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Flexibility in the Workplace: Is It Necessary in 2024?

The short answer: Yes. Flexibility is quickly transitioned from a “nice-to-have” to a cornerstone of any corporate culture focused on employee wellness.

Ever since the days of the lockdown, employees have been advocating for more flexible schedules and work arrangements. In fact, 58% of knowledge workers prefer to work remotely at least three days a week, according to a USA Today survey. At the same time, 42% would even take a 10% pay cut to have greater flexibility in the workplace—despite finances being the No. 1 stressor for most employees.

Of course, remote work options aren’t the only defining characteristic of a flexible work arrangement. Today, the term has evolved to include a range of accommodations, from hybrid work to personalized schedules; however, these competing definitions have caused a bit of confusion among employers.

To help leaders understand what truly flexible workplaces look like, let’s explore the various factors of flexibility, why it’s necessary, and how businesses can achieve it and use it to their advantage.

What Does True Flexibility Really Mean?

True work flexibility is about creating an inclusive environment that adapts to the diverse needs of employees and empowers them to choose when, where, and how they work. This doesn’t just give employees the ability to balance their work and personal lives—it gives them a flexible schedule to seamlessly coordinate both.

Achieving a truly flexible work environment requires a strategic approach that balances organizational goals with employee needs and preferences.

While some employers may still feel hesitant about remote work, let alone flexible hours, Harvard Business Review argues that a flexible workplace “aligns employers and employees to achieve mutual gain in meeting both performance and work-life needs.” Beyond giving employees the freedom to work when and where they’re most productive, this strategy also offers a number of health and wellness benefits.


Why Is Workplace Flexibility a Must-Have for Today’s Employees?

Employee flexibility is becoming increasingly popular for today’s workers. According to a 2024 Marsh McLennan Agency survey, almost 60% of respondents expect options for remote workers–and that applies across generations. In fact, 64% of Gen X employees expect flexible working options to care for aging parents and younger children, while Boomers increasingly seek flexible work to decelerate their careers as they ease into retirement.

No matter the age, employees experience a range of benefits from work flexibility, including:

  1. Work-life integration: Flexible scheduling allows employees to blend professional and personal responsibilities, increasing productivity at home and the workplace.
  2. Increased autonomy: When a worker can choose their preferred arrangement, it demonstrates a high level of trust that improves employee morale.
  3. Mitigate stress and burnout: Without the hassle of working around life’s responsibilities, employees can reduce some of the stress that comes with traditional arrangements.
  4. Reduced financial stress: Remote employees can save money on commuting, child care, and other work-related expenses that come with a full-time job.
  5. Improved overall wellbeing: Flexible working supports a healthier lifestyle by allowing employees to fit in time for exercise, self-care, and spending time with loved ones.

Employees Aren't Buying the Back-to-Office Mandates

Despite employee preferences, many companies are shifting back to in-office arrangements. However, employees are not eager to return to these traditional nine-to-five models, especially after having experienced the benefits and autonomy of remote and hybrid work models. A recent study from University of Pittsburgh reveals 99% of companies that issued a return-to-office mandate saw a significant decrease in employee satisfaction.

The pandemic-era lockdowns demonstrated that many jobs could be done effectively outside of the conventional office environment, challenging long-held beliefs about work structures. As a result, employees have developed new expectations around workplace flexibility and the integration of their personal and professional lives. But more than employee expectations, the push for back-to-office mandates often overlooks the significant business benefits to a flexible workplace.

How Businesses Can Use Flexibility to Their Advantage

Fostering a flexible workplace isn’t just about meeting employee demands; it can also be a strategic move that delivers a competitive advantage to the business. By adopting a flexible work arrangement, companies can enhance their operational efficiency, attract and retain top talent, and foster a culture of resilience and adaptability.

More directly, businesses can benefit from:

Reducing Overhead

Transitioning to remote and hybrid work options can offer substantial cost reductions. This is often because it allows businesses to downsize their physical footprint or adopt a co-working space model. Whether it’s a decrease in property and utility expenses or eliminating the need for office equipment, these savings can add up quickly. For instance, giants like Dow Chemical and Nortel were able to save 30% on non-real estate costs once they adopted a flexible work option. 

Expanding the Talent Pool

Offering remote options and a flexible schedule allows businesses to tap into a global talent pool, unconstrained by time zones or geographic limitations. This can also include people who may require non-traditional work arrangements, such as parents, caregivers, or individuals living in remote areas. By offering these flexible policies, companies can access a diverse array of skills and perspectives. They also act as an attractive incentive for applicants, thereby improving recruitment efforts.

Increasing Retention and Loyalty

In addition to recruitment, work flexibility can also help reduce employee turnover. This was true even before the pandemic, with 80% of employees in a 2019 survey agreeing they would be more loyal to their employer if they had a flexible work option. By accommodating employees’ various needs and work styles, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to worker wellbeing, fostering a loyal and dedicated team.

Boosting Employee Satisfaction

When employees are given the autonomy to manage their professional and personal commitments more effectively, they come to work happier and more engaged. In fact, providing a hybrid work option boosts employee satisfaction as much as an 8% increase in pay, according to a meta-analysis by Nick Bloom, a Stanford economist. Higher satisfaction levels are also closely linked to increased employee engagement, reduced absenteeism, and a positive company culture.

Improving Productivity

Flexible work arrangements can also lead to significant improvements in productivity. The same Stanford meta-analysis found that remote options increased employee performance by 13% and a flexible model generally improved productivity by up to 3%, compared to in-person arrangements. This is because these models minimize commute times, reduce distractions, and allow employees to work during peak energy periods. 

How To Implement True Flexibility

With these benefits laid out, it’s clear to see why companies are increasingly adopting a flexible mindset. However, it takes more than just a change in perspective to effectively implement workplace flexibility.

To help businesses reshape their work environment strategically and intentionally, here are seven steps to achieve true flexibility in the workplace:

  1. Establish Clear Policies: First and foremost, any flexible working arrangement requires clear expectations and communication. Employers should start by outlining comprehensive policies that support both the company’s objectives and employee needs. These guidelines should include expectations for work hours, output, availability, and more to promote balance and productivity. For instance, defining core work hours for collaboration while allowing asynchronous hours can accommodate diverse schedules while maintaining team cohesion.
  2. Choose the Right Tools: Beyond policy changes, employers will also need to implement the right technology to support their flexible employees. Selecting tools that facilitate communication, workflow, and wellness is essential for these remote and hybrid work environments. Platforms such as Slack, Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet are often the backbone of a distributed workforce, enabling seamless communication and collaboration to keep productivity high. Wellness platforms can also support the health and wellbeing of flexible employees while driving further engagement.
  3. Communicate and Train Employees: With the proper tools in place, employers can start to communicate changes and train employees for a smooth transition to their new flexible work environment. This involves setting explicit expectations around remote work policies, when employees should be available, and how the company will track performance. Training sessions can also help employees familiarize themselves with new tools, platforms, and best practices for remote work, whether it’s managing time effectively or maintaining cybersecurity. By fostering open lines of communication and providing the necessary training, employers can cultivate a culture of transparency, trust, and empowerment.
  4. Maintain Work-Life Boundaries: Flexible work can be great for employers and employees alike, but it also requires a careful balance. Both parties will need to maintain clear boundaries between their personal and professional lives. That might mean establishing distinct, distraction-free work zones at home, setting regular hours, and/or disconnecting after work. Employers should also host workshops or discussions on time management and boundary-setting to equip employees with the skills they need to thrive in a flexible environment. Prioritizing these boundaries allows employees to achieve a healthier work-life balance, leading to sustained productivity and wellbeing.
  5. Prioritize Output Over Hours: As part of the transition to flexible work, employers and employees will have to change their mindsets around how they measure performance. Whereas traditional in-office work is tracked by the hour, flexible work will need to be measured by the output. This approach recognizes that productivity varies among people and circumstances, fostering a culture of trust and accountability. Managers should set clear objectives and milestones, allowing employees the freedom to manage their schedules while ensuring that work quality and deadlines are met.
  6. Leverage Flexibility To Address Inequality: Workplace flexibility is also a powerful tool to address inequality among employees. By offering various work arrangements, companies can support employees who may face unique challenges, such as caregivers, parents, or those with disabilities, ensuring equal opportunities for success and advancement. By consciously using flexibility to promote diversity and inclusion, businesses not only enrich their culture but also drive innovation and creativity with a broad range of perspectives and experiences.
  7. Gather and Implement Employee Feedback: As employers begin communicating and implementing flexible policies, it’s crucial for them to gather and listen to employee feedback. This continuous feedback loop allows businesses to adjust and refine their policies in real time. Tools such as surveys, one-on-one meetings, or suggestion boxes offer valuable insight into employee experiences and challenges, as well as suggestions for improvement. Showing employees that their input is valued not only enhances their work arrangements but also fosters a culture of support and inclusivity.

Improve Your Workplace Flexibility With WellRight

Embracing flexibility in the workplace is no longer just an option. It’s a necessity for businesses aiming to stay competitive and relevant in 2024 and beyond.

Looking to take your first step toward a flexible workplace that emphasizes employee wellness? WellRight offers a comprehensive wellness solution that empowers your team with the tools they need to thrive in today’s evolving workplace.

Request a demo today.

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