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The Significance of Flexibility in the Workplace

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

According to Eurofoung, around 50% of all Europeans engage remote or partially remote in the workplace. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home has become a widespread alternative to office days. With the increase of remote work, workplace flexibility has also increased. The significance of this will be discussed in this article.

Importance of workplace flexibility

Workplace flexibility is defined as the ability of workers to decide for themselves the when, where, and duration of their work tasks. It has a big impact on mental health. For example, it helps with burnouts, reduces stress, and boosts productivity. Not only are employee needs met, the employer experiences a boost in employee productivity. Meanwhile, the employer offers employees the opportunity to do their job in a way that best suits them.

How to provide flexibility at the workplace

Flexible mindset

Firstly, a flexible mindset allows the creation of a flexible workspace. This entails accepting that traditional office hours are replaced with a more modernized way of working. To achieve this, you can start with small steps. Perhaps start a discussion about flexible working. Otherwise, make business objectives clear. Additionally, you can encourage creativity.


Flextime

Flexible schedules improve the work-life balance, which can be achieved by offering Flextime. To explain, employers offer changes in arrival and departure times. Besides this, Telecommuting is an option. Then, employees can work from home. Also, condensed schedules are provided. Instead of five-day weeks, fewer days are required for the same amount of work. This gives employees more off days. An example is offering four 10-hour working days.


The advantage of flexible workplaces

For parents, a flexible workplace allows more paid and unpaid vacations through permanent contracts. If possible, employers could offer unlimited PTO, Paid Time Off. This will take pressure off employees as they can more easily call in sick. Also, employees can choose from different worksite locations. In addition to that, the office space can also impact work flexibility:. This can be done by offering employees autonomy. The below image shows an example of such a flexible office.

office meeting criteria
https://www.wework.com/ideas/professional-development/management-leadership/flexibility-in-the-workplace

How can employees be flexible in the workplace and what skills are required?

Small steps are to take more days of working remotely and to listen carefully to constructive criticism. This way, with a performance review, employees can become more flexible. Moreover, employees can cover responsibilities of colleagues while they are ill or on vacation. This defines job-sharing. Furthermore, working extra hours during year-end crunches or helping out colleagues improves team relationships. Also, it encourages other employees to do the same. For employees. it’s important to communicate expectations and fears. By communicating with the employer, a solution can be found together. Benefits for both employers and employees

According to studies, employees show high work motivation and responsibility when given more freedom. Employees are likely to take fewer sicker days than their office-based colleagues and are more satisfied. This is according to a study by Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom. Additionally, sharing their workday around personal obligations can attract many young talents. In short, satisfied employees show increased productivity, engagement and loyalty.

Skills acquired

A study on the impact of employees' remote work showed that self-leadership and autonomy were positively related. Of the 209 employees with an average of 49.8 years, 92% didn’t work remotely before Covid. The results show that it is important to improve employees` personal work management skills. For instance, time-management skills and self-leadership behavior decrease the perception of family conflict. By providing training interventions, employees’ skills can be more developed. The positive effects between work and other domains are shown in the figure below. It is based on a study on defining and conceptualizing workplace flexibility by E.J.Hill et al.:



work-related table
E.Jeffrey Hill, et.al. “Defining and conceptualizing workplace flexibility” (May 2008), Article in Community Work & Family.


Workplace flexibility and other characteristics

Workplace flexibility does not ony influence the ability to integrate work and family life. It also affects the four vitality outcomes. Individual vitality (G), home and family vitality (H), workplace vitality (I), and community vitality (J). The amount of flexibility is influenced by characteristic antecedents (A,B,C,D). A stands for individual characteristics like age or gender. B includes home and family characteristics, for example, partner status. Then. C entails community characteristics. Finally, D is community characteristics such as infrastructure and social relationships.


Effective workplace and job outcomes

A study was done by Jacob, Bond, Galinsky, and Hill. It researched the relationship between six critical ingredients in creating an effective workplace and three job outcomes. Also, it included one employee outcome (mental health). The study shows that they were positively related to an employee`s mental health:


jobfactors and workplace
JACOB, BOND, GALINSKY, AND HILL, “Six Critical Ingredients in Creating an Effective Workspace” (2008), Faculty Publications


The table shows that decision-making involvement, co-worker support, and a flexible workplace increase engagement. Also, employees with higher workplace flexibility show higher mental health. The results shows 35% compared to 19% of employees with lower workplace flexibility.



“Flexibility is one of the most powerful drivers of retention and engagement today . . . it is empirically linked to higher levels of productivity, resilience and shareholder value . . . yet achieving workplace flexibility is the most difficult task the work life professional engages in, and success often requires an organization to reinvent its culture.”


Lingle (2005)


 

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