Employees today want more from their employers than a regular paycheck. They have come to expect benefits from 401K matching to paid parental leave and everything in between. And with more than five different generations working at many companies, a one-size-fits-all approach to employee benefits simply doesn’t work anymore.
For an employer to be a competitive recruiter, they must provide individualized benefit plan options like tuition reimbursement, equity, CSR programs, ERG groups, on-site gyms, internet reimbursements, and at the top of most employees lists—more flexibility and choice in how, when, and where they work. This is a critical point for recruiting and retaining employees.
A survey by FlexJobs shows that 65% of employees surveyed wanted to work remotely after the pandemic with 33% wanting a hybrid work arrangement. As more employees ask for remote work benefits, what they’re really wanting is more flexibility and choice to enable better work-life balance.
Having more flexibility and choice means work arrangements can be catered to employees’ individual needs, unique schedules, and varying demands of their dependents. Expanded work options also leads to more financial flexibility by allowing people to purchase homes outside of commuting distance from the office, or pocket the savings from unneeded commutes, after-school care, or other business-related expenses. That flexibility and choice to work how, when, and where they want helps many employees feel more balanced, healthy, and trusted. And that sentiment can lead to increased productivity and creativity, as well as lower overhead costs for businesses.
The Growing Expectation for Flexibility and Choice
While remote work is a growing expectation in today’s workforce, the concept of “work-life balance” is not new. In the 70s and 80s the term was coined by baby boomers with a desire to strike the perfect balance between work and other aspects of their lives like family and hobbies. Since then, the term “work-life integration” has become more prevalent—suggesting that work is part of life and all aspects should be seamlessly integrated into one.
Regardless of what you call it, this desired balance is better achieved with flexibility and choice at work. For some, that means working remotely. This movement towards remote work was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. At its onset, employers moved to remote or hybrid work environments as a temporary solution to reducing the risk of COVID exposure in offices. Now it’s hard for some businesses to justify going back to the office. It’s especially hard to ask employees to come back to the office when 58% of people who worked remotely through the pandemic would absolutely look for another job if they had to come back to the office. Employees feel more comfortable leaving office-based environments because the job market has more remote work options. This provides ample opportunity for resigning employees to get more flexibility and choice at other companies.
The desire for more flexibility through remote work has also risen due to recent technological advancements and applications that have made remote work effective, reliable, and broadly affordable. Businesses have better services and software for clear voice and video calls, effective captioning and translation integrations, and engaging chat platforms for employee collaboration. Many businesses already provided employees with personal laptops before the pandemic. Those devices could be used for office work, business trips, and working at home. This access to technology and effective communication applications has finally made flexibility through remote work a viable option for 9-to-5 workers across the US.
How to Deliver Flexibility and Choice
In a 2021 Mercer report, 2,000 U.S.-based employees were surveyed to reveal the truth about what employees want. This report states that 30% of employees would consider leaving their current employer due to “lack of flexibility / requirements to be on-site.” Remote work is considered the ultimate solution for providing flexibility and choice to employees. While true in many cases, flexibility and choice can go beyond just having the option to work from home and can benefit employees in three key ways.
- Lifestyle Benefits: For many, flexibility at work means a healthier, more balanced life. An employee may choose to cook and eat healthier meals at home, or they may take mid-day breaks to workout, meditate, or walk the dog. Overall, flexibility and choice in work arrangement allows employees to create individualized, healthy working habits to meet their personal needs and family or community obligations.
- Financial Benefits: Employees want to have control over their financial futures and want benefits that support their unique lifestyles and current phase of life. Benefits could include having the option to telecommute and save money on gas. Flexibility in work hours or location may reduce or eliminate the cost of after care, dog walking, or food delivery. Employees with the option to work in another state, country, or more affordable suburb can reduce the cost of living. Remote work also opens up more job options so workers can apply for higher paying jobs outside their city.
- Career Benefits: The increase in remote roles globally has expanded career options for employees. Individuals committed to living in a certain location due to family obligations, health issues, or other factors can now apply for jobs beyond commuting distance. This also means employers have an expanded talent pool for finding the right candidates for open positions. This further emphasizes the need for businesses to offer flexibility to its employees to remain competitive in the job market.
Expanding Flexibility and Choice the Right Way
While there are many benefits to expanding flexibility and choice for employees, it still presents several challenges. Main challenges include maintaining collaboration, coordination, and communication between employees. Businesses must have intentional structures in place to manage their remote workforces and help facilitate healthy, productive interactions within teams. Otherwise, flexibility and choice become chaos and burnout.
Employers can facilitate effective collaboration by doing things like implementing policies to manage coordination between employees in different time zones. They can set expectations for working hours, and provide collaboration tools and platforms for employees to communicate. Without intentional effort, the efficiency of remote work may dwindle and employers may be tempted to cut back on employee flexibility and choice. This means flexible work environments, where employees are given lots of agency and autonomy, still need to be well supported with policies, technology, and work cultures that enable connectivity and success.
Remember, although remote work is what most people are looking for, it’s not the core desire, just a the means to the desired outcome of flexibility and choice. It’s about enabling workers to have true work-life balance through a variety of benefit options. Employers must provide the scaffolding for employees to effectively make the most of the expanded flexibility, while reliably delivering for the business.
Offer your workforce more flexibility through expert, back-end and behind-the-scenes support. Outsourcing day-to-day services can free up your employees to excel in their specialized functions. Reach out to SupportNinja to learn more about the time, and premium services we offer.