Flexibility makes sense — and cents

It doesn’t take a scientist to understand why a “flexible” work schedule might be advantageous to an employee.

For one thing, a flexible schedule can eliminate a long commute once or twice a week, allowing a mom or dad working at home to participate in the daily lives of their children, whether it’s at school or on the playing field. And that’s just one of many advantages for an employee.

What’s not as obvious is why that sort of arrangement might be a good move for an employer. After all, doesn’t that sort of schedule imply that the employee is doing less, since they are not at work?

The fact is, a properly managed flexible schedule policy can mean more motivated and productive employees who will stay with a company longer. I call it “responsible flexibility.”

Let me explain.

First, it’s important to understand that flexible schedules aren’t just a trend that’s here today and gone tomorrow. The shift has been under way for several years, thanks to technology advances that make it easier than ever to work effectively from a remote location.

European businesses are well ahead of the U.S. when it comes to flexible work arrangements. So far ahead that a March (2012) survey of more than 1,000 Chief Information Officers, conducted by Vanson Bourne for Citrix, revealed that 83 percent of businesses believe it increases employee productivity. Think about that: 8 out of 10 businesses think offering a flexible schedule will create a more productive employee.

Research from iPass, the Mobile Workforce Report, from August (2012) shows that employers have another good financial reason to support flexible scheduling: 33 percent of the 3,100 employees it surveyed worldwide would consider looking for employment elsewhere in search of better mobile working benefits.

“Employee turnover is a significant expense for any company,” said Barbara Nelson, CTO at iPass in the study, who added that flexibility also helps reduce absenteeism. “The cost to rehire a third of your workforce would clearly cause most companies to fail.”

Flexible scheduling isn’t just about creating out-of-office opportunities for full-time staff. Many highly qualified candidates only want part-time or short-term contract work. This is good news for employers who need to keep a close eye on the bottom line when it comes to staffing. Instead of keeping a large full-time staff, they can create a pool of employees who prefer short-term work to help handle big projects that arise and seasonal increases in work.

Employers could even save money on employee salaries if they’re willing to provide a flexible workplace. According to a “Labor Day Survey” conducted by Harris Interactive, nearly one in two working adults (45 percent) would give up some percentage of their salary for more flexibility at work. Specifically, working adults would be willing to forego 8.6 percent of salary for flexibility. And more than half (53 percent) think they would get more work done if they had the ability to work from home occasionally.

Think about it: Businesses with a flexible employment strategy have the opportunity to produce more productive and loyal employees, while at the same time reducing the bottom line cost of staffing.

Responsible flexibility: What are you waiting for?

Categories: Management & Leadership