Flexible Work Provisions in Companies

“Flexibility should not be presented or perceived as a benefit, accommodation, or privilege to employees but rather as a responsibility for both the employer and employee so that both may thrive”. – Office of the Focal Point for Women in the United Nations

With so much competition and companies continually vying for the best talent in the market, traditional methods of attracting and retaining the crème don’t seem to work anymore. Companies are now looking at other benefits and methods like flexible work provisions to attract the best and keep them with the company for long. Flexible work provisions allow the employees to choose their working hours and other work arrangements such that not only are the needs of the company and the customers met, but the employees’ personal and family needs are catered to as well. As the quote above suggests, flexible work provisions are not benefits but rather a strategic thought and tool of the company in order to ensure that employees produce the desired results and give their very best in the company thereby adding to work output, enhanced customer service and profits. Flexible work provisions are a joint responsibility and the company has the right to withdraw these provisions if they are not handled well by the employees.

Flexible work provisions don’t just include or limited to working hours. It could also mean working from home for short periods, part-time employment, shorter work week and other such conditions that allow employees to balance their home and work and yet produce results that are aligned with the needs and expectations of the company. Before making such an arrangement with an employee, a company usually assesses whether the employee has the discipline, integrity and potential to yield the expected results with shorter working hours or even working outside of the office. Based on the person’s past work history, job responsibilities and current position within the company, the employee could be assigned some form of flexible work provisions.

What do you believe are some of the benefits of flexible work provisions? Studies reveal that some of the common advantages are the increased ability to attract, retain and boost the morale of the high potential employees and motivate others to perform better in order to become eligible for flexible work provisions. When employees are able to balance their work and home life, they are less likely to be stressed and will be less prone to taking time off or leave of absence. Stress or tension in any part of one’s life, naturally affects the other aspects too. So if an employee is relaxed in the work environment, they would be more relaxed at home too and vice versa. Such a calm and composed state of mind ensures that employees are able to give their best efforts, produce more work, handle conflicts better, are more creative and overall have more energy and enthusiasm at work and at home. We have discussed several times in the past that a happy workforce is a highly productive one.

As also discussed, globalization means that a single company would have several locations and would therefore have a more diverse workforce. There would be people from various backgrounds, age groups, beliefs and other such diverse factors. Flexible work provisions would be highly welcomed especially in a location where the number of women employees may be higher. This is so because women still are the prime care-takers of the home and the children and such flexible work provisions are a blessing. In locations where the age group of the employees is higher, there could be elders in the family that need care and allowing the employees to work from home in order to care for the elderly, too is a great motivator. There is a friend whose father became seriously ill – however, she was not able to get the flexible work provisions and had to leave her job to care for him. Despite being a great worker she had to quit but even though she lost out, the company also lost out on her skills and experience, which she now uses at competition!

In industries where the demographic is a much younger cross-section of employees, they too find flexible work provisions highly attractive. A study has revealed that these youngsters are more likely to switch jobs if they don’t have flexibility in their work environments. They are young, restless and willing to take on any responsibility but value their ‘freedom’ too. The other section of employees – the older but not anywhere close to retirement age – has other sets of responsibilities and hence find flexible work provisions very attracting and reason to remain with a company. This group is probably the largest faction in most companies and hence it makes sense for companies to put in place flexible work provisions that would be suitable to them.

Companies that are still entrenched in the traditional methods of work schedules will over time find it hard to attract younger employees if they don’t actively look at flexible work provisions and other methods to retain their high potential employees. With technology advancing at such a rapid pace, it has become possible for employees and the companies to be productive and in fact enhance work output by working from anywhere and at any time. It is no secret that highly trained and skilled workers are in demand and the supply is probably not as high. Companies therefore have to change their mind-set and accept that flexible work provisions are one of the greatest attractions and employees are willing to stay on with a company that assigns equal importance to their needs as well. Studies have shown that companies that do have flexible work provisions have a happier, less stressed and more productive workforce who are also extremely loyal to the company they work with.

Companies that have been willing to change their traditional outlooks and have incorporated flexible work provisions have been able to gain a much sharper competitive edge as compared with those that are unwilling to change. Those that have embraced the flexi times, understand that work output does not necessarily require set working hours and neither is an employee’s face time in the office important to get the ‘job done’.  In addition, such companies have also fully understood and are utilizing the advantages of modern technology that allows their employees to remain connected with the ‘base office’ even when they are not physically present. The employees still have complete access to the information and data they would require to do their jobs efficiently and sometimes are able to accomplish more in shorter durations than others who spend tedious hours in the office. We are not suggesting that all jobs can have flexible work provisions at all times – for example the top boss’ assistant’s job would require the person to be at location given the nature of the job.

In a survey conducted for people, especially women working under flexible work provisions, at least 56% said that they would not wish to go back to a traditional work time schedule.  People with flexi working have been able to increase their efficiency and efficacy both at work and at their homes. Women, especially have found that keeping track of their homes and children is a lot easier and less stressful by virtue of flexible work provisions. So as companies realize the value of attracting, retaining and motivating experienced, skilled, passionate, honest and committed employees, the idea of flexible work provisions seems increasingly feasible and sensible. Referring back to the quote: it is clear that for flexible work provisions to operate smoothly, companies must not shoulder the responsibility alone but must ask employees to suggest innovative ways to incorporate flexibility in work schedules. The employees – deserving ones – should be asked to come up with a flexi structure to suit their job and responsibilities and make out a case on why they should be allowed to avail flexible work provisions and how it would benefit the company as well.

Flexible work provisions should be adopted by more companies. These provisions would be effective and more acceptable when they can enhance the growth of the company and the employees, retain the work culture, sustain the company’s goals and visions, contribute to the welfare of the employees and other such positive traits. It is time to move from traditional methods of working and mind-sets and adopt different and better ways to run your company.

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