A lot of companies will say in their job descriptions that they offer 'flexible hours,' but saying you offer flexible hours is as nebulous as saying you have a great company culture. There isn't a clear definition of what 'flexible hours' actually mean. Does it mean employees get unlimited vacation or that employees don't have to be in the office at 4pm every day? 

Flexibility has become a buzzword for employee recruiting and engagement, and often it remains a concept rather than a reality for many organizations. Many organizations advertise flexible work without truly employing it.

And this is not because flexibility is without proven merits. In fact, many employers agree that flexible work arrangements are important to success in today's business world. Nearly 42% of managers believe flexibility is essential to organizational success. Organizations today acknowledge and appreciate the many benefits of flexible work for employees and employers alike.

2018 is going to be the year for workplace flexibility to take a center stage as a perk for employees. These are the big reasons why: 

1. Employees are demanding flexible work schedules

In a study recently conducted by Manpower Group, 83% of retail employees ranked flexibility as the number one reason why they would take or stay in a job. Today, with the ease of finding other flexible work options, employers are competing with companies like Uber and Lyft that can offer complete flexibility and a decent wage. With low unemployment and a high cost associated with turnover, the best employers are listening and starting to implement flexible work technology into their everyday workflow. 

2. Employers are starting to expand their labor pools

Image you're running a pizza shop. You have 10 employees today and really need to hire two more. You post a job online, hire your two new employees and then stop the hiring process. Two weeks later, another employee quits. You post another job online and begin interviewing candidates again. This process repeats week after week, each time with you feeling like you're behind and never fully staffed to accomplish what you need to accomplish. 

The smartest employers are starting to consistently conduct interviews (for example, every Tuesday from 2-4pm) regardless of how "fully staffed" or "understaffed" they are. Then they're adding the best interviewees to their labor pool as part-time talent. When other full-time talent turns over, the employer now has an entire pool of other talent to fall back on to ensure they're fully staffed.

Having this larger labor pool also allows the employer to offer more flexibility to employees who need it. Rather than trying to fit 10 employees into 8 working slots each day, they can now allow their pool of 16 employees to select which of the 8 slots they want to work. Much better odds that shift is getting filled by a top-notch employee! 

3. Offering flexibility actually increases employee AND customer satisfaction 

A recent study found that offering flexibility improves moral of employees, improves their mental health and makes them more productive.

Ever ask an employee where something is in a store and you could tell they weren't happy to be there? It should be no surprise to you, then, that employee satisfaction directly correlates to customers satisfaction. The happier the employee and the more they actually want to be working for you, the more satisfied your customers will be. 

If you're able to start planning to have a conversation with your employees about flexibility at the end of 2017, 2018 will be your company's time to shine.