Workforce Management and Flexibility in the Workplace

Posted by Jake Richardson on Oct 28, 2013 7:00:00 AM


A recent Forbes piece extolled the virtues of workplace flexibility as a driver of employee satisfaction. “Studies show that organizations that offer workplace flexibility have less absenteeism and turnover, and higher levels of engagement and productivity. Again, it comes down to control. We all need to feel in control of our lives, and by working with talent on flexibility, you grant them real control. They feel trusted and  valued, and their investment in the work, and in the organization, grows.” ( Meghan M. Biro, 5 Reasons Why Workplace Flexibility Is Smart Talent Strategy)

Sceptics may balk at this notion, but is this hesitancy to accept workplace flexibility outdated and even potentially damaging? On tne surface, it is easy to say yes, because of many different changes in the workplace. For one, information technology is rapidly changing the way business is conducted. It has been somewhat common for organizations to allow remote workers for some years now. Additionally there are small companies that have only telecommuters and many start-ups function by having workers contribute from home in order to avoid the overhead associated with rent, utilities and office equipment. Working from home allows them to stay as lean as possible and conserve funds for only when they are absolutely necessary. Some home workers might also only be working for equity, so there is very little or even no capital investment. Without this kind of workplace flexibility, it would not be possible to make innovative, tactical organizations.

As a Deloitte analysis explained, "For example, the average company pays between $12,000 and $15,000 per employee in facility cost,  yet 30 to 40 percent of physical workspaces are vacant at any given moment on a regular business day.  Traffic jams cost Americans in urban areas an estimated 4.2 billion hours that flexible workers  can convert into productive time. So as much as anything else, workplace flexibility is about  happy directors and shareholders."

Further, in some cases working from home may increase productivity, "Countless studies confirm the link between workplace flexibility – particularly telecommuting – and productivity.  Brigham Young researchers found that “Offering flexibility translated to anywhere from eight to 13 hours more a week of productivity per employee without adding stress.Managers who avoid excessive workload, distribute work fairly, allow flexible scheduling and are considerate of employees’ lives will bring increased revenue, said a study of 50,000 U.S. workers by International Survey Research." (Source: WFC Resources)

In fact, a document produced by the Executive Office of the President Council of Economic Advisers noted some of the major demographic trends taking place right now that suggest flexible workplaces will proliferate:

- Women comprise nearly one half of the labor force;

- In nearly one half of households all adults are working

- In 2008, approximately 43.5 million Americans served as unpaid caregivers to a family
member over the age of 50

- Nearly one fifth of employed people were caregivers who
provided care to a person over age 50.

- The increasing demand for analytical and interactive skills
those largely obtained through post

-Second ary education means it is all the more important and common for
individuals to pursue additional education while also working

Workplace flexibility requires greater trust of employees and this trust may be reciprocated back to the employer. While granting this level of trust may sound completely counterintuitive, it makes sense from the perspective that we have all used at some point: no one likes to be micromanaged. It is ironic that some management styles insist upon all workers being onsite, yet this is exactly where some employees spend more time chatting or being bogged down in overly long meetings that waste time and sap their energy.

While flexible workplaces may currently number in the minority and so this kind of openness and employee accommodation appears 'fringe' to some, it could be argued that it makes too much sense to ignore. To strike a balance between greater flexibility and employee accountability, tracking of projects and hours may be necessary with time and attendance software, such as that offered by Pacific Timesheet.

Image Credit: Russavia, Wikipedia

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