Making a case for flexible work

2/1/18 12:33 AM

In a four part series of blog posts called “Mobilize!” I reflect on flexible working. In the first installment, I discussed the concept of flexible work in general. In this second part, I talk about how flexible work can be good for not only your employees, but your company as well. 

Remote work allows employees also to be more present for other roles such as being parents, partners, children caring for their elders, and as citizens.

The happiness and well-being of the workforce

There are several cases to be made for flexible work, the most persuading perhaps the happiness and well-being of the workforce, and its implications on productivity. As mentioned in the previous blog in this series, many studies show that there is a connection between flexible work arrangements, happiness and productivity. The explanation lies in the trust-based, fair and open cultures and a sense of personal autonomy that these workplaces foster.

Key aspects that grow workplace happiness also include the variety and flexibility that is desired by employees. However, in the global workplace utilization studies conducted by Rapal, we found that according to the respondents the optimal time spent working remotely was on average only 20% – thus exhibiting moderation and balance between a sense of belonging and the need for face-to-face collaboration with colleagues and personal independence.

What, besides happiness, does flex work bring?

Other benefits of flexible work arrangements include:

  • Economic benefits: in addition to cost savings from decreased commuting and the increases in employee productivity, the need for office space will decline as desk sharing policies, activity-based office types, workplace-as-a-service deals with coworking spaces and other sharing economy concepts (e.g. shared cars and city bicycles) are introduced.
  • Environmental benefits: as with costs, the reductions in both travel and office space have a direct impact on the carbon footprint and pollution.
  • Socio-cultural: in addition to the increase in trust-based cultures, enabling people to be self-managing and autonomous spurs the internal entrepreneurship of employees. Many will find an actual increase in the sense of belonging, as improved management styles and new team agreements transition towards better routines for touching base more regularly. By enabling a choice between a variety of places to work in, individuals are also able to be more present for other roles they have as partners, children, parents and citizens. The new mobility can also have positive impacts both on mental and physical health.
  • Competitive benefits: a humane workplace that provides flexibility to balance work and private life can naturally better attract and retain the best talents to your company. And with better possibilities for remote working, you will also expand your pool for potential talent that lives further away from your main location.

So is there a downside?

The case against flexwork, as proposed recently by some tech companies, has more to do with distributed work and teams and full-time telework (remote work), rather than with flexibility. These concerns can become a reality in poorly managed, large and disconnected teams that allow geographically dispersed team members to become secluded, disconnected, unmotivated and distracted – ending up with less collaboration, innovation and productivity than the policy tries to achieve.

This has recently led many tech companies with full-blown working-from-home strategies to pull their workforce back to the office. However, this move may prove to be risky when attempting to retain your best employees, who may value their work-life balance above financial compensation or the mission of the company. Instead of a full backlash and reversal of flex work strategies, a company would do well in looking to flexibility in moderation, rather than at either extreme.

One simple, direct, and effective approach to finding the right balance for your company’s flex work policy is to collect input from your employees and information on their ways of working. 

Mobilize! Set up your own flex work program!

Are you considering flexible work arrangements for your company, or perhaps re-evaluating your flex work policy? Read on! In this four-part blog series, Pontus Kihlman, Executive Consultant at Rapal Oy delves a little deeper into the concept of flexible work as well as its pros and cons, and shares tips on how to develop your own flex work program. This post is the second part in the series. Be sure to read the previous and next posts, too.

Pontus Kihlman

Written by Pontus Kihlman

Executive Consultant, Workplace Management Services