Report after report, survey after survey, the message is clear. Flexible workers are happier, healthier and more productive than their conventional colleagues. They are much more engaged and are much less likely to be looking for another job.
There are many ‘soft’ benefits that come from a more flexible approach to work. Employees are less stressed, have a better work life balance and take less time off sick. If they are able to choose when and where they work they will fit it in with other priorities, so it’s not just ‘work-life balance’ that benefits but their ability to concentrate in the time they are working. All this reduces employee turnover and makes recruitment of scarce skills easier.
But the big business benefit that is often ignored is productivity. An HSBC study of UK workers and business leaders highlighted the huge importance workers place on flexible hours and work-life balance when it comes to being more productive in the workplace with nine-out-of-ten workers (89 per cent) saying flexible working motivates them to be more productive at work. According to an AAT survey “Flexible workers said they felt they worked effectively for more of a typical working day than those working a traditional ‘nine-to-five’.”
This is not just happening in the UK. A world-wide survey of more than 15,000 business people over 80 nations revealed that 85% of respondents confirmed that productivity has increased in their business as a result of greater flexibility. 65% of respondents believe that businesses that tailor their work environment to the work function of staff are more productive and a remarkable 67% think that flexibility can improve productivity by at least a fifth. 70% say that having a choice of work environment is a key factor when evaluating new career opportunities. And so on….
Commenting on the results, Mark Dixon, CEO of IWG said “In last year’s report, we talked about reaching a tipping point in the uptake of flexible working and the workspace solutions that facilitate it. In 2019, with half of business people globally reporting that they work outside one of their main office locations half the week or more, it is safe to say that we are way beyond that. Flexible working is the new norm.” So if it is the new norm why does it still not fit with many corporate cultures?
The answer lies in the way we think about work. Traditional organisations still mainly employ people in jobs and pay them a salary related to the time they spend working. Part-time workers are paid less than full-time employees on a pro-rata basis. The contract of employment states the hours someone works and the salary they earn. It doesn’t say anything about what they produce.
If we define work as producing an output not just performing a job then we reward productivity. We do not count hours worked but pay for people to get the job done. This is one of the principles behind WiseWork. Where and when the job is done is much less important than the achievement of results. Going people freedom to choose how and when the work is done is the key to unlocking their potential.
In the “A to Z” guide to Wisework the letter “B” is for “Business Results”. It makes the strong connection between new working practices and individual productivity and hence business success. Given the overwhelming evidence that flexible working contributes to the tangible results and not just to the ‘softer’ measures, how much longer can managers continue with outdated approaches to their staff? Do you think we will have to drag them, kicking and screaming, into the digital age or will they finally see the light?