Businesses can often be reluctant to engage a flexible working policy through fear that the system will become more of problem than a benefit. The correct structure has to be in place to support the system and maximise the benefits but can it increase job satisfaction? Should it and can it be made available to all employees or just a few? Certainly, some jobs would not fit the ‘work from home’ criteria but with planning, flexible working could be available for most roles providing the needs of the business are being met.
Attract and retain a skilled workforce
Essential for any business, attracting and retaining an appropriately skilled workforce will always be a priority. Organisations can train and support their staff to ensure they are armed for success however, it’s important that businesses understand that flexibility is vital to keep a hold of their strongest employees. So how can you differentiate your business from all the rest? In this competitive economy with fluidity of workforce, you need to be able to attract the best employees, and understanding what they need is the first step. People put flexible working, appreciation and an understanding boss way ahead of salary. Benefits that keep your teams happy will have a positive effect with increased job satisfaction leading to increased retention of your key employees.
Flexibility propagates job satisfaction
Operating flexible working for your employees can lead to greater productivity. A recent experiment by Stanford University, Does Working From Home Work? Evidence From a Chinese Experiment, February 2013 revealed that productivity increased by 30% after the company introduced the option to work from home. A happier workforce will not only feel more loyal to their employer but being free to work in a way that suits them helps reduce stress as well as enabling them to focus on work without the distractions of family life such as childcare. Whether they have the benefit of flexi-time or working from home, a happier, more loyal team with higher levels of job satisfaction will work harder and deliver higher levels of customer service. This in turn could have a positive effect on customer retention with your business gaining a competitive edge and as a result, increased profitability.
Getting the infrastructure right
Ensuring your organisation has the right infrastructure in place to support flexible working is crucial to its success. Working with your IT department to create the right security policies and ensuring staff have access to the right devices and systems will be essential. You will have to work with your HR team to ensure there is complete equality across the whole organisation. The opportunities to work flexibly should be open to all where appropriate. You may also have to include your facilities department so they can ensure they are aware of differing working hours and new systems in place. With careful planning and the commitment of the whole organisation, what may appear challenging in the beginning, can drive productivity and result in significant benefits for your business.
Flexible working – my experience
As an employer, I have always believed that it is in everyone’s best interest to enable your employees to gain a greater work-life balance and create the best working environment possible. I can speak from experience as this is how I decided to run my business. After many years working in a male, corporate environment I was keen to create a non-corporate atmosphere to allow flexibility for my employees. Employers should realise that they will profit greatly from having a happier and more productive workforce. I have actually gained the benefits discussed above and have experienced increased loyalty from a team willing to go the extra mile. I have also experienced reduced absences and greater retention of valued staff as they are not tempted to go after other roles for the sake of monetary or additional benefits because they realise that flexibility and understanding in the workplace are priceless.
From flexible hours to extended lunches, staff can also bring their dogs into the office as well as their children if necessary. We have a new mum in the office who is even able to breastfeed her baby at her desk. As a mother of 3 and grandmother of 5, I could relate to the issues of juggling work and motherhood. The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months however, recent evidence shows that 80% of mums who decide to stop breastfeeding do so because of a lack of support. This makes it even more important that not only should new mums have the support of their friends and family but also the understanding and flexibility of their employers. It would be ideal if all women had the freedom and opportunity to make the choice. By allowing work from home days, flexi-time and flexibility in the workplace, employers can reap benefits from employees that can work to their optimum without the distraction of family life.