he verdict is in: People want to continue to work from home. A recent Gallup poll reported that 59% of employees want to work from home as much as possible, and only 41% would like to return to their pre-pandemic schedules.
Workers are so intent on demanding flexible schedules that they will even switch jobs to get what they want. The EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey found that over half the respondents (54%) would consider finding a new job if their current employer didn’t offer some form of flexible scheduling.
This isn’t specific to one geographic location, either. The study was one of the largest global surveys, spanning across 16 countries, multiple industries and roles, and more than 16,000 employees.
This isn’t necessarily a bad sign for businesses. Many are embracing flexible scheduling because they believe it can be leveraged to increase productivity. “The more flexible we make the work environment, the more we can provide workers with what they need to manage their lives and their jobs. We end up with higher productivity. It is great for the economy and the companies,” says Brenda Barnes, CEO of Sara Lee Corporation.
In fact, 91% of HR professionals in a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey agreed that flexible scheduling positively influences employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention.
Many CEOs are even allowing employees to set their own schedules as discussed in this article from Business Insider. As the article explains, CEOs are finding that employees with such flexibility are more productive, happier, take fewer sick days, communicate more effectively, and stick around longer, resulting in less costly turnover.
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What Does a Flexible Schedule Look Like?
“Flexible schedule” is a vague term that can mean something different depending on the company. It can mean employees working the same hours, with some working from home and others working in the office. It can mean employees deciding the hours that work best for them. Some companies even let their employees take a day off during the week as long as they make that work up on the weekend. Essentially, the purpose of flexible scheduling is to increase productivity by giving employees a better work-life balance.
Flexible Schedules Make Employees Happier
Finnish citizens have been enjoying flexible scheduling since 1996 when the Working Hours Act was put into law. For 25 years, they have been able to set their work hours. With that much control over their work-life, it’s no wonder Finland was named the world’s happiest country for three years in a row by the UN.
When employees aren’t confined to the ‘9 to 5’ workday, they have time to pick up their kids, run errands, make doctor appointments, and exercise. When you make it easier for your employees to juggle work and life, they feel more balanced, which leads to less stress and more productivity.
The older traditional model of work is changing. Employees don’t just see themselves as workers that punch in and out anymore. They want to be treated like humans and appreciate management that values their personal life. A workplace with strict working hours that micromanages its employees is a motivation killer. It leads to employees that loathe their jobs and can’t wait to get in and get out every day.
Flexible Schedules Reduce Employee Turnover
Employees don’t want to be evaluated based on the number of hours they sit at their desks. They know that doesn’t make sense, and employers are starting to understand that. People want to be judged by the quality and quantity of their work—their output. So it stands to reason that they should be able to work when they want—when they are most productive.
In a study titled Does Enhancing Work-Time Control and Flexibility Reduce Turnover? A Naturally Occurring Experiment, “turnover effects of an organizational innovation (ROWE—Results Only Work Environment) aimed at moving away from standard time practices to focus on results rather than time spent at work” was investigated. In the study, they found that “the odds of turnover are indeed lower for employees participating in the ROWE initiative, which offers employees greater work-time control and flexibility, and that this is the case regardless of employees' gender, age, or family life stage.”
After employees have been working in an environment and culture that promotes freedom and work-life balance, they can’t imagine seeing themselves going back to a strict schedule. Once they feel valued and trusted, they feel motivated to stay with that organization and work hard.
How to Manage Employees and Track Productivity Under a Flexible Schedule
While flexible scheduling has many advantages and is most likely here to stay, it comes with its challenges. Managers that dealt with the transition to remote work in March of 2020 know this all too well. But there are ways of managing flexible schedules effectively.
Many organizations have turned to tools to help with managing remote workers. For example, work software such as MetaSpark can help managers monitor outcomes, without micromanaging or tracking employees’ every move. Through a single dashboard, they can see whether goals are being met on time and which employees may need some help. It also enables managers to reward employees for their contributions, increasing motivation and workplace satisfaction.
“Consider investing in better tools to onboard, train, and track engagement and performance. Ultimately it's about collaboration and getting the work done. If employees are empowered to do that without "doing the desk time," this will drive a more engaged and productive workforce,” says Rachel Lyubovitzky, Chief Executive Officer at MidasXL, Inc.
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