In today’s post-pandemic, work-from-home business landscape, workplace flexibility has emerged as a crucial factor in attracting and retaining top talent. Workers want flexibility, but employers are often gun-shy to give it.

But what is it? What is workplace flexibility? When people are asked to define workplace flexibility, there doesn’t appear to be one answer to rule them all. The most popular responses are flexible scheduling, flexible hours, and flexible location – it’s no wonder some managers interpret “workplace flexibility” as code for “Can I do whatever I want?” Perhaps we should be more rigid with the word “flexibility.”

In its current form, workplace flexibility is often a human resources policy and not an organizational approach, in which HR professionals often play a pivotal role in determining the extent and nature of flexibility within an organization. For flexible work arrangements to be successful, they can’t be treated like one more benefit the company offers, wedged into the same sentence as medical, dental, and vision. Workplace flexibility has to be a company philosophy that drives culture.

This article explores the key factors employers and HR leaders should consider when determining workplace flexibility and creating the company ethos to give employees the benefits they want in 2023.

Offer Customized Schedules

Recognizing that employees have diverse needs and responsibilities outside of work is vital. Employers and HR leaders should consider offering customized work schedules that align with individual preferences, allowing employees to effectively balance personal and professional commitments.

By allowing flexibility in start and end times, compressed workweeks, or remote work options, organizations empower employees to manage their time efficiently and reduce stress levels. Employees would no longer need to devise elaborate plans so impossible they’d impress Tom Cruise only to sneak out of the office an hour early on Friday afternoon. Customized schedules foster greater job satisfaction, work engagement, and productivity, leading to higher levels of employee retention and organizational performance.

Adapt the Physical Workspace

A flexible workplace goes beyond time arrangements and involves rethinking the physical environment. Employers should evaluate the feasibility of adopting open office layouts, activity-based workspaces, or designated quiet areas, allowing employees to choose the most suitable environment for their tasks.

Providing ergonomic furniture, adjustable desks, and modern technology also facilitates a comfortable and productive work environment. Such adaptability empowers employees to optimize their workspace based on their unique preferences and work requirements, improving focus, creativity, and better mental health.

Implement Clear Performance Metrics

Focusing on outcome and performance instead of when and where the work is performed is perhaps the most important shift a company must make if workplace flexibility is to be a balanced deal for employers and employees. And that’s the key – balance.

Ask yourself – If the work quality is the same, is it essential for employees to use unpaid hours to dress for success, take time away from family, and commute to an office, only to sit at a computer when that same person could open their laptop from their home, a park bench, or seaside Airbnb vacation rental? Is it about the work or control?

The key is to use clear metrics to evaluate employees on the quality of their work, not the timing or quantity of it. HR professionals should encourage managers to adopt a results-driven approach rather than focusing solely on “face time” or hours worked. By evaluating employees based on outcomes rather than hours clocked, organizations empower their workforce to take ownership of their work and achieve results on their own terms. This fosters a sense of trust and accountability, leading to higher job satisfaction, motivation, and innovation among employees.

Accommodate Personal Commitments

Recognizing that employees have personal commitments, such as doctor appointments and childcare responsibilities, fosters workplace flexibility. HR professionals and employers should strive to create policies that allow employees to attend to these obligations without the undue stress of checking their phones for Slack messages while pushing their kids on the swings after daycare pickups.

By offering flexible leave policies, remote work options, or providing on-site daycare facilities, organizations demonstrate their commitment to supporting employees’ well-being. Accommodating personal commitments not only enhances work-life integration but also reduces absenteeism and increases employee loyalty.

Provide Clear Communication and Collaboration Channels

In a time when workplace flexibility is such a prized commodity, how can businesses cultivate an environment that provides it while not feeling like they’re paying for their employees to take three-day weekends or pretend to work? Effective communication and collaboration are essential.

HR leaders and employers should establish clear channels of communication and leverage technology platforms that facilitate virtual collaboration. Regular team meetings, video conferencing, and project management tools can foster a sense of connection among remote or flex-scheduled employees. By promoting transparent and open lines of communication, organizations can overcome potential challenges associated with remote work and ensure that employees feel engaged, supported, and connected to their colleagues and the broader organizational mission.

Embracing workplace flexibility enhances employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention and positions organizations as employers of choice in an increasingly competitive talent market. By implementing flexible work policies, employers can create an environment that empowers employees, enhances work-life balance, and enables employees to achieve their best work. Workplace flexibility has transformed from a desirable perk to a fundamental element of successful organizations. And HR professionals hold the key to unlocking its potential.

IMA will continue to monitor regulator guidance and offer meaningful, practical, timely information.

This material should not be considered as a substitute for legal, tax and/or actuarial advice. Contact the appropriate professional counsel for such matters. These materials are not exhaustive and are subject to possible changes in applicable laws, rules, and regulations and their interpretations.