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Competing for Talent is Becoming a Game of Limbo – How Low Can You Go?

May 6, 2022

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Limbo is a game where the most limber, or flexible player wins. Sound familiar? Survey after survey is revealing that employees today are seeking more flexibility in their jobs and are willing to change employers to get that flexibility.

But how flexible can employers be without sacrificing productivity? It’s fair to say that employers still need to know at what times they have staff and dictate times where staffing must be at its max.

A recent survey by Grant Thorton LLP found that 80% of respondents said they want flexibility in when and where they work. Additionally, 25% said they would ideally never work on-site—a 10% jump from Grant Thornton’s 2021 survey.

“Flexibility in where you work, and sometimes when you work, is no longer viewed as an extra benefit,” said Angela Nalwa, a managing director and HR Transformation practice leader at Grant Thornton. “In fact, flexibility is now a minimum requirement as job seekers look for their next career opportunity. The companies who insist on a mandatory return-to-office for all employees must find a differentiator that separates their organization from the pack.”

Another study by Randstad found that more than half of employees (54%) say they prefer a flexible work arrangement that allows them to work both on-site and remotely beyond the pandemic. Workers prefer flexibility even though roughly a quarter start work earlier and work later into the evening while working from home.

A paper written by Professor Chia-Huei Wu, Dr Linhao Fang, and Hannah Collis of the Workplace Behavior Research Centre looks at the challenges of flexible work for both employers and employees.

Employees

While having flexibility often contributes to an improved work-life balance, it also gives them the added responsibility of managing their own workload, from daily activities to long-term career development. However, some employees require more guidance than others, so granting this flexibility company-wide could present challenges to certain employees.

Workers vary in their preference for autonomy. Not all workers thrive with the responsibility of determining their own work activities. To some employees, this contributes to a sense of uncertainty. For those who have just entered the labor market or a new profession, they would need to know the norm in their work context before knowing how to arrange their work activities. While flexible work conditions can offer the freedom many workers are seeking, it can also be a burden in deciding what, when, how, and where to work.

Employers

Managers are challenged with the need to coordinate requests from different employees while managing workloads and ensuring proper levels of productivity. Organizations who traditionally have had all workers co-located, often struggle transitioning to flexible work arrangements. Employees may not always be “together” to complete common tasks, which may reduce opportunities to develop a sense of “we” within the work team.  With proper management, this can be accomplished, but it does present a new challenge for employers.

As with anything new, there are benefits and challenges. It’s important that organizations look at the challenges ahead of time and be prepared for how to tackle them, while still offering the most flexibility they can within their unique work environment.  All organizations will have a slightly different variation of how they offer flexibility while maintaining productivity.

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