After years of fighting for more flexibility, workers around the world can take heart in a simple fact: flexible work is becoming the new normal.
That phrase is music to the ears of many employees, who have spent decades building the case for flex work to their bosses, then proving that flexibility is better for both workers and a company’s bottom line.
While that work continues, it does appear that companies have heard the message.
According to a recent survey by recruiting company Hays, 89% of employers said flexible working options were “very important” or “important” for staff attraction and retention.
The survey of 1,253 professionals and 951 employers also showed that 33% of the professionals said flex was critical to their decision to stick with an employer. Another 63% said it was “nice to have,” while just 4% said flexible work was not important.
“A third of professionals identifying flexible work as critical to remaining employed is significant, and we predict this figure will only grow as our cities become more congested and the proportion of younger workers increases,” Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia and New Zealand, said in a press release about the survey. “There are many reasons why people may require flexible working options, including living further from [central business districts] to access affordable housing, balancing ongoing caring responsibilities, ramping back up after parental leave or throttling back from full-time work toward retirement.
“The emerging technologies of the fourth industrial revolution have made flexible working arrangements more accessible and transparent, which people are aware of. For this reason, it’s also becoming more important to staff attraction and retention.”
Deligiannis points out that the growing power of millennials in the workforce is also contributing to this “new normal” of flexibility.
“Millennials (those born between the early 1980s to early 1990s) are pursuing work-life integration rather than work-life balance successfully and are happy for work and life to coexist—provided their employer allows them to utilize technology to work flexibly,” he says in the press release. “Younger workers are also more willing to move from one work assignment or contract to another than previous generations and have higher levels of confidence when it comes to sharing and collaborating securely online.”
All of these are valid reasons for the mainstreaming of work flex, but Hays isn’t the only organization noting the trend. A recent Fast Company article points specifically to the growth of remote work as part of the flexibility surge.
“The so-called talent shortage is affecting the way the majority of hiring managers are viewing their permanent employees by adopting a more flexible workforce,” the article says. “More hiring managers report that having the right skills is more important than being able to work from the same location as the rest of the team. More than half (59%) of hiring managers today are using freelance and contract workers, up 24% from 2017, and predict that number will increase by 168% in the next decade.”
These kinds of statistics support what flexible work advocates have been saying for many years as they foresaw the inevitable normalizing of flex.
The truth is, when it’s formalized with a policy, tailored to an individual company and its employees, and managed correctly, flexibility helps everyone. It allows business to recruit and retain the best workers. It could also make them more environmentally friendly (by cutting commutes) and reduce spending on office space, among myriad other benefits.
Meanwhile, employees who have flexible work options tend to have more balanced (or more successfully integrated) lives, allowing them to more effectively use both their work and off-work hours. That improved balance tends to make them happier and, often, more productive.
Not all companies are fully on board with flex yet, but as more surveys, studies, and personal experiences show its benefits, they are bound to take a look.
Until that transformation is complete, advocates can at least share some satisfaction in the success of past efforts to move flex from a fad or buzzword to an expected and “normal” part of the business world.
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