Workforce flexibility provides equivalent benefits to both employees and employers. Most people think that flexible shifts are beneficial primarily to workers, but the basic benefits for employers include:
- Increased employee morale
- Reductions in turnover rates
- Fewer instances of absenteeism and tardiness
- Better company image
- Ability to attract top talent
- Working when you’re most productive, which generates cost-value benefits for employers
- Easier to staff extended hours for customer service and shopping for 9-to-5 employees
- Ability to fill part-time positions with employees who work remotely
- Ability to find remote talent when none is readily available locally
Key Advantage of Using Flexible Workers: It’s an Employee’s Market
Statistics compiled by NASDAQ show that 43 percent of all workers – both full- and part-time – will work in freelance jobs by 2020. Digital technologies enable greater numbers of people to work remotely from home. People are no longer stuck with rigid schedules and ties to their hometowns. That creates an employee’s market in the same way as real estate sales can be a buyer’s or seller’s market.
You can’t attract top talent or hire talented people who are only willing to work flexible shifts if you remain committed to traditional workplace standards. Unemployment rates are low, and competition for the best jobs is at the highest levels for most industries. It’s an employee’s market, which means workers are in the driver’s seat.
Employers must provide the benefits, programs and work environment that prospective employees demand. Salary and hourly pay rates are no longer the most critical issue when choosing an employer. Employees want to compress their work days, work from home and telecommute occasionally when under the weather. The benefits of flexible jobs for employees include:
- Ability to work during the most productive hours based on each person’s energy cycle
- Reductions in commuting time and transportation expenses
- Ability to meet household needs such as childcare, babysitting, providing access to service people, etc.
- Better control of the work environment
Flexible jobs aren’t rose gardens or panaceas – they still require work and commitment. There are some disadvantages to flexible jobs, and your HR staff should warn prospective hires of some of the downsides. These include:
- Some people don’t work well unless under direct supervision
- Workers can get lonely when there’s nobody around for casual conversations
- Independent contractors must keep records of expenses, file estimated tax forms and make regular tax payments
- Working from home generates problems dividing home and work responsibilities
- Without peer pressure, some people lose their incentive to perform or get distracted by household issues, entertainment options, etc.
- Family members or roommates might divert the attention of the worker when they should treat working from home as if they were working at the office.
The advantages of offering flexible work arrangements can be subtle, but that doesn’t make them any less real. Some of the benefits of flexibility for employers include:
- Support for Cheaper Labor Options
Full-time workers quickly qualify for benefit packages that part-time workers don’t get. Replacing just one full-time worker with two part-timers or a temp can reduce your payroll considerably – even if the workers are paid the same hourly rate. The savings become more substantial as you increase the number of part-time and temporary workers.
- Invigorating Your Workforce
How many people do you lose to retirement, leaves of absence or poaching by competitors? Offering flexible shifts can help you retain your staff in more flexible work schedules. Many retirees are happy to work a few hours a week to supplement their pensions or Social Security. Flexible retirees make great training staff, mentors, consultants and support personnel.
People on paternity leave might want to work a few hours each week to keep their skills sharp and their hand in the game. Any parent can appreciate getting a break from bottles, diapers and regular crying jags. Everyone in your workforce – many of whom might not want to continue working 40 hours per week until retirement – can relax in knowing that they have alternative work options at your flexible organization.
- Offering Flexible Working Options
You can’t hire the best people unless you offer them flexible choices in today’s competitive hiring market. A statistic has debunked the myth that older workers don’t want flex-time jobs as much as their younger counterparts according to a report posted at Flexjobs.com.
Job candidates from all demographic groups now expect alternative work options. If you don’t have some flexibility, you can’t land a big percentage of the workforce. The Flexjobs.com article also reported these convincing statistics about the value of job flexibility in the workplace:
- 24 percent of traditional shift workers are unhappy in their jobs.
- More than 87 percent of home-based workers expressed delight in their work situations.
- Workers are more productive at home.
- 63 percent of respondents felt that the 40-hour work week is already obsolete.
- 48 percent of employees who work from home at least one day per week rate their jobs a “10” on a 1-10 scale.
- Better Matching of Talent to Work Positions
Many companies spend a tremendous amount of money for a dead time when workers aren’t generating sales or profits or doing something productive. Restaurants, for example, have always offered split shifts for servers who earn most of their money from tips during breakfast, lunch and dinner hours. Companies can save money by offering similar arrangements to flexible workers to cover the busiest times. Even restaurants that pay their servers very little cash – which often doesn’t cover payroll deductions – become frustrated when paying for dead time. This frustration is clearly shown by the common mantra “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”
- Replacing Key People
Succession planning is critical for key staff members with important skills. Training and hiring replacements are easier if you have a pool of cross-trained workers who can step into multiple roles when needed. Companies that have employees with multiple skills have fewer problems replacing key people.
- Filling Positions from a Global Pool of Applicants
It’s not always easy to find qualified staff in small towns. In some companies, it’s difficult to find the right people in major urban centers. When you adopt flexible working conditions, you can hire from a global pool of candidates.
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Millennials and Flex-time Workers Unite Over Greater Flexibility in the Workplace
More and more people are discovering the benefits of flexible working arrangements. Millennials and Gen Z are the biggest groups driving this trend, but even baby boomers see and understand the benefits of a more flexible working environment. The following YouTube video discusses the benefits of more flexibility in the workplace from both an employer’s and an employee’s point-of-view.
What Is Workforce Flexibility, and How Can I Create It?
Flexibility can obviously mean different things to different employers. Some organizations hire temporary workers to fulfill seasonal demand. Some offer part-time or full-time positions to work from home by telecommuting, collaborating digitally, working remotely or manning call center operations. Example of flexible jobs include:
- Restaurant work such as catering, working one shift a day, party planning, meal delivery and bookkeeping services
- Skilled field services such as construction, plumbing, handyman services, painting, etc.
- Delivery services of food, documents and small packages
- Tax preparation services
- Warehouse work such as temporary jobs, picking, sorting and filling seasonal demand
Flexible Shifts Include Part-time and Flex-time Jobs and Nontraditional Work Hours
People now insist on flexible shifts because they know that they can get them from forward-thinking employers. Settling for a 9-to-5 job doesn’t work for many people. Some people can’t meet their personal and family demands while working at a highly structured job. These include single parents, people with certain medical conditions, students and many others.
Employees can use flexible jobs to work around medical appointments, schedule work at different times than their spouses to leave someone at home with the children, manage demanding hobbies, work as digital nomads, travel frequently or work the night shift if they’re night owls who are more productive at night.
Flexjobs.com reports that flexible scheduling increases employee loyalty and job satisfaction, which leads to lower turnover rates. Companies can save on hiring and training replacements. It costs an average of 33 percent of a position’s annual salary to hire and train a replacement.
Building a Pipeline of Skilled Workers for Immediate Assignments
Digital technologies can help you build a network of skilled workers in any industry. Workforce management technology software and applications work exceedingly well for managing a mobile workforce. The best strategies for building a flexible workforce include:
- Cross-training Your Staff
Cross-training your staff makes it possible to use your human resources in flexible ways. You can assign competently cross-trained workers to fill in for absent workers, strengthen your work staff when an unexpected work backlog arises and replace key people who are lost to illness, death or turnovers.
- Hiring Job Candidates with Multiple Skills
It might prove advantageous to hire job candidates with multidisciplinary skills. It’s not at all uncommon to find that new hires work out better in positions that they weren’t hired to fill.
- Developing a Network of On-call Workers
- Using Flexible Staffing Skillfully
Flexible staffing is an increasingly common approach for filling immediate job vacancies. Marketbusinessnews.com defines flexible staffing as the ability to grow or shrink a workforce based on seasonal demand and market forces.
There are many people who prefer to work at flexible jobs for variety and life experience, and employer choices include hiring temps, independent contractors, retirees and part-time workers with multiple work skills and/or years of experience in the relevant industry. An increasing number of people live as digital nomads who travel the world extensively and find flexible work along the way. These nomads usually have high levels of IT and other marketable skills, which makes them strong candidates for flexible jobs.
- Generating Telecommuting Jobs
Today’s digital technologies make it as easy to work from remote locations as it is to work in an office or cubicle. Hiring telecommuting staff is a great way to begin your efforts to expand your work options. You can use telecommuters for customer service, consulting, design services and content creation.
- Moving to the Cloud
Moving to the cloud is important for creating universal authorized access to company data. It’s an important decision because more companies are downsizing their physical operations in favor of remote workers, consultants and customer service personnel.
You can gradually reduce your physical assets for cost optimization when your staff can work using cloud-based tech. That’s especially important now because of the FASB/IASB accounting changes that took place on January 1, 2019, in the United States. These changes make it less practical to lease commercial real estate.
- Finding the Right Resources for Skilled Labor
Finding a reliable supplier of skilled labor is the quickest way to fill flexible job positions as needed. You should begin to cultivate employment agencies to find one that chooses excellent candidates for your industry, screens them well and has a broad base of people from which to draw.
- Catching Up on Security Issues
Small companies suffer from security breaches – about 72 percent of breaches occur in companies with fewer than 100 employees. It’s important to address the security practices of in-house and remote employees and provide them with top-of-the-line security software. Upgrading your security practices is an important first step before hiring remote employees. You should explore installing advanced security tools and training your staff in security best practices.
- Building a Library of Training Resources
One of the best ways to prepare for greater flexibility in the workplace is to create self-paced learning programs. These can prove invaluable in cross-training and training remote employees. You can monitor and fine-tune the effectiveness of your programs by using them in-house to train new hires.
As your company becomes more efficient at managing flexible and remote jobs, you’ll soon find that you need fewer physical resources for your business. Companies can downsize their brick-and-mortar operations by hiring qualified flex-time and remote workers. Working shorter shifts under optimal working conditions generates higher productivity. You get the best performances of your flexible workers during their prime working hours instead of paying for dead time and idle staff during the latter part of a full 8-hour shift.
Using Technology to Simplify Your Efforts to Build a Flexible-friendly Company Culture
You can use technology, machine learning, and software to simplify the process of building a company culture that embraces flexible working conditions. Hrtechnologist.com reports that fine-tuning your company’s culture is a challenging prospect, but technology can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
The most common technology tools for managing a flexible staff include workforce management software, proprietary apps for employees and customers and other workforce management, or WFM, tools. These tools can be used to schedule work, provide information about who is working where and connect field service technicians to the office. Other benefits of using WFM tools in your business include:
- Delivering better customer experiences because of expanded customer service options
- Minimizing compliance risks
- Improving a company’s ability to analyze work efficiency in the field
- Allowing employees to clock in and out remotely using their phones
Recognizing the accomplishments of your remote and field workers is incredibly important when managing flexible workers. These employees don’t get the regular feedback and recognition that’s available to in-house employees, but you can use technology to recognize their work and reward them. For example, Microsoft and other companies are investing heavily in HR self-service apps and technology to foster company culture among flexible workers. Apps like Disco help bring your company culture online, which is ideal for extending cultural inclusion to your remote workers, telecommuters and independent contractors.
Cloud-based systems are essential infrastructure for all flexible jobs. Your cloud-based software and operating system enable your company to manage remote work efficiently, communicate and collaborate between in-house and remote staff and allow people to work for your company no matter where they live in the world.
Sophisticated training modules are an essential technology for training remote workers effectively. You can use virtual reality software for learning and collaboration purposes. Company managers can choose from a variety of communications tools such as Live, Slack, and Workplace by Facebook to deliver personalized communications to a great number of remote workers.
You might be new to flexible hiring, but you have a duty of care to your employees who also might be new to working in flexible jobs. If you hire remote workers as independent contractors, they might be ignorant of the requirement to make tax payments throughout the year. Work-at-home employees might not keep track of their work expenses to reduce their tax burden. Some companies that employ remote workers change their pay periods for employees whose incomes are garnished by government authorities or civil courts. A company that pays remote workers weekly in an automatic process might need to handle garnishments manually, so they might change pay periods from weekly to monthly.
Keeping your remote employees informed about taxes, garnishments, benefits and tax-reporting requirements is a good business practice for responsible employers. An employee who finds that he or she owes taxes or that his or her income is being garnished can cause work stress. That can result in poor job performance and/or job turnover. You should cover these issues in your onboarding process so that your employees aren’t surprised by unexpected interruptions in their incomes.
Trends for the Future Favor Employers that Offer Flexible Options in the Workplace
Offering work flexibility is no longer an option or privilege. It’s a hardcore necessity for companies that want to hire top talent. Remote work has become the standard for 50 percent of the population according to an article posted at Forbes.com.
Some of the factors influencing the trend include greater demand for tech-savvy IT personnel, many of whom work as independent contractors, remote consultants and web designers. More and more talented single people and couples refuse to establish ties to one city and live nomadic lifestyles.
These digital nomads often work from dormitory-style hotels, high-end suites and co-working office spaces. Remote work is expected to increase rapidly, and the sooner that you embrace the trend and allow greater flexibility in your workplace, the faster your company will grow based on attracting top talent, providing 24/7 customer service and reducing labor costs.
The literature, statistics and media stories show an ever-increasing trend of job flexibility. According to Owllabs.com, employers all over the world are adopting more flexible jobs including telecommuting, remote jobs and flexible shifts. Statistics confirm the trend with these revelations:
- About 16 percent of all businesses are now fully staffed by remote workers.
- 44 percent of companies don’t allow remote work, but that figure is decreasing each year.
- 40 percent of businesses allow their employees to work in the office or at home.
- 52 percent of organizations allow their employees to work from home at least once a week.
- 68 percent of employees work remotely at least once a month.
Companies today operate in one of three models. Some businesses don’t allow remote work, but they can still offer flexible shifts and working conditions. Some companies are fully remote and are known as distributed companies. All employees of these flexible organizations work remotely, and most of them offer shift flexibility, flex-time, and other nontraditional work methods. Hybrid companies offer employees a choice of working in the office or from their homes.
The Extraordinary Employer Benefits of Adopting a Flexible Work Policy
Flexible work policies make your business more efficient. You can hire people at lower rates to do manual labor while employing skilled workers for shorter periods. In digital terms, you’re breaking down jobs into smaller increments. You can supply just the necessary level of skill to cover each area.
This approach of flexible scheduling can increase productivity and improve employee morale. You can hire temporary skilled labor for boring, repetitive jobs and assign your skilled staff to more rewarding work. People enjoy working for a more flexible employer, and it leads to better work attendance. Employees with flexible work options have more control over when they work, so they’re happier.
Switching to more flexible work policies requires making some adjustments, but you don’t have to start out with a fully flexible business. You can gradually adopt more flexible policies such as hiring some staff members to work remotely and building a network of talent for part-time and temporary workers and independent contractors. Employing people from a skilled, flexible group of candidates is a win-win situation for employers.
The important thing is to get started immediately. You might begin by allowing your staff to work at home once a week or once a month while you work out the bugs. You’ll see immediate benefits in increased worker loyalty and increased productivity. People who work from home are more productive and happier.
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