Why Flexible Work Is No Longer Just a Generous Perk

Once considered a generous perk, flexible work  — where employees are given the ability to shift their hours or work remotely for better work-life balance — has taken on new meaning and relevance. More companies are implementing policies that provide employees with flexible work environments. Why? Annie Dean, Founder of Werk, put it best when she told a group of talent leaders, “The war for talent is over: talent won.”
When she presented at Talent Connect 2018, Annie addressed the idea of flexible work policies not as a pie in the sky possibility, but as a necessity — especially if employers want to continue attracting top talent, increasing workplace retention, and improving their employer brand.
In fact, flexible work is one of the top four ideas shaping the future of HR and hiring in our Global Talent Trends 2019 Report. In the report, we found that in just the last two years, there’s been a 78% increase in job posts on LinkedIn that mention work flexibility. Clearly, employers are taking notice, and many are making adjustments where they can to provide more flexible arrangements.

Flexible work can mean many things

In her presentation, Annie explained that flexible work doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. It can come in many different shapes to fit your company’s needs. She classified the various options into six categories, including:
1. Totally remote — working from anywhere, anytime.
2. Location and hour variety — based out of a company office, but can work at a location of their choosing some of the time.
3. Freedom to adapt — the ability to step away from work to accommodate the unexpected.
4. Unconventional hours — shifting the workday to optimize productivity and performance, such as avoiding rush hour commutes.
5. Minimal travel — utilizing virtual meetings to minimize travel requirements.
6. Reduced workload — finding someone with the skills necessary to efficiently meet performance objectives on a reduced hours schedule.

Flexible work benefits employers too

Flexible work environments don’t just benefit employees. According to Annie, it’s the winning talent strategy of the future, slated to help employers in the following five impactful ways:
1. Attracting Talent: Flexible work options are exactly what many professionals of today are looking for. According to research from Werk, 50% of employees would consider taking a new job if it offered more flexibility. And employers are catching on — of the nearly 5,000 HR professionals we surveyed for the Global Talent Trends Report, 51% said that when it comes to instituting more flexible options, attracting candidates was a top benefit.  
2. Employee Productivity and Retention: Another benefit of flexible work is increased productivity and retention — what’s good for employees is good for business too. According to a recent study by Stanford Graduate School of Business, when employees were given the ability to work outside the office, it had a significant impact on productivity and employee retention. The group that worked outside of the office had a “massive” performance improvement of 13%, and resignations among this group dropped by 50%.
3. Diversity & Inclusion: Flexible work opens your talent net even wider, providing opportunities to people with disabilities, military spouses, caretakers, and those who live in remote rural areas. The gender diversity gap could be decreased as well — we found that women are 22% more likely than men to cite flexible work arrangements as a very important factor when considering a job, with women ages 36 to 45 being most likely to do so.
4. Employer Brand: Strong flexible work policies can be a true differentiator when it comes to brand awareness. With unemployment at its lowest since 2000 and nearly 60 percent of employers struggling to fill open jobs within 12 weeks, flexibility may be just what it takes to set your company apart from the competition.
5. Cost Savings: Along with improving retention and talent acquisition, flexible work can greatly reduce a company’s real estate costs. Dell, for example, has saved an average of $12 million a year with its flexible work program due to reduced office space requirements.

Get ready to get flexible

If you’re seriously thinking about implementing a flexible work program at your company, you’ve already won half the battle. Meaning, to get this right, it requires accepting that flexible work is a real possibility, can provide myriad benefits, and is an arrangement that requires thoughtful policies. It’s more than giving your staff a random half-day off on a Friday every once in a while.
Begin the process by seeking employee input and feedback to learn what kinds of flexibility they would value. As you flesh out what a policy would look like for your company, strive to partner with not only HR, but other teams like IT and facilities. This will ensure your employees are supported both on and off the jobsite. Leverage technology like instant messaging and video conferencing to help everyone stay connected and productive, no matter where they are. Most importantly, don’t be quiet about it: Shout your flexible work policies from the mountain tops, driving awareness and encouraging employees to use them.
When it comes to flexible work, there’s a wide spectrum of possibilities, and even small changes can cause a positive ripple effect throughout your company and culture.