Why flexible working is the best way to keep your workforce happy

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.”

…So said the esteemed poet Robert Louis Stevenson. And the duty of making sure staff are all smiles lies with the business.

It should be no surprise that those who are the happiest workers are those working flexibly. The Office for National Statistics reported an increase in part-time and self-employed workers (freelancers, contractors and consultants) between 2001 and 2015 by 88% and 25% respectively, and that the broad majority of these were ‘happily’ working flexibly. It found that the trends were also consistent with workers ‘making a positive choice’, rather than being ‘forced’ to work under a flexible arrangement.

Why does this matter? Because a happy workplace breeds happy workers, which in turn leads to happy customers and an increase in profits. While a company that is willing to offer a greater degree of flexibility may see a positive impact on their staff’s morale and engagement, it’s not quite that simple. Although there has been a general rise in flexible working across all sectors, a study by Gallup found that employee engagement has actually declined over the last decade, with only 32% reporting an active commitment to their jobs. Businesses therefore need to take greater steps to change this if they want to boost motivation and innovation, and avoid a future drop in performance.

With this in mind, we put together our top five tips for encouraging flexibility and keeping your workforce happy: 

1) Create a sense of autonomy Cultivate a culture of trust and place more focus on output than input. While direction remains important, if your staff see that you’re more results-driven, they will mirror this and will work in ways that allow them to produce their best work, because one size does not fit all.  

2) Apply the ‘Golden Clock’ approach As we’ve discussed previously, the eight-hour-day is on it’s way out and the arbitrariness of the ‘9-to-5’ does not equate with productivity. Shifting the default from the standard work schedule to a flexible one gives workers more control over their time. This is particularly beneficial as a 2014 study found that workers’ happiness is highly correlated to their having the freedom to manage their work time to fit their personal needs. The ‘Golden Clock’ approach allows employees the choice and opportunity to figure out how and when get the work done.

3) Let people work remotely and trust them to do so While some workers undoubtedly prefer working in an office-like environment, the evidence in support of agile working is too overwhelming to ignore. When TINYpulse surveyed 200,000 employees, they found that 91% of those who worked remotely reported increased productivity. Similarly, when Ctrip trialled home-working for their call centre staff for nine months, contrary to what management had expected, there was an increase in calls by 13.5% and a 50% reduction in resignations compared to those who were office-based. ‘Out of sight’ does not mean ‘out of office’.

4) Proactively embed flexible workers in company culture – Be progressive and inclusive by emphasising that flexible workers are valued as much as non-flexible workers. In a previous post, we looked at how actively involving them in decision-making, being communicative and championing flexible workers’ input will ensure increased engagement and loyalty.

5) Provide opportunities for individuals to own their work and development Every worker’s needs are different, and recognising this is beneficial in maximising motivation and output. Giving people the flexibility to play to their strengths by owning their work and being responsible for projects, no matter how small, will shift attitudes from ‘I’m doing this for the company’ to ‘I’m doing this for me’. The latter doesn’t pull an employee away from the company ethos and goals, instead, by holding themselves accountable for their own work, they are more driven and efficient, which ultimately saves costs by cutting back on management and leadership roles. Win, win.

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Juggle Jobs is a digital platform that connects businesses with high-quality vetted professionals looking to work flexibly. If you want more information about how we can help you, please email us at info@jugglejobs.co.uk.

Juggle Jobs is listed as one of Recruiter.com’s “Top 10 HR Tech Start-Ups”: Top 10 HR Tech Start-Ups (Recruiter.com)