Flexibility is becoming increasingly important in the workplace. As Millennials and younger generations enter the workforce, flexibility is one of the key criteria they consider when choosing prospective employers. In a recent study by Workplace Trends, 75 percent of employees listed work-life balance as their top priority. In the war for talent, many companies are using it as a selling point to recruit skilled employees.
It's fortunate then that advancements in technology like mobile devices and the cloud have made this all possible. According to one survey by Plantronics, workers who have those options are 12 percent more satisfied with their positions and 40 percent more likely to be innovative employees.
This increased accessibility is a double edged sword though. For many business people I know, technology has transformed the 9 to 5 job into a 24/7 one. This change is causing some to feel constantly plugged in to the office, making it harder to separate work and personal time. Despite the growing value of flexibility in the workplace, the expectations of some managers may conflict with the work-life balance expectations of their employees.
How can organizations balance managers' expectations with the increasing importance of workplace flexibility?
In many organizations, employees and managers have different ideas of what work-life balance actually means. In the aforementioned workplace flexibility study, nearly 67 percent of company leaders thought their employees had a balanced work and life. However, when employees responded, only 45 percent agreed with them.
It is difficult for any organization to claim that they have flexibility when their upper management and lower-level employees have opposing conceptions about whether balance is actually occurring. This is why successful workplace flexibility programs need to have transparency.
Programs that are documented with specific rules and times for in and out-of-office hours can help. All employees, whether upper management or lower-level, should play a role in forming those programs. Everyone involved should revisit them and continuously define exactly what work-life balance looks like at their organization to avoid any disconnect.
For some, it may not be possible or even the best solution to keep work life and personal life completely separate. To help with this, Many organizations have started giving their employees work time to devote specifically to a side project of their choosing.
Personal projects give individuals more freedom to decide not only on where or when they work, but also how and what they work on. Projects can give employees a break from their typical routine, so that when they return to their primary duties, they are more refreshed.
Thanks to mobile devices, it seems like it is nearly impossible to escape work. The workplace flexibility study I mentioned earlier found that 65 percent of managers expect their employees to be available outside of the office. This doesn't sound very flexible on their part. However, it may be opening doors to alternative work arrangements that may help certain employees be more productive.
For example, some companies are moving away from the typical 9 to 5 workday and giving their employees other options. Many companies are giving their employees the option to work remotely from anywhere they want and are now even implementing four-day workweeks.
Simply giving workers some flexible hours can boost work-life balance. For instance, organizations may allow their employees a certain number of "work-from-home" days throughout the year. With the help of mobile devices, they can also track the number of hours logged outside of work and put it towards the work week, helping to prevent employees from becoming overworked and managers from feeling disconnected.
Not only do employees and managers think differently about work-life balance, but so do companies in general. There are no hard and fast rules for business leaders planning out different ways help employees stay on task, all while technology provides new options for flexibility. Therefore, companies should design workplace flexibility programs specifically catered to their staffs. Employees will be more likely to succeed and stay productive than if they work at companies that don't embrace flexibility in the workplace.