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The Key to Cultivating Employee Well-Being? Flexibility in the Workplace

 

It’s nearly impossible to separate work and home life in an increasingly hybrid world. As organizations find new ways to customize work schedules and allot space for work and home obligations, an overwhelming number of employees are citing flexibility as a table-stakes requirement. 

According to a 2022 survey from Deloitte, 94% of workers strongly believe that they positively benefit from increased work flexibility—particularly as it pertains to reducing stress and prioritizing mental health and well-being. This may be the ideal work landscape for employees across the board, but based on survey results, only 44% of companies actually offer flexible work arrangements. 

And of those organizations currently offering flexible work options, less than half of workers are reportedly taking advantage of those options.

It’s clear that in order to build trust with employees, strengthen work-life integration, and foster an equitable culture of well-being, organizations must assess the VOI of flexibility as it pertains to employee well-being. This is the future of work, and flexibility is beneficial for employees and employers alike.

Why Flexibility Is the Future of Work

Flexibility is an employer's best chance to meet employees’ needs and effectively prioritize work-life balance from the top down. 

96% of today’s workforce reports needing some form of work flexibility, but only 42% have the working arrangements they need. To add, just 19% of workforces report having a range of flexible work options available to them, necessitating the need for equitable offerings that meet individual employees where they are.

What’s left in the wake of inflexible work arrangements is a cavernous disconnect between employee well-being and employer transparency. Underlying stigmas and perceptions about flexible work can dismantle trust between employers and their workforces, which ultimately prevents employees from thriving in their roles, thwarts engagement, and accelerates turnover. 

For example, a standard hybrid arrangement might ask employees to work from the office one or two days per week. However, if an employee needs to tend to an emergency on an in-office day, they may be indirectly punished, looked down upon, or written off as unmotivated if they work from home.

Nearly 30% of employees say that the potential consequences and a perceived lack of trust in management prevents them from taking advantage of flexible work options. In order for trust and flexibility to peacefully coexist in workplaces, employees require empathy and transparency from leaders and managers.

How Managers Benefit from Flexible Work Policies

Employees aren’t the only group craving more work flexibility. 

Managers are also struggling to find talent amid the appeal for more flexible work options, which has adverse effects on their morale, engagement, and well-being. Of the 88% of managers currently experiencing this, one in five cite a “lack of flexibility” as the biggest roadblock in reaching organizational goals. 

Not to mention, 41% of managers say they’ve actually lost employees on their teams as a direct result of rigid return-to-office demands.

As a result of inflexible work models, managers aren’t finding adequate time to balance their own health and wellness needs. According to a 2022 Prudential Financial survey, 60% of managers report that their mental health has taken a toll in recent years, with only 25% feeling like they’re able to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal commitments

In fact, their levels of stress, physical well-being, and work-life integration are on par with those of their employees’.

This trend highlights the value of flexibility beyond employee well-being, revealing how more authentic and transparent hybrid policies can positively influence all levels of an organization as well as employee retention.

Why Organizations Need Greater Flexibility

Before the pandemic, employees would endure long working hours in the office followed by long commutes, working overtime, and coming home late. When everything shifted to virtual, employees quickly felt the personal and professional benefits on their well-being, which boosted their productivity and performance.

Employers stand to experience the effects of a well-balanced, engaged, and flexible workforce, too. A recent survey revealed that employees often stay with their employers if presented with flexible work options, thereby building trust, increasing job satisfaction, and boosting productivity.

Authentic, flexible workplaces enable employees to better assess and prioritize their unique wellness needs, which helps them thrive personally and professionally. Hybrid employees who are on top of their game mentally and physically are often more engaged and productive, excelling in ways that seemed impossible just a few years ago. 

In fact, the benefits that stem from flexible work environments leave long-lasting impacts on each pillar of employee well-being:

Why Workplace Flexibility Is the Key to Addressing Mental Health

The abiding effects of en-masse remote work still need additional research to reveal the long-term benefits. However, some studies have already been able to discern the negative impacts of fully on-site work in circumstances where employees would prefer a more flexible experience.

Employees that work fully on-site, who would otherwise work from home if their organizations allowed it, experience:

Leaders and managers are not immune to the effects of burnout—they also require guidance and support just as much as employees do. However, the onus is on leaders to lay the foundation for a flexible workplace that employees want to be a part of while also meeting their evolving needs.

Today, the three most common types of flexible work options available to U.S. employees are:

  • The ability to choose work location
  • The power to change work hours
  • The capability and freedom to take time off

These flexible work categories serve as preliminary starting points for organizations that have yet to implement these kinds of options. But it’s not enough to just offer flexibility—leaders need to actively communicate with and encourage employees to take advantage of flexible work options.

This means fostering a stigma-free, supportive culture where employees can freely take time off when needed, request flexible working hours, and take advantage of remote work on a flexible basis, rather than a scheduled one.

A Flexible, Well-Being-Focused Future

Despite the unprecedented organizational challenges that hybrid and remote work introduce, employees overwhelmingly agree that the benefits, both personal and professional, far outweigh the drawbacks.

Flexibility enables employees to take control of their work and personal lives in a way that’s long overdue. Looking forward, it’s up to employers to not only enact flexible policies on a surface level but to also build and adapt effective, transparent strategies that meet employees where they’re at—and encourage them to take advantage of them.

Flexibility is a major stepping stone to employee well-being. To learn more about how it could fit into your culture, contact WellRight today.

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