- Employees want both location and schedule flexibility, but they value flexible schedules the most.
- Create flexible policies that balance your business needs and your employees’ needs. If you can’t offer total flexibility, look for areas where you can make policies a little more flexible for workers. Some are better than none when it comes to flex policies.
- Flexible work conditions provide a range of benefits for both employees and employers.
Flexible work options are a dealbreaker for employees
Employees wanting flexible work conditions isn’t a new thing.
In 2016, 62% of workers said they would turn down a job that didn’t offer any flexibility. But in 2016, it was still an employer’s market. If workers left because they weren’t happy with company policies, plenty of candidates were available to replace them.
That’s not the case anymore. Now employees hold all the cards.
Companies are scrambling to attract and retain talent, and workers can ask for what they’ve always wanted: flexible work policies. This bucks tradition, so it’s easy to understand why some organizations might see giving in to flex demands as losing valuable control. But there’s a better way to look at it.
Here’s what can happen when employers move to flexible work options:
- Improve recruitment. 95% of employees say they want flexibility at work. Updating your policies to accommodate this is an inexpensive way to massively improve your company’s appeal to job candidates.
- Reduce turnover. Policies that cater to workers’ needs create an unbeatable employee experience, ensuring workers want to stay with your company long-term.
- Increase productivity. When employees can skip their long, stressful commutes, they have more energy to put into their work. 43% of workers report that flexible work hours enabled them to be more productive.
- Reduce sick days. Flexible policies give employees more opportunities to spend time with family or focus on their mental and physical well-being. This healthier work-life balance can help reduce the number of days an employee can’t work due to illness.
- Repurpose real estate or downsize. Flex policies often come with office design or real estate changes. Dedicated desks can be repurposed into collaborative or social spaces. You may even find that you can reduce your real estate footprint and net huge savings on office space.
To help your company move in the right direction, we’ll break down the differences between flexible and hybrid policies and explore three companies getting flex right.
Flex and hybrid work aren’t the same
There’s some confusion around the terms “flexible” and “hybrid” work. It’s important to understand the distinctions because one is more highly sought after than the other. Future Forum has the numbers — 78% of workers want location flexibility (aka hybrid), and 95% want schedule flexibility.
- Focused on location flexibility only
- Employees split their work between the office and another location, typically a home office or coworking space
- Employers dictate location flexibility rather than the employees
Example of a hybrid policy: A company decides to allow employees to work from home on Mondays and Fridays.
Why it falls short: While this is more flexible than not having a work-from-home option, it still doesn’t fall into the realm of the true flexibility employees want. With this policy, workers have to customize their schedules to fit the rule rather than have the leeway to choose what works best for them.
- Empowers employees to customize their schedules to suit their individual needs
- Often includes flexibility for location as well
- Takes an employee-first approach wherever possible
Example of a flexible policy: A company adopts a results-only work environment (ROWE), meaning an employee’s performance is based on their results rather than how many hours they worked.
Why it works: ROWE provides the ultimate flexibility for employees. They can choose when, where, and how to do their best work. Each individual’s schedule and preferences can be met, meaning everyone is satisfied.
4 great flex policy examples from companies doing it right
1. Treat employees as individuals
Sodexo prioritizes the work-life balance, and their flex philosophy is to go with the FLOW. FLOW, which stands for Flexibility Optimizes Work, is Sodexo’s version of ROWE. The policy allows employees to choose their work hours and locations based on individual needs. The company encourages managers to keep open lines of communication, so employees always feel comfortable asking for what they need or sharing feedback.
For Sodexo, flexible work policies have clear company benefits. Their website states that “when employers demonstrate respect in this way, employees gain a greater sense of well-being, which enables higher levels of engagement, loyalty, and productivity.”
2. Have comprehensive and easy-to-understand guidelines
Moving from a traditional work model to a flexible one is a big change, and it can lead to confusion and stress if it’s not done right. MIT avoids misunderstandings about its flex policies by having clear, documented guidelines for employees. The document identifies who approves flex work arrangements, expectations for productivity, and special considerations such as what employees should do if they’re working alone on site.
3. Create reasonable limits based on your business needs
Every business is different, and it’s okay if yours can’t adopt a policy as flexible as Sodexo’s FLOW. There is room for some flexibility in almost every company. San Mateo County is a great example of finding ways to cater to employees’ flexibility needs without disrupting business services.
San Mateo County was way ahead of the hybrid and flex work curve, with memos about alternate work policies dating back to 1985. While it’s clear they’re fully on board with the flex work revolution, the organization has limits in place to ensure their business needs are met such as maintaining office hours for customers. They encourage departments to create “core” hours where employees must be in the office. Outside of these hours, workers can customize their schedules to suit their needs.
4. Think beyond basic schedule flexibility
San Mateo County is also notable for its voluntary time off (VTO) option. This program lets employees reduce their work hours between 1% and 20% and adjusts their pay accordingly. Employees can request VTO for any reason, whether it’s to care for a sick family member or take a personal enrichment class. This flex option allows employees to reduce their workloads when needed without losing their jobs.
Employees want control
Many companies have embraced hybrid work models as a way to offer employees more flexibility. While that’s a great start, it falls short of reaching the level of flexibility workers really want. Employees want to have at least some control over their work hours so that they can create healthier work-life balances and work when they’re at their best. Organizations that cater to this can expect to see just as many benefits as their workers do.