How Flexible Work is Changing the Way Companies Do Business

Avatar by Amy Steinberg Published Jun 2, 2020 Last updated Jun 2, 2020

Flexible work is rapidly evolving; its transfigurations are flourishing; in essence, it has gone viral.  This flexibility redefines the “norm,” breaking from the rigidity of a five-day work week structure. This concept is based on the ideology that provides individuals greater freedom over where, when, and how they accomplish their work.

The term “flexible work” covers all types of work anywhere outside of a standard office environment, including:

  • compressed work
  • flextime
  • remote working
  • freelance work
  • contracting
  • portfolio careers

The agility of a flexible work environment allows for flexible working practices. Virtual teams are stationed throughout the world and can communicate whenever the need arises. Microsoft Teams and Google Meet are just two of the newest and most robust platforms introduced recently. These platforms are a work in progress, continually morphing and evolving, offering more tools with which remote teams can pool resources, working in partnership to complete projects regardless of where they are located.

 What is the forecast for workplaces of the future?

One of the best things a company can offer is flexible working options. As the demographics of the labor market change, the needs of the workforce changes.  Four generations now work side by side – each with diverse needs and expectations.

Managing one’s own time and working when unencumbered with other tasks can improve productivity, efficiency, and quality of work.

Flex-workers tend to be:

  • More satisfied with their work
  • More emotionally engaged
  • Speak more positively about their organization

Flexible work helps employees strike a happy work-life integration–it ensures that outside factors don’t interfere with work commitments.

According to their websites:

  • Unilever claims that the introduction of flexibility resulted in 73% of staff being more likely to stay with the company.
  • Flex-working at IBM reduced work-life conflict that led to a 30% increase in productivity.
  • Cisco employees working remotely are 5% more productive than office-based employees.

It is predicted that there will be a home-working space in every home in the near future. “Co-working” will become the norm as organizations, large and small, start to recognize the value of these scalable spaces, providing them an opportunity to cap real-estate expenditures. The impact on the environment will be front of mind as companies adopt teleconferencing vs. travel by car or planes, reducing company costs and global emissions.

Many established businesses have been slow to embrace these changes; this can be attributed to not letting go of old habits, fear, or perceived complexity. Surprisingly, smaller, more agile companies have been quicker to accept these types of changes. They have evolved naturally and are realizing the increased opportunities provided by new technology and building virtual teams, especially where rare or highly technical expertise, is required.

Many believe there is no turning back. The flexible work environment, once a trickle, has now become mainstream. Increasing demands, emerging technologies, and social and environmental drivers are all driving the need to keep flexible work as the new norm.

There are compelling reasons to embrace these types of changes.

5 Key Benefits of Flexible Work

  1. Global communications 24-7 – In a world driven by technology and globalization and the demand for global communications outside 9-to-5, alternative work patterns have emerged
  2. A wider experience pool – offering flexible working patterns provides businesses the ability to broaden the geographic location of their professional search, especially when looking for niche experience
  3. Empowerment – when people are empowered to decide how, where and when they want to work, they work more productively and do more than is expected of them
  4. Retention – The benefits of flex-work are invaluable for retaining professionals

Working out the kinks 

Remote work, especially in a global economy impacted by Covid-19, has naturally led to “flex time.” However, without some control measures in place, flex time schedules can become scattered, for example:

  • Employees with small children may get much of their work done at night after the kids are asleep
  • Some employees work early and quit early
  • Others start later and work later

These erratic practices can lead to an “always-on” environment. If everyone on your team is not working the same hours, you may be receiving messages at all hours of the day, night, or weekend. Once this sort of thing takes root, it becomes exceedingly difficult to “reset”, leading to a lot of unnecessary pressure and stress.

A simple check of your team’s collaboration tools could easily prevent this from happening.

  • Have “global settings,” so everyone is automatically set to “Do Not Disturb” mode outside the designated communication hours
  • Model the desired behavior and reward and discourage practices accordingly

As flexible work continues to take precedence in today’s business world, embrace the benefits, and work to ensure that the right processes and expectations have been established and that your teams have the tools they need to be successful.