Flexibility vs Productivity: How to Find the Right Balance for Your Company

Over 75% of American workers say workplace flexibility is a top priority. Here’s how to ensure employees remain productive while working remotely or with flexible hours.

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Here's what you need to know:

  • Workers are looking for location and time flexibility and there should be some room for letting them customize their work schedules based on their needs
  • To ensure productivity and output remain consistent, trust your people and focus on results rather than hours
  • Set concrete delivery dates and ensure communication is strong throughout the organization
  • The agreement should be that by offering your people the flexibility they want, there should be no drop in quality or missed deadlines

“Flexibility” is not just a buzzword anymore; it’s a key factor in whether people work for you, and stay at your company. The topic of flexibility is LinkedIn’s first chapter in their 2022 Global Talent Trends report because of its importance to today’s workers.

People are saying goodbye to rigid 9-5 hours, in-person working arrangements, and are looking for location and time flexibility. According to that same LinkedIn report, workers who are happy with their time and location flexibility are 2.6 times more likely to report being happy, and 2.1 times more likely to recommend working for the company!

Many companies have adapted to employees’ desire for more workplace flexibility. If you’re 1 of these companies, a reasonable expectation is that productivity should remain consistent.

But what if you’ve found productivity has taken a hit? Or deliverables are taking longer? And what should you keep in mind when offering more flexibility?

Below we explore how you can find the right balance between workplace flexibility and maintaining a consistent level of productivity and output.

What type of flexibility are your employees looking for?

First of all, it’s worth briefly exploring what today’s workforce is looking for in terms of flexibility.

In terms of location, according to PWC research, what employees want is:

  • More flexible working arrangements
  • The opportunity to work remotely at least 3 days a week
  • The option to go into the office a few days a week

Remote work provides the flexibility people are looking for, and they have no intention of giving that up any time soon. Overall, 39% of workers would consider changing jobs if their employer wasn’t flexible around remote work.

In terms of schedule, the key here, according to LinkedIn, is to focus on results, rather than hours. This means you can have core hours where your people are reachable, but there should be some room for letting people customize their working schedules based on their needs. This serves as a significant way to promote a better work-life balance.

How to make sure productivity and output remain consistent

Given this shift to a more flexible workplace, how can you as a manager make sure deliverables stay on track, and your people remain productive? Below we outline some strategies and key considerations.

Learn to trust your people

The most important muscle to begin flexing is learning to trust your people to do their jobs. As more and more companies move to a remote-first model, cultivating a culture of trust is key. This trust should extend to all levels of the hierarchy, and to all new hires.

What this means is that everyone at your company should be encouraged and allowed to work from home, without jumping through hoops. In one report, 10% of respondents said that only executives at their company were allowed to work from home!

Only allowing management to work remotely shows serious distrust in your people. The main goal here is to balance autonomy with control. Tethering people to their desks, and controlling management tactics, are a thing of the past.

Trust is crucial to your people’s ability to do their jobs, and remain engaged. It provides psychological safety, encourages a culture of honesty, and reduces turnover. The bottom line is that your goal is to foster a culture of trust, and everyone should be trusted to work from home.

Focus on results

Related to the above is making sure you focus on results, rather than presenteeism and hours of work. Of course, if you’re a billable business, hours are a major factor in your profitability, but the most important consideration is quality work delivered on time.

As Adobe outlines, the time high-quality work takes will reveal itself, rather than be dictated. So your focus should not be on the hours your employees are online, but rather on the type of output they’re delivering.

The time high-quality work takes will reveal itself, rather than be dictated.

Moreover, time does not equal productivity. One study found that workers are productive for a mere 2 hours and 53 minutes in an 8-hour workday!

This doesn’t mean that you need to tighten your grip on them. It simply means your focus should be on results.

Set concrete and explicit delivery dates

What this means is that everything should remain flexible, except goals, targets, and due dates. In other words, people can keep working in a flexible way, as long as they’re submitting their work on time, and hitting agreed-upon targets.

This provides the right balance between what management expects (reports, deliverables, KPIs, etc.), and what employees are looking for (the ability to work remotely, and on a schedule that is best for them).

While this should go without saying, it’s also important that deadlines are clearly communicated, both verbally and in writing. This is especially true if your workforce is spread out across various locations.

For example, if a project is due at the end of the week, make it clear what time zone you’re referring to. As HubSpot suggests, say the deadline in all time zones (ex: 5 pm EST/2 pm PST).

Ensure communication is strong throughout the organization

A strong communication strategy can never be overstated. This spans from company-wide messaging to everyday exchanges. One McKinsey study found that productivity increased by 20-25% when teams were well-connected!

In our communication strategy guide, we provide ways you can measure if your company has solid communication measures in place. Having good communication can increase productivity because there’s transparency, honesty, and expectations are clear.

Moreover, good communication increases employee cooperation, so you’re more likely to hit targets and goals.

Our guide covers all the key steps extensively, including:

  • Doing an audit (how is your communication currently landing with your people?)
  • Ensuring communications are aligned with strategic efforts
  • Using the right messaging (gender-neutral, authentic, accessible, etc)
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Businesses will have to change their mindset

Overall, the main takeaway is that our post-pandemic world might require a mindset shift. This mostly includes looser control over workers, and that’s not a bad thing! In fact, it leaves management time to focus on goals, targets, and quality service, rather than checking in on employees and micromanagement.

The value of flexibility in the workplace is huge: More than 75% of American workers say workplace flexibility is one of their top priorities.

In fact, 1 study found that flexibility was more important than salary when looking at a job offer. Another study found that companies with remote work options have 25% less employee turnover!

You’ll also save money: Employers save up to $11,000 in office-related costs for each remote worker. So this mindset shift will not only attract more workers but also help you retain your top talent and reduce costs.

The main message here is that your company is best served to focus on results, and trusting your people to deliver work. Of course, a potentially difficult conversation might have to take place if employees are not holding up their end of the deal, delivering poor-quality work, or missing deadlines.

The explicit agreement here should be that by offering your people the flexibility they want (and deserve!), there should be no drop in quality or missed deadlines.

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