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Any business serious about building a successful future needs to meet its employees’ demands for flexibility
The fact that the work landscape is evolving at a rate of knots won’t have escaped your notice. The very idea that we should work 9 to 6, five days a week, in a traditional office, is being consigned to history.
The reason? Generation Flex, an ever-expanding pool of digital nomads who are challenging the fundamental assumptions about employment. Used to plugging in anywhere, at any time, this dynamic workforce is not only eschewing the constraints of working from one set place, it is also questioning the long hours culture.
Rather, a healthy work-life balance is the priority and flexible working – allowing employees to work in the best style and format to suit them – is seen to improve this balance.
In fact, according to a recent survey by IWG, more than 80% of workers worldwide say they would prioritise a role that offered flexible working options.
So what exactly is Gen Flex after? And why should employers be facilitating their demands?
The new generation wants to work smarter, not longer. ‘Smart working’ moves away from the employment models that were relevant for the 20th century, essentially rigid hours in a fixed location.
Instead, performance is determined by results, not time and attendance. As long as the employee achieves great work, it can be done wherever, whenever.
With this ‘results model’ in mind, workers do not want to be tied to a fixed desk but rather have the personal freedom to work at a place that’s convenient – whether that be in a shared office space or at home. Indeed, 54% of workers say having a choice of work location is more important to them than working for a prestigious company.
Generation Flex also wants to control its own hours in a bid for higher life satisfaction. This could, for example, be through part-time working. Or doing a four-day week – an option of working four days but being productive enough to get paid for five – giving workers a day off in the week to pursue their own interests or spend time with family.
“This is an idea whose time has come,” said Andrew Barnes, founder and chief executive of Perpetual Guardian, the New Zealand-based financial services company that switched to a four-day week last November. “We need to get more companies to give it a go. They will be surprised at the improvement in their company, their staff and in their wider community.”
Other employees are looking for a more fluid arrangement, whereby they work the hours needed to achieve the desired results, but on their own terms, taking breaks in the day to go to the gym, grab some fresh air or pick up the kids. Working in short bursts like this can enhance concentration, give employees a fresh mindset and help them focus on dedicated key topics.
Another growing trend in the work landscape – which also requires businesses to adopt a flexible approach – is ‘employer-supported volunteering’ (ESV), whereby employees take paid time off work to volunteer, which can give them a fresh perspective on life, revive their passion for work, teach new skills and re-energise.
“Corporate volunteering can deliver big business benefits, not only through helping organisations build relationships within their local communities, but also by giving employees the chance to build new skills and capabilities that they can then transfer back to their day jobs,” says Katerina Rüdiger, Chief Community Officer at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
These flexible working scenarios may differ in their implementation, but they all result in one thing: happier employees. And if employees are happy, businesses will get the best results from people as they are less stressed and more effective.
Little wonder that, in the IWG Survey, 85% of businesses confirm that productivity has increased in their business because of greater flexibility, and a remarkable 67% think that flexibility can improve productivity by at least a fifth.
And, as we all know, with enhanced productivity comes success. It’s no small coincidence that 79% of businesses see flexible working as a driver to success – and who doesn’t want that?
Find out more about IWG Global Workspace Survey and its findings