Why working flexibly boosts productivity
While there is considerable research to suggest the majority of employees (of all ages) want to work flexibly, resistance among employers remains. Many view offering flexibility as a concession to staff rather than a business benefit. This can pose a challenge for the HR Business Partner wanting to encourage flexibility in the face of opposition.
One solution is to focus on the ways in which flexible working can boost productivity. I’ve outlined eight below.
1. If they can work flexibly people will choose times when they know their energy and focus is highest – thus enabling them to do their best work. For those who are ‘larks’ this is likely to mean an early start; whereas those (like me) who are owls produce their best results later in the day.
2. There is a mounting body of evidence that people working flexibly tend to be more engaged and therefore more likely to ‘go the extra mile’ for both their employer and for customers or clients. Cranfield School of Management pioneered research in this area back in 2008 when they reported on a two year study revealing a positive relationship between flexible working and individual performance. The report can be downloaded (as a free pdf) from the publications section of the Working Families website.
3. Since work can be done anywhere and at any time; the focus shifts to outputs rather than time spent in the office. As a consequence employees have greater clarity around what is expected of them; while also having the freedom to tackle those tasks in ways that suit them best. This often results in the elimination of unnecessary tasks and an overhaul of outdated practices – with an attendant increase in productivity.
4. Where working hours are flexible many non-work activities – such as doctor and dentist visits – can be scheduled during employees’ personal time. They don’t eat into the working day and there’s no concern on the employee’s part about making up time. Many people welcome this freedom.
5. Some forms of flexibility – such as part-time and annual hours – enable the employer to hire staff only for those hours when the work is there to be done.
6. The shortage of quality part-time work offering reduced hours (particularly in senior roles) can result in recruiting someone more able who can ‘hit the ground running’ with a saving on training costs and higher productivity from the outset.
7. Employees who can work from home (even if it’s just some of the time) can save themselves the wear and tear of the morning commute – leaving them less frazzled and feeling fresher at the start of their working day. Which of course will make them more productive.
8. Finally, yours may be an international business with roles that interact with people in other parts of the world – perhaps with another office or with overseas customers or clients. Staff that work flexibly can tailor their working hours to those of their overseas counterparts. Again they are likely to be fresher and their interactions will be smoother (and therefore more efficient) as a result.
Anna Meller is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and one of the UK’s leading experts in re-balancing work. https://www.linkedin.com/in/annameller/