The benefits of flexible working for staff and businesses
Microsoft Japan recently tested a four-day working week and found it led to more efficient meetings, happier workers and a huge jump in productivity of 40 percent. That’s heartening news for the 92 percent of Millennials who identify flexibility as a top priority when job hunting and the 30 percent of UK employees who would prefer flexible working to a pay rise.*
But if you’re hoping to persuade your employer to follow Microsoft’s lead – or maybe just adopt a more flexible approach to the working week in general – then you’ll need to be able to sell the benefits.
So why is flexible working a good idea?
- Plays to Employee Strengths – some of us are larks while others are night owls, so having greater flexibility over when we start and finish work could mean greater freedom to work when we’re at our best. Approaching work with a more positive mindset from the start can allow us to focus and apply our strengths more effectively. From an employer perspective, the gains in terms of performance are likely to be greater when employees’ working patterns fit their preferences and lifestyle.
- Improves Job Satisfaction – empowered employees, in greater control of their working patterns, may be more likely to feel a sense of ownership over their work, which leads to less stress, greater enjoyment of work activities and increased motivation. As the Microsoft trial showed, for employers, that all translates into increased productivity and to employees taking more responsibility for their work and approaching their role with a greater sense of proactivity.
- Better Work-Life Balance – this enables employees to feel more positive about work and about their employer. In addition, staff who feel positive about their work-life balance tend to take fewer sick days and are more likely to maintain a positive outlook at work. Many employers find that a better work-life balance also has a positive impact on staff retention – keeping experienced staff can contribute to client satisfaction.
- Greater Flexibility to Meet Client Demands – flexibility over working hours can effectively extend the working day, for example reaching a wider international audience by scheduling work hours to reflect time differences or simply providing businesses with a bigger window for client servicing.
- Drive Towards Innovation – a culture where there’s an emphasis on ‘thinking differently’ and encouraging a growth mindset could be good for innovation and therefore productivity. If individuals are thinking about their working patterns and how they could potentially achieve more in less time this could stimulate more flexible thinking, which could be applied positively elsewhere within the workplace.
With demand for flexible working increasing it’s no longer a nice to have – it’s a vital asset in the battle for talent. But it brings benefits to both employees and employers, and organisations that can respond to this rising tide will find it much easier to recruit in a market where ‘soft’ benefits matter as much, if not more, than the traditional elements of compensation and holiday entitlement.
*according to Recent UK research by Capability Jane, which reveals the demand for flexible working is substantial
Analise La-Band, Associate Director, Work Psychology Group (WPG) and Chartered Occupational Psychologist (CPsychol)
About WPG: Organisational Psychologists, Work Psychology Group specialise in bringing the practical applications of organisational psychology to the Public and Private sector. They help organisations create people focused solutions and are leading researchers in the field of selection and assessment.