In recent years, work flexibility has become a widely discussed theme. Some of the buzzwords you’re likely to hear include “telecommuting”, “home office”, and “flexible working hours”. The development of cloud technologies has opened new possibilities for defining the ground rules between employers and employees.
Social networks are filled with influencers promoting the “digital nomad” lifestyle. Your newsfeed has probably been bombarded with sponsored posts of “motivational gurus” who can't believe people still work 9-5 jobs. They promise that you can make a fortune without even sticking your nose outside of your apartment. You’d be forgiven for thinking it all sounds a little far-fetched!
It’s no wonder that we tend to look at this subject as something fashionable to talk about, more of a young person's whim. But is it really?
For example, when we talk about the home office, we focus mainly on the benefits it brings the employees. After all, who wouldn't want to say goodbye to getting up early and wasting time in the morning commute? Employers, however, draw more attention to the disadvantages that stem from some sort of conservative distrust.
But are telecommuting and flexible working hours really just fads? Or can employers derive real benefits from them?
Do you want your employees to think “outside the box”?
Then release them from the box.
We all know how difficult it is today to find a quality employee who is customer-oriented. On top of that, we want them to be someone who thinks “outside the box” (another phrase you’re likely to come across in job advertisements). Many companies try to attract these people with high financial remuneration, health benefits, gym memberships, trendy office design, the best coffee under the sun, and so on.
But what if I told you that classic benefit packages are not enough to attract real talent? That the most creative and out-of-the-box ideas aren't created on a 9 to 5 schedule in a concrete box called open-space?
Creativity needs freedom. Space for spontaneity. An environment free from unnecessary stress and frequent distractions, which often occur in the office. Creating such an environment for employees will hugely benefit all parties involved. I speak from my own experience. I’ve been working remotely from Ireland for a Czech company for several years now.
Work-life balance and brand building
By adopting flexible working arrangements (whether it's a home office, different types of alternative contracts, or flexible working hours), a company shows its employees and potential candidates that they care about them. Many people value a better work-life balance more than a high salary these days. Building your company’s profile as a place that helps people achieve this goal is a step that can positively influence your public perception and help to build a brand that attracts talents.
According to a 2017 study of the International Journal of Economics, flexible working conditions increase performance, improve morale, and bring more profits to organisations. Employees with flexible working hours are less stressed and thus more focused and more productive. A recent HSBC report on the technology sector (one of the most productive industries in the UK) found that 89% of respondents cited flexible working conditions as an incentive to more productive work and greater loyalty to employers.
“The flexible work arrangements have an impact on the job satisfaction of the workers. 19% of people voted for flexibility at work reduces stress whereas 26% are of the view that flexible working hours brings all i.e. reduces stress, adds job satisfaction and provide work-life balance.” - International Journal of Economics, Commerce and Management United Kingdom, 2017
Telecommuting is becoming an increasing trend for this reason. The number of people working from home has increased by 115% in the last decade. Companies that operate fully remotely are not an exception.
Let's talk numbers
Flexibility at a workplace brings measurable financial results. By employing remote workers, companies can reduce operating costs such as office rental, electricity, heating and air conditioning, and all those other things that keep an office running.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, a single, part-time remote worker can save the company more than $11,000 per year. If we multiply it by 3.7 million employees who currently work from home at least half the time, the numbers start looking even more interesting.
In 2015, Stanford University conducted an experiment that lasted 2 years and showed that worker productivity improved by 24% due to telecommuting. As a result, the company that took part in the experiment increased its turnover by up to $2,000 per employee who worked from home.
Increased productivity and turnover are not the only benefits. Allowing people to work from anywhere opens up access to the global pool of talents. With the rise of cloud technologies and communication tools such as Hangouts, Skype, Slack or video conferencing, you no longer need to be limited to your office building or the city it’s located in (or even the country). Having employees spread around the world and working in different time-zones means your business can operate 24/7 without anyone having to work overtime.
We'd like to become more flexible as a company. But where do we start?
To introduce more flexibility into your work arrangements, you need two things. First and foremost, it’s important to adopt a different mindset, especially when it comes to the management of your company. It requires giving up the status quo and abandoning traditional models of running the company based on command and control from top to bottom. You need to be ready to base the relationship with your employees on mutual trust, and your employees need to be ready to take on the extra responsibility that goes hand in hand with more freedom.
The second most important thing is that you need to be technically ready for it.
Digitalising your internal communication and enabling people to collaborate online in real-time are a must. Tools like G Suite or Office 365 are ready-made software suites that will provide you with everything you need. From an email client, shared documents, and secure online storage to chat and video calls.
If you don’t know where to start to attempt such a big change, or don’t have the capacity to do it, don’t despair. There are many companies on the market that can help you with it. They will map out and analyse your processes and the way your business currently works and recommend the right tools for you. They’ll also guide your entire team through the change, inspiring people and helping everyone across the company to adopt the right mindset.
The road to more flexibility and leveraging all its benefits is not as long and as difficult as it may seem.