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Free to Roam: The Flexible Workplace

April 24 2017 / by Mari Ryan

44708429_m.jpgWhen I decided to start my own business after years of working in a corporate setting, I was looking forward to the flexibility that it offered. I would get to choose how I spent my time and what my day looked like, and where I did that work. Increasingly employees are asking for more flexibility in their workdays. They are asking for flexibility in when they work, where they work and how they work. Inherently as humans, we want to have choice. Autonomy is one of the key motivators that drives people to do their best and most productive work. Today, flexibility in the workplace is essential to attract and retain your workforce.

When they work

As many as 54% of employees would change jobs to have more flexibility in when they work, according to a 2017 survey from the Gallup organization. In a recent conversation with the CEO of a medium size public relations firm, he commented about his work schedule and that of some of his employees. He leaves the office at 3pm to beat the San Francisco traffic. Then he would check in on email from home before the end of the workday. For one of his employees, the option to have flexibility in her hours meant she was able to be home to meet the kids after school. She’d finish up her day after the kids went to be bed.

Where they work

In New England we have occasional blizzards that shut down schools, and increasingly work for many. This used to be a big deal (okay, the 10 feet of snow in the winter of 2015 was a big deal) and it impacted business productivity significantly. For many organizations of knowledge/office workers, this is not a big deal anymore. On a recent March day, I had a focus group meeting scheduled with a client’s employees. When the news of the snow closure spread, we quickly changed the meeting to an online meeting and accomplished exactly what we needed without missing a beat.

Working from home, even if just one day a week, used to be considered a perk. No more. According to Global Workplace Analytics:

  • 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency
  • 80% to 90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part time.
  • Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile 50-60% of the time.

How they do work

We have to remember that not every job allows for working from home. Think about manufacturing, call centers, hospitals, restaurants. These types of jobs require the physical presence of the worker in the workplace. Yet, it is even more important in these types of jobs, where there is little inherent job control or autonomy, to provide options for the employees to have choice. Take a call center for example. Call center employees are closely supervised to accomplish target productivity metrics (average handling time, speed to answer, abandon rate, customer satisfaction). For the individual tethered to a phone, there is little autonomy in their job. Providing stand up desks that give the employee the option of standing or sitting can be one place that can increase satisfaction and enhance physical mobility.

Flexibility in the workplace is not the future. It is the now. Is your workplace ready?

Topics: Culture, Worksite Culture

Mari Ryan

Written by Mari Ryan

Mari Ryan is the CEO/founder of AdvancingWellness and is a recognized expert in the field of worksite health promotion.