We can always count on Northern California to generate a good debate. On one hand, we saw Yahoo eliminate work-from-home arrangements last year, and on the other, the city of San Francisco passed the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance on Oct. 8.
Essentially, this ordinance and a similar law recently passed in Vermont grant employees the right to request flexibility or predictability in schedule, and the employer is compelled to respond by either granting or denying the request in a prescribed time frame. Both measures have heightened scrutiny of flexibility and what it means to create an effective workplace.
Smart, forward-thinking companies in Florida should consider offering flexwork options without being compelled by law — because it just makes good business sense. There is overwhelming research that shows flexibility leads to higher engagement, retention and productivity as well as lower absenteeism, stress levels, health issues and operating costs. In fact, four out of five workers say flexibility is important when considering a new job.
High-profile examples abound of tangible benefits to corporations. Consider Aetna, where nearly half of workers use flexible workspaces. They shed 2.7 million square feet of office space, saving about $78 million per year. Unilever’s Agile Working initiative resulted in a 12.9 percent reduction in selling and administrative costs, along with a 10.2 percent increase in revenue.
SAS has effective workplace programs that have led to a 37-year string of revenue growth and profitability, employee turnover rates of 2 to 4 percent versus the software industry average of 22 percent, and savings of up to $70 million a year in hiring and training costs.
The rise in flexible workplace initiatives is also supported by several demographic trends:
- One in five U.S. workers currently provides eldercare, necessitating schedule flexibility and/or predictability for the caregivers;
- Growing workforce participation of millennials and digital natives, for whom flexibility to work from anywhere, at any time, and from any device is a foregone conclusion; and
- Men are now reporting higher levels of work/life conflict than women, driving up pressure for flexwork from all workers and not solely working women, according to the Families and Work Institute.
Flexibility options abound
Interestingly, we currently see far more flexwork offered for white collar and salaried workers than in the realm of blue collar, hourly and shift work. That’s partially because managers have a harder time envisioning what flexibility looks like for such workers, but there are a litany of great options that do not involve working from home.
One of the biggest long-term motivators at work is the ability to control one’s destiny. In order to stay relevant, organizations must have a flexible culture where realistic work patterns meet the needs of employees and employers. The ultimate goal of any flexible workplace strategy is to help leaders attract, retain and engage top talent.
It’s up to all parties involved to align on communication, collaboration and accountability practices that ensure smooth execution for colleagues, customers, managers and other relevant constituencies.
Karen May, vice president of people development at Google, put it well: “Imagine a world where most organizations were the best place to work. Imagine what we could be getting done on the planet if it were true.” As a Floridian, I say, “Imagine what we could be getting done in Florida!” ●
Shani Magosky is a flexible workplace consultant, executive coach and productivity expert who has worked in numerous industries, for venerable institutions and unknown startups, in a range of economic environments from bubble to recession, and in revenue-producing, advisory and senior managerial roles. She resides in Fort Lauderdale and can be reached at [email protected] For more information, visit vitesseconsult.com.
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