Your Workplace Has to Get Flexible or Die: 5 Reasons Why

Your Workplace Has to Get Flexible or Die: 5 Reasons Why

Flextime is a trend that’s on the rise and it’s here to stay.

In our recent State of Enterprise Work report, we surveyed 2,001 workers and found that three-fourths of them have some ability to take flextime. We also found that the average worker does their work from home for eight hours per week.

To see all the findings from our State of Enterprise Work report, click here.

Giving employees more control over when and where they work isn’t just an added perk that keeps employees happy; it has become a strategic way of management that is bringing all kinds of benefits to businesses.

If businesses don’t become more flexible, they risk failing to engage with the majority of today’s workforce, experiencing a drop in productivity, and creating an environment where employees can’t focus and perform at their fullest potential.

Here are five reasons why it’s essential that businesses start getting flexible now.

1. The Biggest Portion of the Workforce—Millennials—Thrives on Independence

In 2015, Pew Research reported that Millennials had officially taken over—they are now the largest group in the workforce.

Millennials are into networking and multitasking, and they would much rather telecommute than come into an office every day. They are also more independent and crave more freedom to work the way that’s best for them.

In a recent webinar, Sophie Wade, workforce innovation specialist, explained that for this generation, using technology to make work flexible is only natural:

“Their workplace, which is their inherent reality—it’s the only thing that they know—is very, very different from that which all the generations or age groups have seen.

"They are looking at this digitally enabled type of working, being able to work from wherever, whenever.”

While many leaders may be accustomed to using a more direct, involved form of management, they will need to shift to a more flexible style to stay ahead.

“What I see is there’s a lot of legacy in terms of this command and control type of management that we’re moving away from,” said Wade.

In our State of Enterprise Work report, about half of workers say they “like flextime, and it works, if people know how to manage themselves.”

As more millennials make up the workforce, managers will need to allow flextime and self-management if they want workers to perform at their best.

2. Flextime Boosts Productivity by as Much as 80%

Wade explained the traditional management thought process this way: “I want to be able to see you; I want to be able to see everything you’re doing,” and if employees are “not here and I can’t see them, then they are going to be slacking.”

But, research shows that allowing employees to work away from the office actually increases productivity.

A recent Gallup study found that “the optimal engagement boost comes when workers are off-site for 60% to 80% of their time—in other words, three or four days out of the typical workweek.”

In a recent webinar, James Wallman, futurist and author of Stuffocation, gave one reason why this may be the case:

“The statistics are fascinating. If you give people more time to work at home, their morale is better, their stress levels are lower, their absenteeism rates are lower. If you focus on output, then you should get people to work more from home.”

He suggested that rather than rating success and productivity by the time workers spend in the office or in meetings, it should be measured by results, which may be even better when employees are given more flexibility.

Businesses that allow more flexibility will avoid a drop in productivity and see an increase in job satisfaction and employee performance.

3. Technology is Making it Possible to Leverage Personal Productivity Habits

Not everyone works the same way. As Wade said, “One of the key things here is that we all work in different ways.”

Technology is making it possible for individuals to work in a way that allows them to be most productive, while their managers can still employ things like collaboration, reporting, and task management.

In a recent webinar, Workfront CEO Alex Shootman pointed out that to millennials, turning to technology to solve problems is natural.

“This digital native generation of nomadic, task switching, non hierarchical, egalitarian, networked, driven by purpose more than money; this is a workforce that’s comfortable with technology always being part of the solution to a problem.”

According to our State of Enterprise Work report, 61% of workers believe that in the next five years, video conference calls will enable remote working.

They believe other technologies, like mobile phones, collaboration software, and social media will play a bigger role in the workplace of the future. They also believe things like assigned desk space, printers, and email won’t be as necessary as flexible work and other technologies take over.

In the next few years, businesses will need to invest in finding ways to implement flexibility that allows for this kind of personalized productivity.

“Trying to understand how to put something in place which is going to be adjustable for different people and their different needs…Just that shift in and of itself needs some support and investment,” said Wade.

But as managers make this investment, they will find their teams can accomplish more and will have a higher morale.

4. Flextime Reduces Interruptions, Allowing for More Focused Employees

While old-school management theories may place a high value on the time employees spend in the office, most of us know that with constant interruptions, this isn’t always the ideal environment for getting things done.

In our survey, most employees reported that wasteful meetings, excessive emails, unexpected phone calls, and excessive oversight get in the way of their work.

“The problem with meetings and emails and unexpected phone calls is they seem to be thrown at us all the time. It stops you working when you’re really in the zone. I think getting in the zone is so important for people,” said Wallman.

In part due to these interruptions, workers are spending less than half of their time actually doing the job they were hired to do, which results in huge financial losses. Shootman explained:

“When you take a number like 44% of your day or your week is involved in your job, and then you figure there are 60 million knowledge workers in the US alone, you start looking at the average labor rate and you quickly get to an astounding number essentially of $3 trillion a year of wasted human capital investment.”

When employees can work from home, or another off-site location, they can avoid some of these common interruptions, like meetings, excessive oversight, and maybe some unexpected phone calls.

With the ability to manage their own workspace, flexibility gives workers the ability to be more efficient and saves businesses from wasting time and money.

5. Workers are Already Taking Steps Toward a Flexible Future

Whether businesses are ready or not, workers are already taking steps toward a more flexible future. As mentioned above, the majority—73%—of workers have a positive attitude about flextime.

Most workers also believe that the nature of work is changing and flexible work will be more common.

They are already relying on video conference calls, social media-like communication tools, and smart phones to work from anywhere at any time. Not to mention that they are toggling back and forth between work and personal devices as they get more done out of the office.

When asked what they think will happen in the workplace of the future, our Future of Enterprise Work survey respondents overwhelmingly believe that employers will use collaboration technology more, traditional work hours will go away, and that more than half of workers will be remote.

Eighty-one percent of workers also say they are prepared for this future workplace.

The Time to Get Flexible is Now

Flexibility at work is coming, and employees are ready for it. This flexibility comes with benefits though, as workers will be more productive, more satisfied with their jobs, and better performers. Now is the time to start getting more flexible at your office.