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When we think about workplace flexibility we can easily imagine the impact on individual employees and retention. We think about how HR will manage the new policies and how we will get our managers to support them.
But flexibility goes far beyond a personnel issue. In fact, workplace flexibility programs can have organization-wide impact—improving business results, shoring up disaster plans, supporting wellness initiatives and more.
Here are a few of the ways flex touches different areas of the organization:
Disaster Planning. Build telecommuting capabilities into your disaster plans. Think of all the reasons that employees could be kept away from the work site (fires, floods, flu pandemic, gas leak, snowstorm etc.).
If your company has a telecommuting system in place, employees can still login and work remotely. To ensure the system works, employees should be telecommuting at least occasionally prior to any real disaster.
Customer Service. Many organizations find that customer service ratings improve after workplace flexibility programs are introduced. In some cases, flexible scheduling helps a company extend service hours, with a few employees providing coverage before or after normal service hours.
But even if you don’t expand your hours, there are any number of reasons customer service would improve—like reduced stress, happier employees, and lower turnover rates.
Sustainability. If you’re just talking “green,” flexibility has the largest impact when it includes telecommuting. That means fewer commuter trips into the office, and lower electricity use in home offices (per a Sun Microsystems study).
Alternately, company-wide four day work weeks will also lower energy use. This is a energy-saving solution many government entities (including all state offices in Utah) explored a few years ago when fuel prices were at an all-time high.
But if we’re talking the “triple bottom line” version of sustainability (people, planets, profits) flex goes a lot way toward creating an organization in which people thrive, the planet goes unharmed, and profits improve in a healthy, symbiotic relationship.
Wellness. Flexibility is a great boost to any workplace wellness program. Employees who have more control over their own schedules experience significantly less stress, sleep better, eat better, and exercise more.
And when telecommuting is part of the mix, employees are more likely to stay home when they’re sick and contagious.
Real Estate. Instead of adding on to your building or expanding the parking lot, think about whether any of your job functions could be home-sourced—that is, done by telecommuters. If you’re looking to save money, reducing your commercial real estate and the utilities you pay for that space are a great way to do it.
Generational Issues. Workplace flexibility is one of the top three “benefits” sought after by every generation group. Generally speaking…Boomers are thinking about phased retirement options, Gen Y puts a high value on lifestyle, and just about every generation has family caregiver responsibilities—whether it’s for kids or parents or both.
Compliance. Flexibility is an important tool for accommodating employees’ needs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). And while the EEOC has stopped short of protecting the status of caregivers, a number of cities and counties have passed Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD) laws which prohibit discrimination based on parent status, family status or family responsibilities.
Flexibility is also an important strategy for addressing the needs (and avoiding discrimination) of women on whose shoulders caregiving most often rests.
Talent Management. Attraction and retention have long been at the core of the workplace flexibility message. There are those employees for whom lifestyle means more than the number on the paycheck.
Once an employee has worked in a flexible environment, recruiters will be hard pressed to get them to a work environment that isn’t. Moreover, employees are happier and more engaged when they feel their lives are in control or in balance.
Plus, companies with telecommuting and/or flexible schedules can recruit from a wider talent pool—getting the best candidate for the job, not, for example, the best person who happens to live within commuting distance.
Diversity/Inclusion. Workplace flexibility creates conditions for more women to move into leadership positions, provides accommodation for people with disabilities, and helps organizations attract and retain workers of all generations based on their lifestyle expectations and obligations.
Productivity/Profits. This final impact sums up all the others. Happy, healthy employees are more engaged at work.
When people have more control over how they manage work and home, they bring better focus and creativity to their work. That means higher productivity, lower turnover rates, and better customer service—all business imperatives with a direct, positive impact on the bottom line.