Embracing the Flexible Workforce

Let’s take a poll.  Choose a statement below that best fits: 

  • I am a morning person and I do my best work before 8:00 AM 
  • I do my best work between 8:00 AM and Noon 
  • I do my best work in the afternoon, between Noon – 4:00 PM 
  • I am a night owl and I prefer to do my best work after 7:00 PM 

Which was best fit for you? 

Answer:  every single person reading this picked something different. 

Now try this. Choose any that apply to you. 

  • I have kids and need the ability to take them to appointments or volunteer at events at their school 
  • I need thinking time for projects and work better in a quiet environment with no interruptions 
  • I feel more creative and energized if I am in a loud coffee house  
  • I love working in my office with coworkers but sometimes I just need a break from the conversations and interruptions 
  • I have some personal appointments and it would be easier to work from home after/before 
  • The weather is terrible outside, it would be so nice not to have the stress of that commute. 

I bet most of you chose all of them. 

My point.  I think you know what I am about to say. 

We, as a culture, should embrace the flexible workforce.   

Hi, recruiter here.  There is a war on talent in most markets but especially in specialty/technical markets.    The number one request I receive during a pre-screening interview is: “I would like a flexible schedule or the ability to work from home”.   Some candidates will even say they will not leave their current position if the new position/company does not allow for it.  Feet in cement on the issue. 

In my history as a recruiter, I had many organizations and managers promise a flexible schedule to my candidates and then rescind on that offer after the candidate joined.  It happened to me!  Promised flexibility to work from home when needed (not all the time, just when I felt like I needed to).  Two months into the position, that was taken away.  Why, you ask?  The other corporate departments felt I was being favored.  Also, the CEO wanted to see me sitting in my seat – he felt more secure seeing me working.  I walked into a traditional culture that was promising progressive policies.  They never lived up to their hype. 

So, what is the issue?  I have worked as a corporate recruiter for a while so I had the inside conversation.  There are normally many excuses given. 

So, let’s spill the tea! 

  • Our technology does not allow it.  I worked for a company that primarily hired engineering and the number one issue was that the technology struggled over their VPN connection. I worked for a global company and their VPN connection was so spotty that working from home was traumatizing (#dramatic).  So, I get it.  Technology is sometimes not invested in enough and working from home can be challenging.  But what are companies doing about it?  I hear an excuse.  What they should be doing is investing in technology that works for the future of the workforce. 
  • Our non-exempt (hourly) workers can’t work from home because we can’t “track them”.  Worst excuse I have ever heard.  If you don’t trust your hourly staff enough to do their jobs, track their hours accordingly, and be good employees – then you should not have hired them in the first place!  Working in corporate has always been an exempt vs. non-exempt employee battle.  It creates resentment in the workforce.  Companies need to do a better job of trusting. 
  • Collaboration is not possible.   I worked for a global Fortune 500 organization and most of the workforce worked remotely.  How, you ask? Video conferencing.  All of our meetings were done via WebEx.  We were encouraged to use video to work with our colleagues.  We also had SKYPE instant messaging for collaborative quick conversations.  It was a part of the culture.  

There are always instances where working in proximity to your colleagues is helpful to a collaborative environment – but do you need that all the time?  No.    Think about how many times you work closely with your coworkers.  How many times are you in brainstorming sessions or in think-tank rooms spit-balling solutions?  Not as often as organizations would make you think.   

I recently worked in a high design office meant for collaborative work – it had couches, libraries, pool table, fancy mid-century modern living room set-ups…. all meant to encourage people to move around the office – work together. “Grab your laptop and work wherever you want!” was the messaging.   I worked there for two years.  Not once did I see any of it used. You can’t force collaboration with a fancy couch or a pool table.  Give the workforce what they actually need. 

  •  If I allow you to do it then I must allow everyone.  Yeah. That’s the point.  Flexibility should not a privilege given to only a few.  I have seen flexibility policy given to only exempt workers, only leadership, only outside sales, etc.  That creates a culture of resentment.  If you are going to allow one to have a flexible schedule you must be open to flexibility from anyone in your workforce.  It may not be an option for your staff that requires their presence (think forklift drivers, warehouse workers, facilities management, etc) but offer something in lieu.  Give them a couple additional floater holidays to use during the year or give them their birthday off.  Do something to even the landscape.  Manage the diverse workforce accordingly but don’t rule out flexibility just because the organization has never thought outside the box!  Be the one to think outside the box! 

Flexibility and working from home are not going away.  Candidates are insisting upon it. 

As a GenX employee I have craved it since I started working.  Our generation was not large enough to budge the Traditionalists and Boomers.  Props to the Millennials for forcing the change.  They were a large enough generation to affect change.  

Reasons to have flexibility are obvious. 

  •  Increase of Productivity:  A two-year study by Stanford University found that there was an impressive increase in work productivity among people who worked from home. The study of 500 people who worked both remotely and in a traditional setting concluded that the productivity among home-based workers was equal to a full day’s work each week.  
  • Increases Employee Retention: The same Stanford University research concluded that people who worked remotely were less likely to leave the company for other employment. The study found there was an overall 50% decrease in attrition among home-based workers. 
  • Employer Cost Savings: In 2018, there was an estimated $5 billion in cost savings for U.S. companies with employees who worked remotely—and that’s just counting part-time workers. In general, embracing remote work options can help employers reduce or eliminate overhead costs, including real estate and operating expenses. The average real estate savings for employers with full-time remote workers is $10,000 per employee every year, according to stats from PGI News
  • Reduce Cost for Employees: Less spent on food, gas, child-care, and clothing. 
  • LESS STRESS:  Figures from OWLLabs in 2019 show that people who work from home at least once a month are 24% more likely to report feeling happier and more productive at their jobs. Factors like no commute and greater control over work environment and schedule play big roles in helping remote workers feel less stressed about their jobs. 
  • Increases the talent pool!  Remember: War on Talent! And it’s especially important among younger workers, with some 68% saying remote options greatly impact their decisions whether or not to work for a company, according to a Fundera report on work-from-home statistics

Source: (https://remote.co/10-stats-about-remote-work/

Employers, ask yourself, are you willing to lose top talent because of traditional office rules?   

Candidates, ask yourself, are you willing to take a job that does not fit your values and requirements? 

We need to work smarter. We need to be flexible.