The New Value of Flexibility in the Workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed relationships between employers and employees. Rather than valuing salary above all, schedule flexibility is now a top priority.

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new valley of flexibility

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has changed the working relationship between employers and employees. Rather than job seekers valuing salary above all else, new research by workspace provider IWG has revealed a different focus. More than three-quarters of American workers now say that schedule flexibility is one of their top priorities.

The study found that workers in the United States think of flexible work as the “new normal.” Businesses without an adaptable approach to work put themselves at a disadvantage when competing for talent and risk appearing out of touch with the modern workforce.

Workplace flexibility is no longer a unique perk but an essential practice that organizations need to attract top talent.

Types of flexibility options

Workforce flexibility isn’t limited to remote work. These days, it includes different types of work arrangements such as caregiving leave, flexibility in break times, and unlimited unpaid time off.

Workforce flexibility isn’t limited to remote work. These days, it includes different types of work arrangements such as caregiving leave, flexibility in break times, and unlimited unpaid time off.

Flexible work options:

  • Allowing employees to choose arrival and departure times gives them the freedom to balance work with caregiving, school, or other outside responsibilities. This, in turn, allows employers to show appreciation for employee professionalism and trust, which appeals to current employees and candidates and can dramatically expand the talent pool.
  • Providing caregiving leave for employees to take care of family circumstances and occasional illnesses as a permanent benefit in lieu of a rare perk. The pandemic has made many re-evaluate their family and life priorities. Employers who recognize and support that will have a competitive advantage.
  • Offering unlimited paid time off is as attractive to job candidates as it is to existing employees as it creates a supportive and understanding work environment. It may also save employers money and simplify administration tasks as vacation time doesn’t accrue.
  • Allowing a condensed work week lets employees put in full-time hours but with the flexibility to arrange their week around their many responsibilities. Condensed workweeks may comprise of a 4-day workweek and 3-day weekend or some other arrangement. A shortened workweek should be optional but not required, as it results in longer shifts, which might not work for everyone.

Recent trends since the pandemic and “The Great Resignation”

Along with the second year of the worldwide pandemic, 2021 brought us  “The Great Resignation.” The phrase describes people quitting their jobs due to experiencing personal changes during the coronavirus pandemic. However, it could also be called “The Great Re-evaluation” because of how many began rethinking their life choices and how they want to live.

The term was coined by Texas A&M professor Anthony Klotz, who says “The Great Resignation” is about more than workers quitting their jobs. Rather, it’s about employee empowerment, and it’s likely to continue through 2022.

Klotz predicts that employees will continue to give notice in 2022 but not in as significant numbers as in 2021. A December 2021 poll predicts that roughly 23% of employees will look for new jobs in 2022. However, the tight labor market has forced employers to raise salaries and increase benefits, which will likely help with turnover.

Klotz also predicts that flexible work arrangements will be the norm, and recent information gathered by the WFH Research Project indicates that people value work flexibility as much as they do a 10% raise in pay. As a result, employers are realizing the value of supporting employee work/life balance.

For many employees, a downside of “The Great Resignation” will be more competition for remote positions. In addition, Klotz predicts that employers will invest heavily in robots and artificial intelligence in an effort to reduce costs. Along with this may come the hiring of more overseas candidates willing to work for lower rates than their American counterparts.

Reasons that flexibility help with retention

Recent research has found that employers offering remote work options have 25% less employee turnover.

Many workers have noted that they would be willing to take a pay cut in exchange for a flexible work arrangement, and employers can’t ignore the importance of this if they want to keep their employees from jumping ship. Case in point, recent research has found that employers offering remote work options have 25% less employee turnover.

In addition:

  • Flexibility improves employee satisfaction: Employees working remotely save costs by reducing or eliminating their commute. They are also happier and tend to be more productive. What’s more, workers that feel satisfied with their employment situation stay longer.
  • Remote working saves money: Working remotely doesn’t just save employees money on commuting, but also on things like eating out and purchasing business attire. On the flip side, most employers save up to $11,000 in office-related overhead for each remote worker.
  • Remote workers are more productive: Reducing or eliminating commute time leads to more collaboration, which can lead to greater job satisfaction, creativity, and productivity.

Key takeaways for employer flexibility in 2022

The pandemic pushed the number of employees working from home from 20% to a whopping 70%, and more than half of those employees report that they wish to continue working remotely.

Widening the talent pool in pandemic and post-pandemic labor markets means focusing on flexibility. That adaptability starts with offering remote or hybrid work options but also expands to include caregiving leave, unlimited unpaid time off, and other efforts to honor work/life balance needs.

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