What is a Flexible Workforce, and How Can Businesses Enable Flexible Working?

What is a flexible workforce? This is a concept that businesses are embracing across the globe. Flexible working provides a myriad of benefits to employers, employees, and customers. Enabling flexible working allows everyone to enjoy work-life balance on their own terms.

In this article, we will define a flexible workforce. We will also look at why your business should consider more flexibility, and how you can address the challenges that come with this concept.

What Is a Flexible Workforce?

A flexible workforce is one in which staff choose their hours. Instead of the typical 9 to 5 schedule, flexible employees decide when they work. This decision is often based on what else is happening in their lives. 

A flexible workplace understands that employees do their job best when they work according to their circumstances. This environment supports employers and employees, with arrangements agreed upon by both parties. The anatomy of a flexible workforce can be made up of numerous models patched together. 

One of these models is remote work. According to studies, 53% of U.S. employees cite flexible scheduling as a remote work benefit. In addition, 26% surveyed also noted health improvements from this working method.   

Flexibility in the workplace is about much more than altered timetables. Flexible employers facilitate personal working styles and offer guidance and recognition regularly. 

However, not all businesses can offer flexible working methods. You need to consider the best flexible working fit to suit your business needs.  

Key Benefits of a Flexible Workforce

Maintaining happiness levels and retaining employees are a few key benefits of a flexible workforce. When employees are happy and choose their hours, businesses may be better able to retain these workers. This method saves businesses money, as recruitment is an expensive and time-consuming process.

In addition, flexible working allows recruiting from anywhere. The world is your oyster when it’s time to hire new talent. This means you can hire to strengthen and complement your skill set

Here are some more flexi-benefits:

  • Increases employee loyalty
  • Saves your business money 
  • Boosts work productivity 
  • Lessens employee burnout and stress
  • Incentivizes employees 
  • Makes your business attractive to talent
  • Improves morale
  • Saves commuting time 
  • Negates employees’ geographical limitations 
  • Increases work/life balance 

Developing a flexible workforce helps your team do their best work. The onus is on them to choose when and how they work.

How Do Flexible Hours Work?

The anatomy of flexible working looks different for every business. It may include a combination of the following models:

  • Flexible shift patterns (flexi-time) 
  • Part-time hours
  • Shared employment
  • Remote working
  • Term-time work 
  • Unlimited paid time off (PTO)
  • Medical or family time off 
  • Freelance or contract work
  • Varying arrival and departure times 
  • Sabbaticals
  • Phased retirement

Some examples of flexible working schedules might look like this:

  • A marketing manager works 10 AM to 6 PM instead of the standard 9 to 5.
  • Hybrid models. For example, a project manager works out of the company’s office three days a week and at home two days a week. 
  • Two part-time employees share a job role. One works three days a week and the other two. They work around their family commitments and utilize their time effectively. 

Fixed schedules are not necessarily the solution to employee productivity. A compressed version of a flexible schedule could look like four 10-hour days. This entitles employees to more consecutive days off. Put measures in place to ensure organizational priorities are still met during work days. 

How to Facilitate Flexible Working 

Are you on board with implementing a flexible working model into your workplace? Let’s talk about making it happen.

Check Compliance

Review relevant legalities before leaping into a flexible working model. Consider these aspects:

  • State employment laws
  • National overtime regulations
  • Workers’ compensations 
  • Employment contracts 
  • Business property usage off-site     

Use the Proper Technology

Flexible working relies on proper technology to connect the whole team. Tech such as virtual phone call options makes it possible to work from different locations. You may even work from different places around the world.

Harness the power of this technology. Use it to your advantage. For example, leverage Teams calling to keep lines of communication open. 

This type of tech is known as a UCaaS solution (Unified Communications as a Service). It acts as a flexible workforce’s superpower. Facilitating unified and instant messaging, meetings, and telephony, this cloud-delivered model links all your business processes together.     

Listen to Your Team

Listening to your team is key to having a successful flexible workforce. Your team will tell you their work preference. Then, you may negotiate to meet everyone’s needs. 

Remember: a flexible approach works both ways. It must be mutually beneficial. Your employees should be open to working extra hours and covering necessary shifts in return for flexible work options.

Flexible Clock-In and Out

This approach is brilliant for employees with family commitments. The key here is to focus on deadlines rather than schedules. Do not micromanage your team’s duties. Seek to encourage your flexible workforce to meet deadlines on their own.

Trust

Trust your flexible workforce to do their jobs. Chances are, they will — and probably become more productive. Communicate the direction of job tasks and trust your workers to take responsibility for this workload.  

Take Fewer Meetings 

Tempting as it is to schedule lots of meetings for your flexible workforce, consider how many meetings are essential. There has to be an element of trust that your staff are cracking on with work, even when you don’t have team visibility (although there are ways to increase this in a remote setting). 

Less mandatory meetings free up time for more focused work. As such, this is a boon to remote workers if concentrating is challenging away from the office. 

Challenges of a Flexible Workforce

A few challenges commonly crop up for businesses. Let’s address a couple of flexible workforce challenges and solutions.

Communication

Communication silos are a common issue with a flexible workforce. When workers don’t feel connected to each other, communication becomes muddled. As a result, work may be less productive. 

Solution: Ensure all teams are included in business discussions and on the same page.   

Training 

Training your workforce when working different schedules can be a challenge. This may require multiple training sessions to include all flexible workers. 

Solution: Communicate training sessions to include all workers. A flexible workforce should bend a little to accommodate managers’ requests.

Burnout

Being able to work from anywhere is great, but employees may experience burnout if they are made to feel as though they should be constantly available. For example, workers in the mobile industry that work to build apps and are constantly on their mobile devices should be aware of potential burnout concerns.

Solution: Encourage your flexible workforce to utilize voicemail and out-of-office (OOO) email options when they’re not working. 

Tips for Creating a Flexible Workforce

Before we wrap up, let’s look at some tips you can incorporate into your business’s flexible working model. 

Be Realistic

Make sure team members submit realistic requests when establishing individual workers’ schedules. For example, attempting to do a 40-hour workweek in two days is likely not achievable or sustainable. 

Keep Talking

Over-communicate. Altered work schedules, mandatory deadlines, and team updates should be communicated with managers on a regular basis.

Negotiate

There’s always room for negotiation with flexible working models. Listen to your employees’ requests. But don’t be afraid to stand firm on issues that matter to the company, such as their attendance for mandatory meetings. 

Time Blocking

Flexible working means exploring new ways to structure the work week.

One approach is utilizing time blocking. For example, if flexible working means your project manager is in the office two days a week, you may appoint those as “project meeting” days to review progress and project roadblocks. The remaining days may be used to work on other assignments or engage in networking activities. 

Your Flexible Workforce

Workplace flexibility is all about making it work for everyone. It sees an end to employee bias. Make the most of your flexible workforce by continually evaluating your business’s strategy. See how it is being used. Amend when necessary. Regularly speak to team members to understand their personal experiences. Use this time to assess satisfaction levels.  

Facilitating a flexible workforce gives your business the edge over competitors. Employers that understand their workforce have lives outside of the office may enable their staff to thrive. As a result, team members that thrive at work are more productive. 

Are you ready to embrace the flexible workforce shift? 

John Allen is the Director of SEO for 8×8, a leading communication platform and cloud phone service with integrated contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. John is a marketing professional with over 14 years of experience in the field, and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs across SEM, SEO, and a myriad of services. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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