Flexibility at work is a hot topic. It’s showing up across news outlets, sprinkled in workplace chatter, and often in job interviews and postings. In fact, Google searches for “flexibility at work” are up over 250% from 2018. This boost in interest means it’s certainly something executives should have on their radar.

It’s not just about staying on top of work trends. Workplace flexibility has a real impact on recruiting and retention, and during the “Great Resignation,” that’s not something to overlook. According to a recent study by ManpowerGroup Solutions, almost 40% of candidates say workplace flexibility is among the top three factors they consider when evaluating positions.

In another study by FlexJobs, 80% of respondents said they’d be more loyal to their employer if they were offered flexible work arrangements. Offering some level of flexibility can be a relatively simple (and in most cases cost-effective) way to improve employee retention.

What flexibility at work means today

Workplace flexibility changes over time as new ways of working come into play. The pandemic catapulted remote work onto the map, causing a complete shift in the way many of us work, and introducing mass flexibility in a way no one could have predicted.

Today flexibility can take many forms and varies across industries. On one end of the spectrum, it could mean offering staff the ability to choose shifts rather than assigning a schedule. On the opposite end, it could mean fully remote work or location flexibility.

The good news is there’s no one size fits all approach. Not every company has the ability to allow employees to work from home, but there are smaller changes you can make to give the employees the flexibility they crave while implementing a strategy that works for your business.

How you can offer workplace flexibility to employees and candidates

Flexible working hours

Offering flexible working hours is one of the most popular ways employers are fulfilling the desire for flexibility. Flexible working hours or “flextime” means allowing employees to choose the start and end time of their day as long as they’re still fulfilling work requirements set by the employer. This is a great, low-cost option and it doesn’t demand much legwork from the business to implement.

Flexible working hours also create better work-life balance, and studies show companies that promote a healthy work-life balance report 2x more productivity than those that don’t. Flextime means employees feel free to take a break to go to yoga class or pick up their kids from school as long as their work gets done.

One concern with flextime is that employees won’t be available when you need them. To avoid this, you can set “core hours”, or certain hours that all employees – or all employees from a specific department – need to be online and available. For example, you can allow employees to start and end at any hour, but require everyone to be online from 10:00 – 14:00 ensuring the lines of communication stay open.

Letting employees choose their in-office days or shifts

Depending on the industry, allowing employees the autonomy to choose their in-office days (if you’re hybrid) or shifts can be a great option to introduce flexibility. Giving employees some sense of control over their schedule is linked to higher job satisfaction and lower workplace stress.

If giving full control to employees of when they come into the office vs. working from home isn’t right for your business, you can piggyback off the idea of core work hours and have a set day of the month or week that employees must come in, while still allowing them to choose other days. For instance, if you want employees in the office twice a week, you could set Wednesday as the day (or even a few hours) that everyone comes in, but have employees select their second day of the week based on their preferences.

Remote and hybrid working options

For a lot of companies, remote work is already in practice, but for those considering a return to fully in-person work, it’s important to explore why keeping some level of remote work on the table could be beneficial. For starters, more than 40% of employees said they would seek a different job if required to return to the office full-time. From the same study, 80% of employees said they want to work from home at least one day a week.

Offering remote work doesn’t have to mean never being in the office. It’s all about creating a strategy that works for you and your employees. In fact, hybrid work is quickly becoming the norm and there are tons of variations of how to do it. Even allowing employees to work from home once a month or on an as-needed basis can create flexibility and still promote a strong in-office culture.

Location flexibility

If your company is fully or mostly remote, you may consider offering location flexibility. Letting employees work and live in a location away from your corporate office is not only a good tool for hiring, but also for retention.

When it comes to hiring, location flexibility opens the door to a massive pool of talent that wouldn’t have been available before, providing an advantage over companies only looking in their surrounding area. Plus, with nearly 68% of employees preferring remote work over in-person work, you’re likely to scoop up quite the pile of candidates.

When it comes to retention, think about those employees whose partner moves or who move themselves to be closer to family. In the past, that would have meant them leaving their current employer and searching for a job in their new location. With location flexibility, you can keep that employee at your company and avoid the high costs of hiring and onboarding a new team member.

Eliminating flexibility stigma

The stigma around flexible working was around well before the pandemic and before flexibility at work became an expectation. What researchers dubbed “The Flexibility Stigma” means, that even when adaptable work options are available, there is a concealed shame in using them and the issue disproportionately affects workers who prioritise their families above work.

So, even if you take initiative to create a more flexible workplace, it’s important to mind the stigma surrounding it. As always, it starts from the top. Leaders can use this opportunity to display flexible working at its best and actually use the strategies they’ve implemented across the company. After all, the effects of flexibility benefit more than just the employees. Offering and using flexible options impacts the perception of the company, culture, leadership, and employees.

Find out what your employees really want: ask them

Wondering what kind of flexibility your employees really want? Ask them! Our team can help you create a custom On-Demand survey, so you can ask your team directly. From there, leadership can evaluate what’s feasible and what’s not and create a strategy that benefits everyone.