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Is Flexible Work About Trust?

published 3 years ago
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Today, generational diversity in the workplace is commonplace. However, one thing that most generations have in common is the increasing desire to work flexibly. Of course, the reasoning varies from person to person: from parents who are in a rush to pick up their children after school, to employees who are helping their aging parents, and those who simply value their personal time and are brave enough to state it loud and clear. Whatever the motivation, the message is clear: a strict 9 to 5 job no longer meets the needs of a large part of the active workforce. But is it really up to employers to change a company’s work organization in order to satisfy the preferences of each and every employee?

A strict 9 to 5 job no longer meets the needs of a large part of the active workforce.

There’s no doubt that flexible work has many benefits for employees. Working remotely and a having a flexible work schedule helps to balance professional and personal responsibilities and improve quality of life. In fact, less time spent in traffic, saving on monthly gas expenses and simply being available for personal activities are highly attractive benefits for workers.[i] It is normal for employers to assess the impact of these changes on their operations before implementing flex-time. Some industries must still count on the physical presence of their employees at specific hours in order to provide adequate services. It’s hard to imagine a virtual construction site or online classes for elementary students!

In other cases the only obstacle would be the hesitation to change how things are currently done for a different way of managing that requires… trust. This is where the problem lies for some employers as they worry that employees who are free to choose their own schedule and work location would take liberties without being monitored in person by their manager. Surprisingly, research shows the opposite. A 2014 study conducted by Stanford University in collaboration with Peking University revealed that call centre employees who worked from home were 13% more productive than their colleagues working in the office, since they spent more time on the phone and managed a greater number of calls.[ii] There are other benefits with flexible work, such as cost-reduction and increased creativity.[iii] Furthermore, for many employees this benefit presents a strong case for talent attraction and retention,[iv] as they would be more willing to commit to a job that allows them to maintain a good quality of life. Given the current labour shortage, it’s the employees who will have the final say.

[i] https://www.hrreporter.com/columnist/editor/archive/2018/07/31/top-5-reasons-you-should-let-employees-work-from-home/

[ii] https://www.hrreporter.com/article/27472-allowing-employees-to-work-from-home-toughest-hr-question/

[iii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccaskilbeck/2019/04/29/re-thinking-employee-benefits-4-ways-to-approach-non-monetary-rewards/#2d066f693a68

[iv] https://www.forbes.com/sites/meghanbiro/2013/08/18/5-reasons-why-workplace-flexibility-is-smart-talent-strategy/#3e75670818ff

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