Flexible work has steadily been reshaping the workplace in very compelling ways regarding when, where, and how we work.

One study of over 8,000 companies worldwide found that 75 percent offer flexible working policies such as flexible hours and remote work. The number of people working remotely in the U.S. grew 115 percent in 10 years. And by 2020 (just over one year away!), it's estimated that 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing.

Given the existing and potential benefits for businesses, professionals, the environment, and society as a whole, I'm excited for National Flex Day on October 16th to raise more awareness and understanding around work flexibility.

For businesses with flexible work policies, this day affirms the long-lasting positive impacts for themselves, their employees, and their communities. For others, it's a chance to learn about the potential benefits and to finally get a policy in place.

The Benefits of Flex for Individuals, Businesses, and Society

Many companies are shifting their thinking about flexible work from a buzzwordy concept to a sustainable, concrete business strategy, and it's because flexible work options positively impact a wide range of company success metrics such as recruiting efforts, operations costs, productivity rates, worker retention, and much more.

Employers have a lot of options to implement flexible work, whether it's remote work, part-time, flexible scheduling, freelance projects, job sharing, or other options outside the traditional 9-5 office setup. However, for a program to be successful, it is critical to execute it with intention, communication, oversight, and feedback focused on key metrics and results. Conscientious, data-driven, transparent programs will show companies how to tie their flexible work goals with their overarching business goals to produce excellent results.

For example, in today's competitive job market where there are more open jobs than there are professionals to fill them, a historically low unemployment rate (3.7 percent in September), and the highest number of people quitting jobs in 17 years (2.4 percent of workforce participants quit their jobs in September), employers should leverage flexible work options to both attract and retain workers.

Without flexibility, employers will lose talent: The number of people who say they've quit a job due to lack of flexibility has nearly doubled from 17 percent in 2014 to 32 percent in 2017, according to my company FlexJobs' 2018 survey of over 3,000 professionals. Respondents also said that having flexible work options would make them more loyal to their employers and would foster stronger work relationships.

Clearly, flexible work is much more than an employee perk. But National Flex Day is about even bigger outcomes: creating long-lasting changes for communities and societies.

According to the Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum, work flexibility is one of the biggest drivers of workplace transformation. It's also happening in connection with some of the larger, global drivers of change noted by WEF: women's economic power, rapid urbanization, mobile internet and cloud technology, the sharing economy, and even climate change. As its own agent of change, work flexibility can, in turn, positively affect each one of these change drivers.

For example, remote work is opening up new talent pools for companies and economic opportunity for people living in rural and economically disadvantaged areas--areas left behind in this period of rapid urbanization. Through remote employment, residents get increased access to job opportunities without having to relocate, and employers can hire qualified workers with less competition to fill open jobs.

A Call to Action for National Flex Day

This National Flex Day, I invite business leaders and organizations to assess the landscape of flexible and remote work, see how far it's come and where it's heading, and show support for flexible work.

Here are several key tips for companies to start or grow flexible work programs:

  • Create a business case. Successful flexwork programs tie each component to a business goal and develop key metrics to track success. For example, allowing remote work to improve productivity or reduce absences.

  • Choose flexibility to match your goals. Companies don't need to offer all types of flexibility. If flexible scheduling makes more sense than remote work for one employer, that's where they should focus.

  • Learn from other companies. Don't reinvent the flexible work wheel. Learn from companies with successful flexwork programs.

As employers offering flexible work, we're doing the right thing and helping our businesses at the same time. Let's raise awareness that flexible work arrangements are a smart and sustainable business strategy that can benefit a company's bottom line while helping workers and communities.

Published on: Oct 16, 2018