BY PREMA JAYABALAN
About one week into my new role, I was faced with a small dilemma. It was my daughter’s first birthday celebration in her kindergarten. I had to drop her birthday cake at school and be there for a quick celebration before heading for work.
It would be just a 15-minute stopover, but that meant I would be half an hour late to work.
At the time, I was reporting directly to the head of the organisation. I had only met him once or twice as he was frequently abroad on work trips.
I didn’t know what to do. Should I skip her first birthday celebration at school or should I request permission to drop by her school for a while?
Well, motherly love got the better of me and I pursued the latter.
Since my boss was travelling at that time, I texted him requesting his permission to clock in half an hour later and apologised for the inconvenience caused.
This is the reply I got: “Sure. No worries and never be sorry for doing the right thing for your child.”
I was pleasantly surprised by the quick response (I thought my request may be declined). And, it was the last sentence that struck a chord with me.
What made this experience more memorable was that when I texted him two days later on work updates, he responded to them and ended his message with an enquiry on how my daughter’s celebration went.
This may not seem like a big deal for some, but for me and I’m sure many other employees out there, this was a gesture that displayed great care for the well-being of his employees.
You have to bend a little
In today’s working environment, flexibility at work has become the norm.
Working offline and flexi work hours have become a need for employees. Most organisations advocate this but how many are practising it?
As someone who works in the media industry and with friends from the multinational companies, non-governmental organisations and government sectors, I can safely say that yes, most organisations practise this but there is a large number of organisations that do not practise it in reality.
According to Sara Sutton Fell, chief executive officer (CEO) of flexJobs and founder of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, employers and management believe flexible work only benefits their employees; they don’t believe it benefits the broader organisation.
Flexibility at work results in less stress and improved work-life balance that includes less negative spill-over from work to home and vice versa for an employee.
However, employers gain their fair share of benefits from workplace flexibility too.
A United States June 2014 report called Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility produced by the Council of Economic Advisers says businesses benefit by enhancing recruitment, improving worker performance and increasing job satisfaction.
Another interesting point to note is that employees who can practise work flexibility are more likely to feel that they can continue doing the same job into their 60s.
Is this not an influential solution to prevent attrition and increase retention?
A flexible workplace creates a positive impact for employers and here’s why you need to get on-board:
Increase in employee retention
Gone are the days when employees stayed in their jobs regardless of the situation.
Today’s Millennials and some Gen-Xers want satisfaction, empowerment and trust in the workplace. They would not hesitate to move on if they feel that their contribution is not valued.
They also want balance in life and do not want to be confined to stringent work hours.
According to Fell’s article on Entrepreneur.com, 82% of professionals said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options, while 39% have turned down a job promotion, rejected a job offer, or have resigned due to a lack of flexible work options.
Employing the best talent
If your business is competing globally, it’s crucial for you to be equipped with the best talent.
Practising flexibility at work enables you to hire these talents regardless of where they are located in the world. Gone are the days when generalists sufficed for roles.
Today, hiring managers are looking for industry-specific experience, hence finding the perfect candidate is next to impossible. The modern, digitised communications today enable you to communicate with anyone, anywhere, and at any time.
It has resulted in many organisations being able to employ talents with the right skillsets from across the world to create a strong team that is able to deliver even while working remotely.
Increase in productivity and performance
Your people are your pride. They are the driving force that will ensure success and sustainability for your business.
Creating a conducive environment for your employees is the first step towards that. Bear in mind that one environment will not work for all.
You may have employees with families and certain commitments. Adopting an employee-friendly environment that allows workplace flexibility is a significant way to show you care.
As a result, you get a workforce with high levels of motivation and satisfaction, which increases productivity and creates the right employee culture.
This will have a very strong and positive impact on the growth of your organisation.
When an employer focuses on just getting the work done, then the employee is continuously monitoring the clock until it’s time to pack up and go home.
Even for me, I feel that I get more things done when I am working remotely. Office distractions like coffee time with colleagues, breaks and, at times, unnecessary discussions at work, tend to decrease our productivity at work.
For most employees, flexi work hours is a tremendous help as it enables them to complete tasks and meet their deadlines.
Another benefit of adopting flexibility at work is the reduction of office-related costs.
Maintaining a commercial office, bought or leased, can be one of the largest expenses incurred by an organisation. Offering flexibility like telecommuting can help decrease this expense.
Organisations like IBM and Sun Microsystems saved USD50 mil and USD68 mil per year respectively by adopting workplace flexibility.
Besides that, a study by the University of Minnesota also showed that employees who were part of a flexible work schedule were able to get adequate sleep, had an increase in energy levels and were able to manage their illness well and return to work much quickly.
It also decreased their psychological distress, work-life conflict, and emotional exhaustion.
All these aspects make a big impact on the medical cost for an organisation.
These saved cost will enable organisations to invest in industry-related technology and innovations that can take the business to the next level.
It can also be used for initiatives to drive employee development and employee engagement.
In a nutshell
In order to be competitive, workplace flexibility needs to adopted, if not all the time, at least when it’s needed.
This is not merely a trend, it’s changing the way we work, especially in the technology sphere which the world is moving into.
It is also shown to be on almost all employees’ wish list. To retain your employees, it’s good to bend and adopt flexible workplace initiatives that work for individuals and the organisation.
An engaged employee equals a prosperous business!
Prema Jayabalan, a former Leaderonomer, is a corporate communications and external relations manager. Flexibility at the workplace is something she can relate to as it had helped her balance work and her time with her daughter during her early years. To connect with her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.