Flexible working is a hot topic, with Sweden frequently being referenced for its approach to work-life balance. Many companies are quickly adapting their HR policies to reflect the changing nature of work. Some are able to keep up, some not. Netflix is the gold standard when it comes to flexible working – famously letting staff take as much holiday as they want. With more and more people now working from home (one in five Americans now enjoy this luxury), it shows a growing trend towards more autonomy for employees and more control over how they spend their time. Gone are the days when companies could expect workers to spend 8 or 9 hours at their desks under the illusion that this is more productive and better for business. Although, we should also bear in mind that this method of working is not for everyone and each person works in a different way, there are growing trends showing the prevalence of flexible working but ultimately flexibility comes down to freedom: the power to choose. This helps alleviate the anxiety that many of us feel at work.

However, companies are adjusting and realising that when you give your employees more control over their time and let them decide when and where to work, they are more productive. More than 2/3 employees reported higher levels of productivity when home working. Why? Because when you’re at home there are fewer people and therefore fewer distractions. A colleague stopping by your desk to retell their weekend tales to you might not seem like an inconvenience and it might only last a few minutes but this can knock you off your flow and have detrimental effects to your productivity. Working at home doesn’t let this happen because you’re alone. There’s no one stopping you while you’re in the middle of working on something. Trusting your employees and letting them work from home is something that should be in every company’s strategy because not every employee is the same. The old style HR policies of one size fits all is slowly crumbling as company’s aim to please individuals over entire entities.

People just want more life in their work life balance

Picture this: you’ve got a medical appointment to attend to at 2 in the afternoon. You also have work all day. This means fretting about what to do. Take a half-day? Negotiate with your boss about working back the time lost? It’s not easy, it can be stressful and anxiety inducing. Now imagine working from home: you can simply go to your appointment and come back, no questions asked. This will likely make you more productive, less stressed and happier. I think we all know the route we would choose. We shouldn’t undermine the importance of work but by integrating it in a balanced way successfully will lead to better management of your work life blend. Letting employees control their time will make them more empowered. There’s a myth that if you let people work from home, they won’t work. This isn’t the case, people want to work – some of us would just rather do it in the comfort of our home sometimes. Also working from home has a correlation with those who have a higher rate of job satisfaction.

Is the office outdated?

Maybe you’re having a bad mental health day, maybe the idea of commuting for an hour today is challenging or maybe you just feel more productive getting things done at home without any noise, meetings or distractions. Letting your employees set their own schedule will produce better results for business. Some people are night owls and get all their work done when the sun has set. Employment provides “identity, contact, friendship and structure”, according to mental health charity Mind, however, our mental health often doesn’t conform to the structure put in place by our employer – flexible working offers relief for those who are struggling. Perhaps businesses could learn from this and adapt their office spaces, considering a PwC report claimed that the traditional office could become a thing of the past. It would make business sense to update offices that cater to everyone through the use of set spaces for things such as collaboration, relaxation, for working alone and for sharing ideas.

Accomplishing what you committed to deliver

There is another myth that the more time you spend in the office, the more you’re doing. The idea that people are able to be consistently productive for over 8 hours a day, 5 days seems inherently flawed and even millennials are realising this. The Millennial Branding Report found that 45% of millennials would in fact choose work flexibility over pay. And since millennials are now the biggest cohort of employees in the work force, it would be wise for companies to address these structural changes before they start running into deficit millennials look for flexibility, economic security and purposeful work. Those companies who tick all those three boxes will be better placed to retain top quality millennial talent. We’re looking at you Google, Netflix and Intel! Another angle to look at this from is knowing that your flexibility means you can leave early on Thursday for your yoga class, if you know that you will continue your big project on Saturday morning. Ultimately, accomplishing what you set out to do on your own terms will lessen anxiety and result in a better relationship that you have with work.

Your employees will take fewer sick days

Since a lot of sick day absences are as a result of not wanting to go into the office, a flexible work policy addresses this issue. In 2013, 131 million days were lost due to sickness. While a large portion of those numbers may be genuine illnesses that prevent people from working, a chunk of those numbers is going to be from employees who just don’t want to go into the office. By letting your employees work from home or even have a work from home day a week, you will decrease the chance of people taking day off because of ‘sickness’. Flexible working motivates employees.

It’s better for the environment

The average European commuter spends two and a half hours a week commuting. This is a number that has been slowly rising over the last decade. That is a lot of time spent getting to and from work. The environmental impact of travelling by car or motorbike is evidently detrimental. It’s costly too. By allowing employees to work from home, you will be saving them money (which means happier workers) and you will be helping to reduce the damage that hurts the environment.

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