If employees have made anything clear in the last few years, it’s that flexible work is essential to job satisfaction. Of course, companies reap the benefits of satisfied employees, too — from hiring top talent to retention to higher productivity.
The concept of “flexibility” is somewhat of a loaded term, as it can look different for each organization. When implementing a flexible work culture, businesses must decide which practices and benefits are best suited to their teams.
Learn about the benefits of flexibility, employees’ expectations and how to create a flexible working environment at your small business.
Flexible Work: The Key to Job Satisfaction
The world has watched a power struggle unfold between businesses and employees over the state of the workplace. Regardless of who’s on top, employees have ideas of what they’re looking for in today’s business landscape, and companies are advised to consider their requests.
A McKinsey study showed that 87% of workers who can work flexibly do so, with most full-time, flexible employees working remotely about 3.3 days a week — or sometimes more. Flexibility is so critical prospective employees regard it as essential when considering a job offer.
While many businesses lament lost creativity and engagement from a lack of in-person interactions, more employees say the opposite. Flexibility helps prevent burnout, boosts productivity and better aligns them with their company’s values. Additionally, it provides more work opportunities for people who require special accommodations.
So, what do employees want from flexible work environments anyway? The following components are most important:
- Autonomy and trust
- Relaxed dress code
- Open communication
- Flexible start and end times
- Professional growth opportunities
- Wellness and mental health programs
- Hybrid or fully-remote work arrangements
Moreover, employees want to feel seen, heard, supported and valued — business leaders must learn and demonstrate empathy and compassion. The real question is, what can CEOs and managers do to empower workers by creating meaningful change?
12 Ways to Create a Successful Flexible Work Culture
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a flexible work environment. Business leaders must consider their mission, the organization’s size and individual needs to develop the best plan. Here are 12 ways companies can foster a flexible work culture and achieve success.
- Offer Diverse Work Setups
Nearly 55% of employees prefer three days of telecommuting weekly. Another 59% would accept a job offer if a company offered hybrid or remote work.
Companies interested in retaining and hiring top talent understand that “flexibility” is no longer a buzzword but a requirement for job seekers. However, what flexible work setups look like varies.
Flexible working arrangements may comprise hybrid schedules, fully remote teams, flex times, a condensed workweek — 40 hours over four days — or in-office one week monthly. Companies that have successfully implemented the one-week-per-month in-office schedule include Benefit Cosmetics, ezCater and Assurance IQ. However, the one challenge employees have faced is making it to the office if they’ve since moved outside the metropolitan areas.
- Set Expectations
Flexible work does not mean the workday is a free-for-all. CEOs and managers must collaborate to develop boundaries and expectations. After all, flexibility is a privilege.
Employers should determine the working hours, conditions and communication channels they want teams to follow. Afterward, employees can have the autonomy to decide how to work within the company’s restrictions.
Employers should emphasize the importance of achieving results over hours worked. If company leadership is concerned about whether the expectations will translate into positive outcomes, they can offer additional training on the new flexible policies.
- Build a Culture of Trust
A considerable component of flexible work is building a culture of trust. Ask any worker how the professional landscape has changed in the last three years, and they’ll likely say micromanagement is a thing of the past.
Following a swift transition to remote work during the pandemic, employees have more than proven they are reliable and trustworthy to get the job done — regardless of where they log into their computers.
Workers will likely remain loyal and productive when given autonomy over their workday and responsibilities.
- Encourage Work-Life Balance
Burnout was a problem pre-pandemic. However, today’s workers face other challenges when juggling work and home life. Employers who demonstrate care and support for their employees’ well-being often attract the best talent.
Work-life balance should include paid time off (PTO). Although many companies already offer PTO as a perk, only some employees take it. Leadership should instead encourage workers to take a break to focus on their mental health or personal responsibilities.
Likewise, a good employer is compassionate when employees are going through difficult times. It is essential to provide medical leave with the reassurance that employees can keep their jobs. Companies should always show how much they care and appreciate their staff.
- Facilitate Communication
Certainly, flexible work arrangements change the way teams collaborate and socialize. Employers should deliver new communication channels, whether workers are in the office or telecommuting.
Effective communication strategies include:
- Embracing one-to-one meetings
- Integrating communication software
- Limiting unnecessary calls and meetings
And just because teams are scattered does not mean they can’t connect. Managers can still bring remote teams together for virtual informal social hours for team-building activities. Thanks to new technologies, employers can also integrate in-person meetings with virtual attendees in real time.
- Deliver Tools and Resources
Business owners must provide the necessary tools and resources for remote and hybrid employees to be the most productive at their jobs. Some of these tools could include the following:
- Video conferencing: Options include Skype, Zoom, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet.
- Chat applications: Common choices are Google Hangouts, Chanty and ChatWork.
- Collaboration platforms: Slack, Asana, Workplace and Trello are popular.
- Cloud-based storage: Consider Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive.
- Project management tools: Choices include ClickUp, Notion, Smartsheet and Monday.com.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software: Salesforce, Zoho CRM, HubSpot CRM and Zendesk Sell are common options.
Using several platforms and software will ensure flexible teams stay connected and collaborative at all times.
- Accommodate Personal Needs
When an employee has a sick family member or is going through their own medical crisis, the right thing to do is accommodate leave. Business leaders should show their workers heightened empathy in these situations.
Likewise, if a working parent cannot find child care to pick up their kid from school, workplace flexibility should allow them to telecommute or complete the rest of their workday at home.
As long as employees meet their deadlines and their productivity doesn’t falter, there should be little issues with providing some wiggle room.
- Deliver Professional Development
According to a recent survey, 58% of employees would leave their company if it didn’t provide professional development, such as ongoing learning or training to develop their skills. This rings especially true for 61% of women, 66% of millennials and people of color.
Industries are rapidly changing, especially with advancements in artificial intelligence. Employees must stay ahead of these trends to do their work well.
Professional development for employees also benefits the company as a whole. Workers trained in the latest technologies and procedures help drive business success.
Other professional development ideas include conferences, workshops, seminars and online skills-based learning.
- Provide Rewards and Incentives
A flexible work culture is most successful when employees have the incentive to be driven and engaged. Therefore, leaders should review their current benefits and consider offering relevant perks.
Health care, retirement plans and paid time off are typically expected. However, employees are also looking for wellness programs, flexible spending accounts, renovated office environments, discounts, rewards programs, tuition reimbursement, performance bonuses and paid parental leave.
- Train Leaders
Companies will only get their new flexible work policies off the ground if managers and department heads are on board. Ensuring leaders are equipped with the tools they need is essential to manage diverse and flexible teams.
CEOs should meet with managers to determine whether various aspects of the flexible workforce are performing. Getting on the same page is also crucial since managers must lead employees through the changes.
- Ask for Feedback
The best way CEOs and managers can make employees feel valued is to allow them to provide constructive feedback. Encouraging them to share their opinions and ideas will help improve the workplace and flexibility.
Employers might have one idea of what their employees are looking for or expecting from their workplace but may be surprised to learn they want something else.
Holding town hall meetings or setting up a suggestion box or anonymous surveys allows teams to provide input. Additionally, establishing an open-door policy for employees to sit down with managers in friendly discourse is recommended.
- Make Changes as Necessary
What works for one company may not work for another regarding flexible work. Of course, businesses won’t get it right on the first try.
When leaders have developed a sound, flexible work plan, they should expect to make changes as they see fit. Remember, nothing is set in stone.
Tweaking the flexible work culture to best suit the workforce is necessary to achieve greatness.
Flexible Work Culture Works Well for Businesses
When companies adopt a flexible work culture, employees are much more satisfied. Of course, a happy workforce is what drives success. Employers should adapt to today’s professional landscape and offer flexible work arrangements to stay ahead of the game.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.