Flexible Work Arrangements: Optimising Your Workforce Productivity and Retention
Scheduling optimisation can take many forms: telecommuting, compressed workweeks and flexitime, for example. At its most base level, it allows employees to perform work duties outside of work, and technological improvements have made those options available to a larger segment of the workforce. Some arrangements, however, have yet to garner widespread acceptance in many organisations’ current cultures.
But research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) (1) shows that participation in some type of optimisation has risen in recent years and yielded positive results for employee recruitment, retention, development and productivity.
The Importance of FWAs
According to the SHRM 2015 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report (2), scheduling optimisation options, or flexible work arrangements (FWAs), are important to employees and affects their willingness to stick around. Fifty-five percent of employee respondents, for example, noted work-life balance flexibility as a “very important aspect of their job satisfaction.”
FWAs are also vital for retention according to SHRM’s 2015 HR Jobs Pulse Survey (3), in which 38 percent of respondents indicated they continue at their current enterprise because of the “flexibility to balance work and life issues.”
Without FWAs an enterprise could put itself at risk of understaffed shifts which, according to the latest U.K. Health and Safety Enterprise (4) report on staffing levels, can lead to:
- Safety-critical tasks going uncompleted, or completed later than they should have been
- Maintenance becoming backlogged
- Increases in overtime
- Complaints and absences related to stress, fatigue and other ill health to increase
- Turnover due to high workload, stress and fatigue
- Bottlenecked communications
- Customer complaints and increased delivery times
In the SHRM 2015 Employee Benefits Report (5), more than half of employers surveyed said they now offer the following FWAs: telecommuting (60 percent), telecommuting on an ad hoc basis (56 percent), flexitime (54 percent) and flexitime during core business hours (52 percent). Other common options include compressed workweeks (31 percent), full-time telecommuting (22 percent) and shift flexibility (21 percent), all in an effort to appease employees while keeping shifts at full strength.
Employers’ participation in some options has substantially increased over the past five years according to the report. Fifty-six percent, for example, offered ad hoc telecommuting in 2015, up 14 percent from 2011.
Over the next few years, many HR professionals (89 percent) believe flexible scheduling and telecommuting options will increase in some way, according to the SHRM 2014 Workplace Flexibility: Overview of Flexible Work Arrangements Survey (6). The survey also shows that 83 percent believe telecommuting, in particular, has improved certain aspects of organisations’ operations and will be more commonplace, overall.
Similarly, the survey revealed that “one-quarter (26%) reported the productivity of employees who previously worked 100% onsite had increased, and one-third (32%) reported absenteeism rates had decreased.”
FWA Success and Effects
In the 2014 survey, HR professionals were asked to comment on the success of FWAs. Ninety-one percent said a compressed workweek “has had some degree of success” (61 percent said “very successful” and 30 percent said “somewhat successful”). In addition, more than 50 percent of the respondents also believed that FWAs “had a positive effect on various business operations, including recruitment and retention, employee excellence, and organisational success.” Most critically, support or buy-in from top management, employee commitment and “a supportive organisational culture” determine scheduling optimisation success.
Another benefit of FWAs comes in recruiting various demographics. Thirty-seven percent of the survey respondents of SHRM’s Aging Workforce: Recruitment and Retention Survey (7) cited using “flexible scheduling as a means of attracting older workers,” and 97 percent said flexible scheduling has been effective for recruitment and retention of older workers (63 percent said “very effective”).
Millennials are another demographic that appreciates FWAs. They “have shown an increased preference for having greater control over their own schedules, and many place greater emphasis on organisational culture, rather than on compensation-related aspects of a job,” according to SHRM’s 2015 Strategic Benefits Survey: Leveraging Benefits to Recruit Employees (8).
If you’re struggling to show positive results in recruitment and retention of a diverse population, while raising overall productivity, flexible work arrangements might be a key to help unlock the full potential of your workforce.
By Diane Faulkner