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A Workforce Without Boundaries: Why Flexibility Is Key to Keeping Employees Happy

Richard Cheeseman
Director HCM Applications Marketing EMEA

Company culture encompasses far more than social causes and charitable work. It also involves the values and overall lifestyle we want our brand and our employees to represent.

Employees want to know the companies they work for value their mental, emotional, and physical well-being. They don’t want to feel chained to their desks, forced to work extra hours, or be afraid to use their paid time off.

After all, employees are tethered to technology. Smartphones and tablets give them access to their work email, productivity apps, and information they need to be productive. As a result, employees find themselves working at all hours of the day, and they expect more trust and flexibility in return.

Yet long workdays, packed to-do lists, and arduous commutes still plague many employees. The average American workweek is now 46.7 hours—about a full eight-hour workday longer than it’s supposed to be. And half of all American workers say they work more than that. Plus, the average commute time for Americans is 26 minutes each way. All of that time can take a serious toll on employees’ health and mental well-being.

It’s no surprise, then, that very few employees (38%) believe their organization is concerned with their welfare, according to Oracle Human Capital Management’s recent worldwide employee engagement survey. This is a significant issue that will get worse if it’s not addressed soon.

Offering more flexibility is the best way to help employees reach work-life balance. And while some may think that flexible working is synonymous with allowing employees to do their jobs from home, it’s really about trusting employees and giving them more control over how, when, and where they work.

4 Steps for Building Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work arrangements can come in many forms. For example, companies can develop work-from-home arrangements and guidelines. Or they can offer more flexible work hours that let employees clock in and out based on their work styles and preferences. Flexible work can also scale in different ways. You can test your initiative in one department, then expand to others if it’s successful; or you can do a company-wide rollout from the start.

Offering work flexibility can lead to significant productivity gains and improved employee satisfaction. Promoting this flexibility in the description of new job openings can also help you differentiate your brand and attract new talent. A survey of 3,100 professionals found that while only 7% said they were the most productive while working in an office, 50% said they accomplished more working from home. A different study concluded that more than 80% of people would be more loyal to their employers if they had more flexible work arrangements.

Despite the benefits of flexible work arrangements, just 40% of survey respondents said they had access to these options, according to our recent global survey.

If you’re planning to offer more flexible working options—or are looking for ways to improve your current plan—here are a few tips to help get you on track: 

  • Get your leaders and managers on board. The most important step for providing more flexible work environments is to get leaders and managers on board. You also need to train them to trust their employees and maintain open and frequent communication, regardless of where, when, and how their employees work.
  • Determine how employee productivity will be measured. Different departments have different day-to-day tasks and requirements. Collaborate with key leaders to determine how they’ll measure productivity and success, and rate employees’ overall performance, once these more flexible options are rolled out.
  • Develop program guidelines. As with any HR initiative, ensure that your flexible working options have rules and requirements. Will employees be required to share to-do lists in the morning of each day they work from home? Will they need to use certain tools or apps so they can stay connected to colleagues? Guidelines will help ensure that all critical tasks are completed, no matter where employees are working.
  • Have leadership communicate goals and requirements. Your leaders must communicate the goals of these flexible work options, what they’ll entail, and what the rules and requirements are. Having an initial “unveiling” of these new processes is important, but  your leadership must continually check in with employees, see how they’re using the new arrangements, and help them stay productive.
  • Give employees access to the right tools. Not only should your workers be able to access email, content management systems, and tools through their smartphones and laptops, but they also must be able to tap into your learning management system. Within this platform, employees should be able to access everything they need to learn and be successful in their day-to-day lives. Social collaboration tools, videos, performance reviews, and other resources should be mobile-optimized and always accessible.

To learn more about the Oracle HCM survey and other factors that affect employee engagement, download the complete report here.

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