While companies increasingly say they offer ‘remote’ or ‘flexible’ work opportunities for their employees - whether work-from-home Fridays or a ‘results only work environment’ - very few actually enforce it as part of the company culture, and employees are often hesitant to take advantage of these so-called work perks. In reality, you’re often still expected to be at a desk, Monday through Friday, from nine a.m. to five p.m. (at minimum) if you want to keep up appearances that you are thoroughly doing your job and producing business results.
This is an old-fashioned mentality that must be addressed if organizations are expected to meet the needs of an evolving workforce. Lack of trust is often the common denominator preventing employers from enforcing more remote or flexible work arrangements. It is difficult for some business leaders to believe their team will in fact be working outside of the office, whether it’s from home or elsewhere. This trust gap is inevitably a big hurdle, but one that must be overcome if organizations want to move with the times and keep their employees happy over the long-term.
When you trust your team, treat them like adults and give them the flexibility to choose where they work from, they are bound to be more satisfied with their job. Retention is also much higher if your employees are offered flex work. Not convinced? Here are some other benefits to a flexible work arrangement.
A key benefit is improved productivity. I know this from personal experience - less distraction and interruptions typically experienced in an office helps me complete my tasks in a more focused and efficient manner - but research also supports this theory. A recent survey by FlexJobs found that 66% of workers polled are more productive in a home office. According to the survey, some of the most common reasons for increased productivity, in addition to fewer interruptions or distractions, are: less commuter-driven stress, less office politics, and reduced noise levels. Now that’s data I can work with.
Not all employees are made the same. Everyone has their own preferred work zone and it most often depends on the situation. As someone who does a lot of writing for my job, I often feel most inspired when I lock myself away in a quiet space at home. Others may find a coffee shop the perfect place to spark creativity, while yet others may benefit from the structure of a shared office space. The bottom line is that, depending on our personalities and the tasks we undertake (which are often varied in the modern workplace) will underscore where we like to work the most. Having the autonomy to choose that environment depending on the task - with less micromanagement throughout the day - is a major benefit of a flexible work arrangement.
Yes, you can still collaborate in real time, even if your team is working from various remote locations. The advent of technology has made this increasingly simple, so being in one designated workplace, five days a week, is no longer a necessity for many technology-reliant jobs. In this plugged-in era, employees are typically within easy reach of their laptops, mobile phones, and other devices. Combined with the prevalence of cloud-based collaboration tools for chatting and video-conferencing, there really is no shortage of ways to connect from afar.
When you don’t need to travel to a dedicated workspace day after day, particularly during busy rush hours, you can use that time in other ways. One option is to work through your deliverables so you have more time for home life after-hours. Alternatively, it can give you an added opportunity to focus on ways to increase your physical and mental health and well-being, by freeing up more time to exercise, make a hearty breakfast, read, walk your dog, spend more time with family, and so on.
Another key reason to advocate for a flexible work space is that the best ideas often don’t happen between nine to five. I enjoy writing in the evenings, while others may feel most productive in the early hours of the morning. The flexibility of choosing your work setting and, to a degree, hours, can foster increased balance between work and home life. The key is finding what works best for you while simultaneously meeting the business needs of your employer.
I would argue that creating opportunities for in-person interaction is still incredibly important in the modern workplace. While being able to work remotely is a great perk, certainly there are times when employees crave more interaction and sociability - I know I do. Going for meetings at a local café is one way to tackle this. Having a shared or co-working office space is another great way to counteract periodic feelings of isolation. Moreover, in-person meetings may foster improved brainstorms and innovation. The reality is, even as the way we work continues to morph and evolve, sometimes people need face time (actual, in-person face time, not the technological kind). We are human, after all.
What are your thoughts on the modern workplace and the future of work? Whether a business owner or an employee, do you embrace a flexible work environment? There is no shortage of compelling thinking on the subject matter, and I would love to hear your viewpoint.