How Workplace Flexibility Improves Work-Life Balance

Lately, we've been focusing on the importance of work-life balance and how critical it is to our careers and lives outside of work. A large part of striking this balance relies heavily on flexibility in the workplace. A lack of flexibility will likely lead to a lack of productivity and overall employee engagement, as well as time management skills. At the same time, a flexible environment contributes to higher retention and engagement and overall happier employees who get more accomplished and positively contribute to the company's bottom line. 

Flexibility in the workplace increases a company's ability to recruit and retain top talent. Recent research even shows that 80 percent of workers in the U.S. would turn down a job that didn't offer flexible scheduling. A Better Leader has had years of experience empowering teams to become more productive with the skills, tools, and knowledge they need. We help employers solve employee engagement, turnover, and communication gaps within their organization. Today, we'll cover how workplace flexibility impacts and improves overall work-life balance and share the benefits of implementing flexible scheduling within your organization.

What Is Flexibility In The Workplace?

Workplace flexibility "emphasizes the willingness and ability to adapt to change, particularly regarding how and when work gets done." It's important to have flexibility at work for a multitude of reasons. It has a positive (conversely, lack thereof can lead to negative) impact on workplace culture, affects the balance of work and life for employees and managers alike, and can either hinder or encourage people to seek employment elsewhere or stay at their company even longer!

Certainly, you've experienced a lack of flexibility in a job at some point. But, if you haven't, let's cover a really common scenario. Your child's school calls on Tuesday afternoon to let you know that you have a sick kid, and they need to be picked up from school and taken home and/or to the doctor's this week. You can't leave the office because you're covering for someone else who is out sick. Your spouse is working out of town for the week, so they can't help either.

Not only is it stressful for you to try to find someone to either cover you in the office or to be able to help you pick your child up from school, you now need to decide what to do for the rest of the week. A flexible work schedule would allow for you to leave work, bring whatever you still need to finish home with you, and not have to take a sick day (that is, as long as you have the time accrued.) Not only that, you may need to work from home for another day or two if you don't have the assistance/childcare available from a trusted family member or friend. As you can see, flexibility in the workplace is essential for these situations that so many of us face regularly.

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Benefits of Workplace Flexibility

Of course, it's no secret that a lack of flexibility in the workplace can lead to higher stress levels and lower employee morale. Neither of these is beneficial to productive employees and positive employee engagement. Flexibility and the freedom to work where/whenever makes sense for your employees and their lives (at least in some capacity) are critical. A flexible working environment also has a significant impact on job satisfaction, and has proven to improve employee engagement and well-being as well.

"[Workplace flexibility] has a lot to do with productivity. The more flexible we make the work environment, the more we can provide workers with what they need to manage their lives and their jobs. We end up with higher productivity. It is great for the economy and the companies." – Brenda Barnes, the CEO from Sara Lee, shared this quote in an SHRM study on workplace flexibility and its effects on engagement and productivity. The same study shared that a study of five organizations that implemented flexibility for both their hourly and nonexempt workers showed that employee commitment was 55 percent higher for employees who have the flexibility they need, compared to those who do not. The study also found that stress and burnout are 57 percent lower when employees have flexibility!

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Flexibility At Work Improves Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is becoming essential to happy, healthy employees who are more productive and engaged when they are at work. Of course, there are other effective work-life balance strategies one can implement in order to increase productivity and overall happiness at work. However, flexibility in the workplace is something employers can easily do. In fact, a more flexible work environment has a significant impact on a healthy work-life balance for several reasons. A recent study showed that 73% of employees said flexible work arrangements increased their work satisfaction, and 78% of those employees shared that flexible work arrangements have made them feel more productive. 

It's mutually beneficial to both employees and employers when flexible schedules are put into place. Think about this: employees feel like they have a greater sense of freedom to complete work tasks and take care of their own responsibilities and personal needs outside of the workplace. Employees also feel more productive when they are at work, and therefore less stressed. They are more invested in their work when they are at work because they don't have the pressure of a structure and schedule that lacks flexibility. For employers, this results in more productive, happier employees who accomplish more while they're working. These happy employees are more likely to recommend their employer to others, increasing their retention and keeping their most talented employees.

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How To Achieve Flexibility In The Workplace

It's easier said than done to encourage a flexible work environment and foster a healthy work-life balance for employees and employers alike. There are a few key things that can be implemented to achieve this flexibility. Employers can have different schedules depending on what works best for their organization and their individual employees. They can offer flexibility in terms of where their team members need to work certain hours - whether telecommuting from home or spending certain days in the office - and can work closely with employees to determine the number of hours they need to put in on a weekly/monthly basis.

Implementing a Flexible Work Schedule

The following are some additional ideas that can be implemented to support a flexible workplace.

  1. Telecommuting/Remote Work. Employers can establish telecommuting guidelines that allow for remote work from home, whether that is full-time or part-time. Of course, this depends on the line of work, but many workplaces found out in 2020 that their employees are able to complete most, if not all, of their workload outside of the office. Remote work can be an absolute game changer for employee satisfaction. A flexible work arrangement allows employees more flexibility in their personal life, while still completing their working hours and assigned tasks.
  2. Strengthen internal communications. As long as your organization has some form of communication among employees, whether that be internal social media or channels like Slack or messaging threads, this will help increase overall communication. Increased communication will ensure that deadlines do not get missed, and team members can discuss any projects they are working on without missing a beat.
  3. Allow for part-time positions. Sometimes an employee may need to transition to a part-time position, whether temporarily or permanently. Allowing them to change their working hours, as long as they can still prioritize and complete tasks as necessary, is mutually beneficial to employers looking to cut payroll costs and employees who require more flexibility. It is also a way to increase employee loyalty, contributing to a positive company culture. Job sharing makes it possible for two part-time employees to handle the responsibility of one full-time position, and the flexible working hours is attractive for potential job seekers.
  4. A flexible/condensed workweek. This strategy works for nurses and healthcare workers who have been found to have a healthy work-life balance among many professions. Employees work all of their hours into three or four days instead of spreading them out across five, and therefore are able to work their full-time jobs while also getting more days off.

Support Your Flexible Workplace

Of course, this is not a fully exhaustive list of ways to implement flexibility in the workplace. There are other strategies and ways to incorporate a flexible schedule, but these are among some of the most popular. Flexible workplaces have a significant impact on a healthy work-life balance, as well as overall employee satisfaction, and that is mutually beneficial for both employees and employers alike. If your organization is struggling with establishing a positive balance between work and life, IRI Consultants' team of experts would love to help.

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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is Director of IRI's Digital Workplace Solutions Group, and the founder of A Better Leader. Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.