A flexible working culture has gone from being a ‘nice to have’ to something that today’s employees are increasingly demanding. In fact, it is fast becoming a prerequisite for workers, particularly younger generations, in any job they consider. This change in employees’ expectations and priorities is something organisations would be well advised to respond to.
So, if your employee experience, attracting the brightest talent to your business, or keeping hold of your best people are challenges your organisation faces, you might want to consider the all-round benefits a change of flexible working policy could bring.
Flexible working: the big numbers
The figures in this graph paint a pretty clear picture of just how important flexible work is to today’s employees. But perhaps what needs more of a spotlight is its virtues for businesses, which are even being championed by the Minister for Employment Relations, citing its benefits in retaining and recruiting talent.
Why flexible working is good for retention (and business, in general)
Here we’ve set out five reasons that go some way to explaining the positive impact flexible working can have on organisations and its employees:
1. Reducing stress and burnout
The option to work flexibly (in terms of hours and/or location) has been linked with reducing stress and burnout in employees. This allows employees to take a break when they feel they need to, or perhaps avoid commuting. Our benchmark data shows that 56% of men and 60% of women feel that they are under undue stress in their current job. The risk of job stress and burnout is extremely high. Working from home also means less absenteeism as when workers are sick, they can work from home rather than taking a full day off work or struggling on when unwell.
2. Promoting a healthy work/life balance
Our benchmark data reveals that only 68% of respondents say that their company promotes a healthy work/home life balance. With flexible working employees are able to fit in family commitments and perhaps have more time in evenings to and switch-off (with less time spent travelling). Flexible working hours can also be hugely beneficial for parents allowing a couple to work staggered hours to accommodate pick up and drop off at nursery or school without the outlay on additional childcare.
3. Promoting diversity and inclusion
Flexible working allows employers to recognise employees as individuals, allowing them to support their particular needs and circumstances. This could potentially open up a job role to a much more diverse range of people including parents with young children (which could benefit gender diversity e.g. increasing the number of women in more senior roles), people of different religions (religious fasting days, ceremonies or services could be attended without the employee having to take days off or feeling conflicted), or even those who may have part-time caring responsibilities for relatives.
4. Increasing employee engagement
The ability to work flexibly can increase satisfaction and make an employee feel more valued by their organisation. Giving then more control over their own working schedule increases employees’ feeling of trust, aiding overall empowerment (a key component of the employee experience). Additionally, the ability to work from home means less absenteeism and sick days lost. This, along with the reduction in burnout and stress, should lead to higher levels of productivity, and employee engagement.
5. Enhancing your employer brand
Demonstrating that you care about employees by offering increased autonomy, being supportive of diversity and recognising workers’ individual needs will naturally project a positive employer brand. Existing and prospective workers will see and talk about an ‘employee-first’ organisation and, with social platforms like Glassdoor and LinkedIn, these kind of messages get amplified far and wide. All of which means that being open to flexible working can have a huge impact on both improving retention and attracting the strongest talent when recruiting.
So, given this compelling body of evidence, the question is, can your organisation afford not to be flexible?