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The ultimate guide to flexible work

In this post, we’ll break down what flexible work is, how it benefits your business, and the six different types of flexible working models.

Amy Kirkham
By Amy Kirkham Content Marketing Manager

Flexible work is no longer an uncommon workplace perk. It’s a working style that became the norm during the pandemic. Now, it’s here to stay. In this post, we’ll break down why flexible work is the most favored and adopted way of working for the majority of people and businesses today. We’ll explore: 

  • What is flexible work?
  • 6 types of flexible working models
  • The benefits of flexible work 
  • Flexible working best practices 
  • 3 tools that make flexible work easy

What is flexible work?

Flexible work is an alternative working style that gives employees the freedom to choose when, where, and how they work. Flexible work differs from the traditional 9-5, in-office workday. By removing strict barriers of time and place, employees can work when they feel most productive—whether that’s starting earlier or finishing later. They can also work where they feel most productive, such as working from home, the office, or their local cafe. 

Are flexible work and hybrid work the same thing?

Flexible work and hybrid work are not the same, despite being similar. While flexible work offers elements of flexibility in when, where, and how folks work best, the level of flexibility can vary. Hybrid work is a type of flexible work. Hybrid work gives employees flexibility to split their time working in the office and working from home.

6 types of flexible work

Flexible work schedules vary. Pre-pandemic, you might have known it as flextime, part-time, or job-sharing. While those approaches still exist, there are new types of flexible working that now dominate the working world. Here are six different types of flexible work: 

  1. Hybrid work: The most adopted form of flexible working in 2022. There are different types of hybrid work models, including:
    1. Hybrid at-will: Employees can choose which day(s) to come into the office
    2. Hybrid split-week: The company assigns specific days for on-site and remote work by team or function
    3. Hybrid manager-scheduling: Managers choose which day(s) their team comes into the office
    4. Hybrid mix: A combo of all three options
  2. Remote work: People work from home full-time, rather than visiting the workplace part- or 100% of the time.
  3. Flexitime: People don’t adhere to a strict work schedule. They choose their own start and end time and create a flexible work schedule that works for them. 
  4. Job-sharing: Two people (or more) share a full-time job, including responsibilities and tasks. This allows them to work less hours while producing the results of a full-time role.
  5. Part-time: One person works in one role, usually with responsibilities that don’t make up a full-time position. They work less hours in each day, week, or month than a full-time employee.
  6. 4-day work week: A condensed schedule that is becoming more popular as organizations explore how to increase people’s work-life balance. This includes: 
    1. Compressed hours: People must work the same amount of hours in a full week, split across 4 days.
    2. Reduced hours: People work a reduced amount of time to reflect 4 days rather than 5.

 

Pro tip: If you are looking to offer flexibility to your employees but can’t change up work schedules or location, then consider adding flexibility in other areas. Unlimited or increased PTO, longer lunch breaks, and sabbaticals are great examples.

The benefits of flexible work

Flexible work has many benefits, both for your employees and your business. For employees, flexible work allows them to work around commitments and responsibilities in their personal lives–whether that’s picking their child up from school, studying part-time, or being a caregiver to a relative. For organizations, flexible work drives a better work-life balance and reduces stress levels for your employees, resulting in improved productivity and outcomes. Let’s take a look at some other ways flexible working can benefit your business. Flexible work can:

Help attract and retain talent

Offering flexible work arrangements will attract top talent to your organization and keep them there. According to a survey conducted with Wakefield Research, 47% of employees would look for another job if their employer didn’t offer flexible working. Simply put, flexible working allows your people to fit work around their lives. Offering them that flexibility will help to attract top talent as well as keep them loyal, engaged, and happy.

Drive productivity and engagement

Flexible work can have a positive impact on productivity levels. In Gartner’s recent survey, 43% of respondents said that flexible working hours helped them be more productive in their role. The more you can support your employees to focus and engage with their work, the more you’ll see productivity rise–and with that, results. 

Improve employee wellbeing 

According to a 2022 report, 48% of people said flexible working was beneficial to their wellbeing. It’s no surprise–juggling work-life responsibilities without being tied to a strict schedule or location is significantly less stressful. When people have autonomy to create their own working schedule, it benefits their physical and mental wellbeing and gives them the freedom to complete work tasks alongside personal responsibilities. Happy employees equals more productive employees–a win-win for everyone!

Save on space and cost

Flexible working means less people in the office on a daily basis. This gives you an opportunity to better manage your space and in-office resources. For example, you could implement your choice of flexible seating arrangements such as hot-desking or office hoteling. This helps free up space for other uses, such as team collaboration or social activities, or helps you to reduce your real estate costs if you want to downsize. Flexible work also saves on other costs too, including utilities, energy, food, and supply costs–all by having less people in the office at one time.

Make your company culture thrive

Flexible working will help you improve your company culture by making the workplace somewhere people choose to be. As more people gain a better balance between their work and personal lives, visiting the workplace without sacrificing personal commitments will help people feel more connected to their organization and improve company culture.

Flexible work best practices

Now you understand the benefits flexible work can offer your organization, let’s dive into some key best practices. Remember, flexible work is designed to support both your people and your business–it shouldn’t detract from any results or performance. If you feel like it is, run over the below best practices to see how you can improve your flexible working model.

Set clear expectations

While flexible work is designed to offer more autonomy to your employees, folks still have to do their work at the end of the day. Set clear expectations for your people, including hitting goals, meeting deadlines, and performing well in their roles. 

Don’t completely ditch structure

While flexibility can improve productivity and engagement, structure can also help people flourish in their role, too. For example, offering a structured lunch hour will help people in the same time zone take a break during the day. Equally, setting recurring meetings to be at the same time and day will help people plan their week better.

Pro tip: Ensure leaders are equipped to set a healthy example for their teams. When they show the right balance between flexibility and structure, it will encourage team members and coworkers to follow their lead, too.

Prioritize equity at work 

Unstructured working environments can lead to a lack of direction and equity in the workplace. For example, if one team member works from home while others are in the office, they may miss out on conversations and end up feeling more lost than their onsite coworkers. Ensure you provide the same amount of support, communication, and direction to all employees–whether they’re WFH, onsite, or part-time.

Pro tip: Remember that one-size may not fit all. In fact, it’s probably impossible to make one flexible working policy work for everyone. Adapt your model for different people in your organization and ensure everyone feels supported.

Survey your employees

Checking in with your employees will help you assess if your flexible working model is still the right fit for them. For example, if you have implemented a 4 day work week but employees are experiencing stress due to workload, you might consider a different flexible work style or increasing your headcount.

Have the best technology

Flexible work is only possible because of the technology that supports it. Communication apps like Slack or Teams help people to feel connected with coworkers no matter where or when they work. Digital collaboration tools such as Google Drive allow folks to collaborate in real-time and asynchronously when they aren’t physically together.  

3 workplace tools that make flexible work easy

Technology supports people to feel connected with each other in their flexible working arrangement. But what can it do for businesses looking to improve their flexible work model? Here are 3 workplace tools that will help you create a flexible workspace and support your people to work flexibly and efficiently.

1. Desk booking software

Flexible work means less people onsite at any given time. Investing in a desk booking system will help you make the most of your office space by allowing employees to reserve different types of workspaces onsite, as and when they need it. Whether that’s hot-desking, office hoteling, or a mix of both–ensure your employees are set up with the space they need to help improve your flexible working model. 

2. Employee sign-in system

When you use an employee sign-in system, it allows your coworkers to check into your office location/s each time they come onsite. They can do this via their mobile device or laptop. By registering and checking in, you can keep track of who’s in your workplace and when. This not only protects your employees who are onsite, but also makes it easier to monitor your flexible work model in the long-term. For example, if you have chosen a hybrid split-week policy, tracking who is onsite on specific days is important to understand levels of adoption and address any areas of improvement.

3. Meeting room booking solution

Investing in room scheduling software will help your employees easily find and book available rooms suited for the kind of project they’re working on. For flexible working models like hybrid working, it’s especially important that employees can book the meeting rooms they need in the workplace. Not only will this boost their productivity levels, but it will also save time by removing the hassle of booking duplications, empty reserved rooms, or lack of available meeting room amenities. 

Flexible working, as with all working models, comes with pros and cons. It’s important to consider every aspect of how it will serve your business and people before you move forward with it. 

Whether you have chosen to go with hybrid working, a 4-day work week, or simply offering job-sharing or part-time roles, behind every flexible working approach should be a functional and flexible workspace. Interested in learning more about making your flexible workplace experience work for everyone? Download the 4-step guide to a hybrid workplace experience that works for everyone.

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Amy Kirkham
Author Bio Amy Kirkham

Amy is a content guru at Envoy, where she helps workplace leaders build a workplace their people love. Outside of work, you can usually find Amy drinking coffee, exploring new places, or planning her next trip.