We’ve all heard that it’s important to give employees flexibility in the workplace – but what does that mean exactly, and why does it matter?
A flexible workplace is defined by how much freedom an employee has in deciding when, where and how they get their jobs done. In this situation, the company benefits from a happy, motivated employee, and the employee receives a measure of control over how they can structure their lives around their job. There is no age group more on-board this concept than millennials.
At about 36 percent of the workforce, millennials are the fastest growing group in the working world. That number is expected to swell to 75 percent by 2025. They’re tech-savvy, free-thinking and ready to take the world by storm. Unlike generations past, they’re eager to work in unconventional ways if it means a better work/life balance.
So what techniques should a manager use to give millennials more flexibility?
If flex scheduling is working well for your office, why not take it a step further and try offering compressed workweeks? In this arrangement, employees typically work four 10-hour days per week, rather than the typical five eight-hour days. Other options include working 80 hours over a nine-day period instead of 10 over four.
Compressing the workweek gives employees less day-to-day flexibility, but they have the advantage of an entire extra day to themselves. This is a good approach for energetic, sufficiently motivated employees, as they will have to work very hard for at least 10 hours a day to get their day off. The extra hours shouldn’t come at the expense of the employee’s health. The employee may also have to revert to a five-day, 40-hour workweek around certain holidays.
Some jobs absolutely require a central office space, while others can be done from just about anywhere. If the latter is true for the positions the millennials hold in your company, it is worth your while to allow them to telecommute.
Telecommuting is simply another term for working at home. Often, this is facilitated by specialized software to allow the employee access to work documents and phone lines. These also allow for easy tracking of performance metrics like calls taken, posts written, etc.
As with flex scheduling, telecommuting offers many hidden benefits. The average business could save as much as $11,000 per person per year. The commuter themselves would save anywhere from $2,000-7,000. This also serves the greater purpose of reducing the number of cars on the road and the greenhouse gasses they emit.
Studies show that 88 percent of millennials consider their work-life balance when choosing a job, while 74 percent say flexible work schedules are their priority. Offering employees flex time is a great way to introduce flexible work practices to the office. Flex scheduling allows employees to set their own work routine. If an employee isn’t a morning person, they may choose to start their day later, and stay later to make the time up. Other employees may choose to break up the day even further, coming in very early to work, leaving for a few hours, then coming back later to finish off the day.
The freedom provided by this method leads to more productive, less stressed and overall happier employees. Allowing workers this type of control shows that the company recognizes employees have demanding lives outside the office. It also places an emphasis on the quality of the work done rather than the time it was done in. From a flex scheduling point of view, as long as the work is done at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what time it was completed.
Don’t get stuck using outdated technology to manage your telecommuters from afar. Millennials are tech-savvy, and will appreciate the easy communication options that are available. If you want workers to telecommute, it will pay in time saved and productivity to invest in the correct digital architecture.
Start by reviewing what equipment the workers have at home, and take inventory of what they or the company will have to provide. This may be anything from software and hardware to some ergonomic devices. Consult your IT crew to set up a Virtual Private Network, so workers can access all the same files as they would if they were at the office. Review your options for telecommuting software, which will allow for everything from easy file-sharing to video conferencing and more.
If all else fails, take a page from Google’s book and develop something similar to their 20 percent time policy. This policy encourages employees to take 20 percent of their time – the equivalent of one workday per week – to work on projects aside from their main job. The technology behind Gmail and AdSense was developed due to this program.
This type of program helps break up monotonous work and encourages employees to think creatively. Depending on what they develop, the company could profit as well.
Also read: Master the Art of Productivity
With all the resources out there, it pays to bring flexibility into the workplace, especially for millennials. With increased flexibility comes happier workers and a more profitable company.