The desire for more flexible work arrangements is not limited to just one group of employees. Although workplace dynamics are changing as companies are experience more diversity within their halls than ever before, a common denominator among all employees, not just female employees, continues to be the interest in flexible work arrangements. As more in-depth research is conducted on the benefit of flexible schedules for both employees and companies, there is strong evidence that catering to employees’ needs through more flexible schedules can improve productivity, employee satisfaction, and have a positive impact on the talent pipeline.
A paper on flexible work arrangements published by PwC suggests that newer generations of workers –Gen X and Gen Y –are driving the trend of increasingly flexible work arrangements, but older generations, including Traditionals and Baby Boomers, support flexible schedules as well. This is well supported by the paper, When Work Works [PDF], which indicates that “80% of workers say they would like to have more flexible work options and would use them if there were no negative consequences at work.”
With more employees seeking flexible work arrangements and technology innovations allowing for increased mobile connectivity among employees, firm leaders should take note of the potential opportunities and positive impact flexible schedules can have on a workplace environment.
The question that firm leaders must address is how to create a flexible work arrangement system that works for everyone, regardless of gender or generation. One of the most common scenarios where flexible work arrangements prove to be beneficial is before, during, and after pregnancy. Granted, this scenario singles out female employees, but it shows how flexible schedules can allow employees to continue on a linear track in their career advancement without making detrimental sacrifices in either their work or home environment.
Laura Cox Kaplan, Leader for U.S. government, regulatory affairs and public policy at PwC, explains how PwC’s commitment to workplace flexibility gave her the opportunity to effectively manage both her work demands and home demands during her pregnancy and immediately following the birth of her second child. She states in a blog post, “I initially worried about my PwC partners’ response to a more flexible work plan—particularly since my second baby followed closely on the heels of my first—but everyone embraced the increased telephonic meetings and remote work arrangements. I was committed to working and to bringing a healthy baby into the world, and the firm really supported those efforts.”
As long as companies implement fair flexible work arrangement policies benefiting everyone, there is no reason why employees who choose to take advantage of flexible schedules should face opposition from management or their team.
A Global Trend Emerging
Flexible work arrangements can also increase the bottom line for multinational companies that need a way to connect employees internationally. A recent study by Regus indicates that flexible schedules can lead to exponential growth for companies on a global scale. This is largely due to the fact that mobile workers allow companies to expand their reach and broaden their scope without incurring the high costs of hiring full-time, in-house employees.
According to the study, “Half (51%) of firms intend to hire more freelancers in the next year, and 80% of respondents believe that there will be a surge in people that plan to go part time in their career path – indicating an increasing demand for a flexible work environment to accommodate such staff.” This is an example of how workplace flexibility can benefit employees and the firm.
The Bottom Line
Flexible work arrangements are just another piece of the complex puzzle that is work/life balance. While much of the discussion around flexible schedules has recently focused on working mothers, it is extremely important to include all employees in the conversation, including working dads, married employees, and single employees.
There is evidence to suggest that companies offering flexible work arrangements enjoy a higher percentage of employee retention and a noticeable improvement in employee happiness and engagement. Like all effective policies within the workplace, the benefits of flexible scheduling cannot be one-sided. In order for companies to realize the most positive effects from flexible work arrangements, there must be clear advantages for all employees as well as the firm.