Flexibility: It’s Not an Option Anymore

by Alison Divis |  18 |  Workforce Management , Legion

Flexibility: It’s Not an Option Anymore image..


The Rising Flexibility of Today’s Workforce

Since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics first started following the availability of flexible work schedules in 1985, the number of companies that offer flexibility to their employees has grown continuously. A growing number of employers are recognizing a demand for flexibility, reflected in the increase of flexible jobs out there.

More and more workers recognize that if they want more control over their schedules, they can have it. According to Jonas Prising, CEO and chairman of ManpowerGroup, “What people want is changing. They are working longer, learning more, and seeking a better balance between work and home. Not everyone wants to engage only as a full-time employee, and organizations don’t always want that either.” 

The Gig Economy

The gig economy is comprised of independent workers, consumers, and the companies (e.g. Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Etsy, etc.) that connect the two. Unlike salaried employees, workers who are part of the gig economy are paid per jobper “gig”or per product that they sell. This adds more flexibility than has existed before, as workers have complete control over when, and how much, they work.

Advances in technology have contributed to the gig economy’s exponential growth in popularity. Apps can connect workers to consumers and allow transactions to take place directly between them, making it easier for workers to find gigs and enabling immediate payment at the press of a button.

A scarcity of stable jobs also influenced the upsurge of the gig economy. In part due to the Great Recession that began in 2007, there were simply not enough jobs for the existing number of unemployed workers. In less than three years, the jobs gap ballooned to 11 million jobs. Even more, salaried positions became few and far between due to job outsourcing and downsizing, leaving members of today’s workforce to struggle to find positions that fit their skills, talents, and schedules. The gig economy provided workers with more options.

The gig economy isn’t merely enticing to those who are unable to find reliable, traditional employment. Some are drawn to the gig economy as a way to earn extra money to supplement their current income. That’s what makes the gig economy appealing to such a variety of people. With gigs, workers can choose to work just a few hours a week or the equivalent of a full-time job, all depending on what they can handle and ultimately what they choose.

It’s no wonder that with the possibilities of today’s gig economy, regular, hourly employees are starting to demand more flexibility from their jobs. These employees see how gig workers have the freedom to choose their work hours, and, though they may not want to work gigs themselves, they want that flexibility and freedom, too.

How do Employees Feel About Flexibility?

Primarily, employees want flexibility in their jobs because they want to maintain an optimal work-life balance. A study by Accenture found that 52 percent of employees refused to take jobs solely because those jobs would negatively impact this balance. Employees wantand, quite frankly, needtime for other aspects of their lives besides work, including time for family, school, and personal interests. Flexibility can also make commuting easier on employees, a major advantage to the roughly 143 million Americans who have to commute every day, and especially to the 10.8 million who commute for an hour or longer.

Are there more things employees want? Of course! But you’ll have to read our article on Workforce Management Best Practices to discover what they are.

Employers have to keep in mind that their employees are human, and as such, they have more going on in their lives than just what they do at the office. In a 2018 Mercer study of over 5,000 employees, permanent flexibility ranked as one of three main points employees look for in jobs, with a commitment to health and well-being and working with a purpose being the other two. This highlights to what extent that flexibility has become a priority for employees.

            Offering flexible work options also caters to differing hour preferences among age groups. Of millennials, 20 percent wouldn’t mind coming into work later in the morning, whereas the idea of a later start time appeals to only 17 percent of employees 55 and older.  Allowing for different start times would create an environment where younger and older employees alike would be satisfied with their schedules.

            Despite the benefits, as with anything else, there are some downsides. For one, flexible schedules for everyone mean employees won’t always be working with the same people, which can make it difficult for them to better acquaint themselves with co-workers. Such a lack of consistency may, at the very worst, hinder their ability to work well with each other, but it won’t make collaboration impossible.

Flexible schedules, including offering work from home, might also be inapt for employees who struggle to work at their own pace or have difficulty focusing when left to their own devices. However, such employees seem to be more of the exception than the norm. New technologies and management strategies are helping managers provide flexibility, without losing accountability. Regardless of the drawbacks of increased flexibility, its benefits seem to hold more weight.

Curious how modern technology is changing flexibility and predictability in retail? So were we.

The Bottom Line

            Flexibility has become a major priority. People want to work on their own terms, and the rise of the gig economy is evidence of this. Although workers might not want to work gigs, they want to be able to play a role in setting their schedules and finding a balance between work and everything else taking place in their lives. Flexible work schedules will give employees this balance. Now that people recognize flexibility is possible, in spite of any potential drawbacks, they want it.

Flexibility is no longer an option. It’s the future of employment as we know it.

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