Why a Flexible Workplace Makes Sense

Offering your workers a chance to break from the 9-to-5 cubicle routine can help both your company culture and bottom line.
Personal Branding Expert, Millennial Branding
September 19, 2012

Workplace flexibility programs are becoming common in most major corporations. Aflac, for example, has a four-day work week (10 hours per day) and a three-day work week (12 hours per day) option for workers. MITRE gives employees a variety of options including a shortened work week, flexible hours and telecommuting. Kraft lets employees take single-day vacations and request job-sharing arrangements pending the approval of management.

The reason why these programs are so effective is because we live in a global economy, where employers are hiring from around the world to fill positions and employees want a less restricted workplace. Gen Y is especially keen on these programs because they want to integrate their friends and family into their lives as much as possible. While older generations can more easily separate work and life, Gen Y sees them as overlapping.  

A new survey by Mom Corps of 1,096 workers shows that Gen Y employees are willing to give up 14 percent of their salary relative to other groups. 62 percent of Gen Y think that they would get more done if they had the ability to work from home occasionally. Some 80 percent already have some form of flexibility at their current job and 65 percent agree that flexibility is one of the most important factors they consider when looking for a new job. These programs create a sense of trust among workers and adapt to changing lifestyles. Here are the main benefits of having a strong workplace flexibility program:

1. It attracts top talent. Not having a program is a major opportunity cost because your competitors already have one. Gen Y will probably not even apply for jobs at your company if you don't have a program. It's also important to note that people have different situations and might only be able to work remotely. Some might live in other countries, have family obligations, etc.

2. It decreases turnover. Within Aflac's call center operations, employee retention has increased from 87 to 94 percent because of their flexibility program. First Tennessee Bank has about 8,000 employees and through its workplace flexibility program, the company has saved an 85 percent turnover of people who would have otherwise left.

3. It increases morale. When employees have more control over their work environment, they are happier and less stressed. Ryan LLC, a tax advisory services firm, established their program called "myRyan" and credits it with increasing employee morale. Employees want to feel like companies trust them to get the work done.

4. It saves you money. Cisco has had a workplace flexibility program for years. In 2003, they saved $195 million in increased employee productivity. The found that if you let employees work from home, they are more focused and dedicated to completing the task at hand.

5. It increases engagement. In the Harvard Business Review, Scott Edinger explains that remote workers are more engaged than those who work in an office. Although this may surprise many leaders who feel that productivity increases when you're in close proximity, the opposite is true. When workers aren't near each other, they feel that it's necessary to be in constant contact. He also notes that leaders of virtual teams are more savvy with tools such as videoconferencing and e-mail. Finally, he acknowledges that leaders who work remote constantly strive to make the best use of their time.

Read more on managing employees.  

 Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career expert and the founder of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting company. He is also the author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future and was named to the Inc. Magazine 30 Under 30 list in 2010. Subscribe to his Personal Branding Blog for more advice.

Personal Branding Expert, Millennial Branding