How to use flexibility as a key to business success

Recruiting, retention, promotion – flexible working provides a powerful tool for HR departments in each of the elements of the value chain. A couple of recent surveys in several countries among young graduates and professionals confirmed the central importance they place on flexibility and a broadly interpreted work-life-balance. An Irish research conducted by workspace provider Regus, adds to the picture. Regus interviewed business owners and executives across the country and found that nearly three out of four respondents believe in the improvement of staff turnover and recruiting of the best talents based on flexible working. They also think that staff loyalty increases with work/life-balance, namely a majority of workers would turn down a new job that does not allow for flexible working

As a consequence, work/life-balance seems to be the decisive factor when it comes to picking a certain job offer or stay with an employer. The IBM Smarter Workforce Institute found evidence for a relation between the usage of flexible working and promotion. Flexible working removes barriers, enables the best talents to come to the very top and increases the productivity of the workforce. Multi-location-working and flexi-hours are the two key concepts. If the staff is allowed to work from home or another third place and adapt the working hours to required work tasks and private plans, a more balanced life is the result. This typically causes employees to feel healthier, more energised and motivated. Nevertheless companies need to think about keep-in-touch measures in order to avoid weakening connections to employees. It was only last year when Marissa Meyer, CEO of IT-giant Yahoo, announced the abolishment of home-office regulations for such reasons. According to Ms. Meyer face-to-face contacts and direct communication could not be easily replaced by technical means and isolated home-office workers were missing productive contact with their colleagues. Clarity about work results and a certain degree of supervision are more difficult in a decentralised workforce.

The German Microsoft branch thinks the other way round. The company announced in summer 2013 the shutdown of three German locations, offering the staff to move to another location or work full-time form home-office. This illustrates how flexibility and autonomous working might also serve as tool to execute tough decisions. Employees and applicants should therefore look carefully at underlying motivations for work/life-balance and look for companies that truly believe in flexibility as a supporting tool for their employees.