When productivity and morale are low, some managers react by exerting more control over their staff and implementing ever more stringent rules. After all, it may seem logical to crack down on schedules, remote work opportunities, and internet usage when things start to go haywire. This is an understandable impulse, but it’s also almost always a faulty one.
In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that the more flexibility at work and autonomy you offer your staff, the more engaged and productive they will be. Offer your staff a significant amount of say in when and where they work, and you may be surprised by how productive they become.
Crack the whip, on the other hand, and you are likely to end up with higher turnover and a more demoralized and less productive team.
Here are five ways that flexibility in the office benefits your staff as well as your business as a whole:
1. When you offer flexibility & autonomy, you’ll get loyalty in return.
If turnover is a serious problem at your company, offering your staff more flexibility can be very effective. Employees who are allowed the opportunity to work from home on a regular basis report much higher levels of job satisfaction and overall happiness than those who do not have this flexibility. In fact, flexibility often ranks higher than pay when it comes to job satisfaction.
It stands to reason that satisfied and happy employees are going to be much less likely to look for a new job. If you trust your staff enough to let them have some say in their schedule and to work from home at least some of the time, they are likely to reward your trust with higher levels of buy-in and loyalty. Your turnover rate will go down and your retention levels will improve.
2. You’ll attract better candidates.
Today’s talented workers are more interested in jobs that will offer them true work-life balance. They want to work hard, but not at the expense of their families, health, or passions. In fact, a recent Indeed.com survey showed that interest in flexible work environments that offer better work-life balance has grown by as much as 42% in only a few short years.
What does this mean when you’re trying to fill a position at your company? It means that even if the position comes with a great salary, paid health insurance, and a matching 401K, top candidates may turn it down for a similar role at a company that allows them to set their own hours or work remotely. If you want to build the most qualified team, you should consider embracing the movement toward a more flexible workplace.
3. Flexibility at work leads to happier people working.
There is a strong correlation between flexibility at work and happiness, both in general and on the job. When your staff is happy, workplace morale goes way up, and suddenly your office is a place where people want to be. Flexible schedules and some freedom to work remotely also means that your employees have better opportunities to manage their personal lives and issues that would otherwise distract them (and their co-workers) at work. With more flexibility, your staff will have the time to take care of themselves physically and emotionally, and when they do come into the office (or log on from home) they will be fully engaged and enthusiastic about working.
4. Working from home makes people more productive.
Anecdotally, many workers feel they get more work done away from the distractions and interruptions of office life. This can be especially true for more introverted staff members who can feel drained by the bustle and noise of an office and find it easier to concentrate from a quiet home office.
Studies seem to back this up, with a recent Harvard study demonstrating that employees who are allowed to work from home demonstrate dramatically better work performance while also taking fewer breaks and sick days. They spend less time sitting in traffic during stress-inducing commutes and more time actually working.
While some business owners and managers fear that allowing their staff to work from home will result in a loss of productivity, this fear doesn’t seem to be based in reality or data.
5. Offering more flexibility can save you money.
Specific research into how much money companies save when they offer their staff more flexible work conditions is lacking, but common sense dictates that your business will save money for a few major reasons. Flexibility increases staff loyalty, and the lower your turnover and the higher your employee retention, the less money you will need to spend on training new staff or hiring temps during vacancies. If your employees work from home at least part-time, you may find that you spend less money on office supplies, snacks, and coffee…the sort of small savings that can add up over time. Finally, by helping to boost productivity, you will also boost your revenue and eliminate the waste that comes with paying staff their full salary during periods of low productivity and output.
How you decide to incorporate more flexibility into your workplace culture is up to you and will vary based on your company’s unique needs. At BlogMutt, the in-house staff has the option to work from home on Wednesdays and Fridays, which offers a nice balance of flexibility and facetime. Many companies have moved toward embracing flexible hours (within reason) to better accommodate parents and other team members who are more productive outside the strict confines of a 9-5 schedule. Some companies have taken the concept of flexibility to the next level, offering unlimited vacation as a way to demonstrate their commitment to work-life balance, as well as their belief that their staff are trustworthy and won’t take advantage of their generosity.
When deciding how to offer more autonomy and flexibility to your staff, why not start with a few simple conversations. Start asking your staff what tweaks to their schedules and the workplace culture would make them happier, more productive, and more likely to stick around. And then really listen to the answers.