Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Inside Small Business and has been republished with permission.
What’s your stance on flexible working? People now have the ability to work how they want, when they want, where they are, from whichever device they choose – so how does your company support employees to ensure a successful flexible working policy is possible? In case you missed it, the first part of this series looked at the future of work for SMEs, and Australia’s stance on flexible work life.
The piece highlighted research from MYOB, which revealed only 54 percent of small and medium enterprises are offering flexible working arrangements, despite employees being more connected than ever. Interesting, given that Australian business owners rank flexibility at work a top priority, and it is often the reason they decide to start their own business in the first place. Comparatively, Australia doesn’t stack up well against other regions, with research from Timewise finding that an incredible 73 percent of workers in the UK, working full-time, are doing so flexibly.
So, in case the statistics haven’t convinced you of the need to stay ahead of the technology game and offer practical flexible working policies, perhaps the following benefits will.
Increased Engagement and Staff Retention
Employees are a company’s greatest asset—with the right team, your business can have a competitive advantage over others—so it’s important to retain them. When employees are engaged, they are more likely to produce their best work and stay committed, increasing the odds of business success and decreasing employee turnover.
As outlined in the most recent research from The Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, benefits to flexible working go beyond employee engagement and ensure productivity is maximized. Improved output through quieter workspaces, greater client reach, better services due to a presence in more locations, and increased personal growth through self-management and communication with teams, are just some benefits. Of course, all of these result in greater customer loyalty—a win-win for employees and employers.
Improved Mental and Physical Health
The pressures of meeting deadlines, keeping clients happy, ensuring accounts are up-to-date, all while spending quality time with the kids and family can be overwhelming. With flexible working, enabled by technology, there’s a perception that employees must be “always on”, ready to pick up work no matter the time.
Yet technology can be a real driver to ensuring teams are kept happy and motivated through enabling flexible working, assisting employees to balance a number of other life priorities. Research from the Queensland Government shows a strong flexible work program reduces employee stress levels, at work and at home, provides a higher level of job satisfaction, allows more time to pursue personal goals and hobbies and the opportunity to participate more fully in family and social life. This leads to overall improved mental and physical health.
A business which doesn’t adapt to the changing lifestyle needs of its employees risks hurting its name among the employment market through poor word of mouth. Whether its flexible hours, compressed working weeks, telecommuting, part-time work, or job sharing, flexibility has become an important criterion when job searching. From a business perspective, maintaining talented staff with the right skills is important. When a workplace offers flexible practices, employees feel valued and will often be more likely to stick around.