jobs for one that offered them flextime, and 37% would do the same for a job that offered them the ability to work where they want at least part of the time.

Expanded hiring opportunities. By offering flexible or remote work, you’ll find a new pool of diverse talent is available for your consideration. That includes stay-at-home parents, retired professionals, and individuals with disabilities, among others.

Increased productivity. The traditional 9-to-5 schedule doesn’t necessarily align with everyone’s most productive hours, and no one enjoys a rush hour commute. Giving your employees greater control over their schedule allows them to spend more time focused on their work.

Individuals who work from their home are actually more productive than those in the office (and reported a higher job satisfaction), according to a 2014 study by the Harvard Business Review. That was partly due to a quieter environment, fewer distractions, and (surprisingly) longer working hours, particularly for older workers, married workers, and working parents.

“They started earlier, took shorter breaks, and worked until the end of the day. They had no commute. They didn’t run errands at lunch,” according to Professor Nicholas Bloom, who co-directed the study. “Sick days for employees working from home plummeted.”

Decreased absenteeism. When employees are free to shift the hours they work, they can take care of personal commitments (e.g. medical appointments, children’s programs) without having to leave an office early, come in late or (worse yet) take the whole day off. That flexibility helps them to stay on top of their workload without short-changing what you need them to do.

Higher morale. Building more autonomy into your work environment creates a sense of trust that, in turn, contributes to your workforce having a greater sense of loyalty. You are counting on them to use their flexibility wisely, and smart workers will recognize that and rise to the challenge.

More happiness, better health. Flexibility at work puts less pressure on employees, helping to avoid burnout and allowing employees to truly rest when they are sick and return to work faster. It also allows workers to more successfully manage their physical and mental health needs.

Reshaping your business culture

“Creating a flexible work environment isn’t easy. It requires company leaders to look at the big picture and focus on how to get the best work done, not just what’s on a timesheet or who is at their desk every day at 9 a.m. on the dot,” says Forbes contributor Julie Koepsell, managing director of the digital agency Mirum Minneapolis.

It’s important to clarify goals and choose the right people, technology, and policies to make it work. Overall, a flexible environment helps your employees manage the demands of both their work and personal lives, increases productivity, and boosts morale and loyalty across the board.

In our time-driven, digitally connected culture, try asking how you can restructure your work environment to produce the same (or better) results with a healthier work culture and a more motivated staff. It’s worth it.