1 July, 2010 by

Flexing It: Not Just for Moms Anymore

This is the first in a three-post series on flexible work arrangements

When people think about flexible work arrangements, they often think about mothers wanting to spend more time at home with their children. However, flexible work arrangements, in their various incarnations, aren’t just for moms. More and more men are looking to balance work with home life. Baby Boomers are trying to cut back their work hours before taking full retirement. And members of Generation Y, who have grown up being connected all the time, don’t want to feel limited by the traditional nine to five day; they want to work at night or on the weekends so they can have better work-life balance even without the demands of a family. A study by The Family and Work Life Institute found that 79% of employees want more flexibility.

Regardless of who is asking for flexibility and their reasons for the request, companies stand to gain a lot from offering flexible work arrangements (the next post in this series will talk about the different types of arrangements). In particular, finance departments can benefit greatly from the costs savings of allowing employees to work outside traditional work hours or spaces. In fact, flexibility should not be thought of as an expensive perk, but a win-win situation that makes employees happy and saves money for the company.

Here are the primary benefits of providing flexible work arrangements:

  1. Cost savings. The recession put corporate real estate (CRE) in a unique situation. The increase in layoffs in 2008 and 2009 challenged CRE to rapidly shrink the portfolio to meet the decreased business demand for space. At the same time the real estate market softened, making lease renegotiation a valuable tactic. While lease renegotiation is a core strategy of most CRE organizations, best-in-class companies rely less on it to achieve the necessary portfolio flexibility. Rather, leading organizations lean more heavily on strategies that increase space flexibility and staff mobility. By designing space and offering flexibility to employees, CRE can increase utilization, shed more space, and still have the capacity needed to support growth when it returns. Start by conducting a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of both current and proposed mobility initiatives. This analysis can help you secure buy-in from stakeholders to change your portfolio.In 2009, Citigroup implemented its Citi’s Alternative Workplace Strategies to both reduce the cost of Citi’s real estate by 15% while also granting workers’ requests for more flexibility. Employees who do much of their work online or over the phone can choose to work remotely with permission from their managers.
  2. Improved value as an employer. Numerous studies have shown that one of the benefits that employees value most when considering an employer is flexibility. Flexible work arrangements can help companies attract employees who might be unwilling to accept traditional employment arrangements — such as mothers returning to work or people with disabilities — and to attract candidates more generally. For example, at Bristol-Myers Squibb, 20% of new hires say the company’s flexible work program influenced their decision to accept a job offer. Additionally, offering flexible work indicates to employees that you care about them, making flexibility an effective tool to drive engagement, job satisfaction, and retention.
  3. Increased employee engagement. When you give employees something they value, they are more likely to go above and beyond for the company. Our research shows that organizations with a high degree of flexibility experience employee engagement levels that are 79% higher than those of organizations with low levels. Increased engagement leads to increased discretionary effort, such as helping others with heavy workloads, offering to take on additional responsibilities, and looking for ways to do their job more effectively. Higher levels of discretionary effort lead to enhanced productivity. In fact, highly engaged employees expend 57% more effort and perform up to 20% better on their performance reviews than non-engaged peers.

Continue reading the second part of the series to learn more about the different types of flexible work arrangements.

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