Flexible woman against black backgroundFlexibility is extremely important for today’s average worker. Most people have numerous other commitments outside of the workplace: family, friends, being members of organizations and clubs and, well… just relaxing and enjoying life. Out of all the aforementioned activities, it seems like, for many people, the latter are the hardest to fit into busy schedules.

We go into work at 7am five days a week and don’t leave until 8pm. Once at home, it’s making dinner, doing laundry and tending to family and/or pets. Finally the weekend comes, but our days pass by faster than we can blink with classes and practices, family and friends’ events and gatherings, and finishing up projects we began during the week. Before we know it, Monday has arrived and, with it, the same stress-filled, hectic cycle.

Most employees are on a set work schedule and a set timetable for when things need to be done. Flexibility in the office is little to none for many workers. Yet, studies show that a flexible work life makes for a healthier life.

Below are the three main areas that affect an individual’s work experience—time, location and benefits—and how to make each one more flexible.

TIME

As stated before, most employees have a set work schedule, such as 9am to 5pm or 8am to 4pm. A lot of workers, especially those on salary, have a specified start and stop time for their work days but typically go past those hours by coming in much earlier and staying much later. Many times it is an individual’s work hours that restrict him or her the most. Why not allow employees to create their own work hours? Certain situations (for example, those that are time sensitive like breaking news) may not allow this, but employers can try to be more flexible with when an employee must come into the office. Allowing a worker to set his or her own schedule, as long as either 40 hours (or whatever is required) per week are completed or as long as the required tasks are finished each day can offer flexibility for someone’s crammed schedule. Certain ‘required hours’ for team meetings can be put in place to still ensure proper weekly communication with staff.

LOCATION

Aside from the hours, physically driving to and from the office can be a chore. Add having to be in the same space (especially a small cubicle) each day risks having you wind up with disgruntled workers. Try adding the option of working from home. Employees can either work from home full-time or just a few days out of the week. A virtual work option gives workers extra time to handle other tasks they may not have been able to while in the office. They will also have the ability to take more breaks and unwind during the work process as opposed to constantly working with only one lunch break, if that.

BENEFITS    

Vacation and sick time are very important for a worker because 1) everyone gets sick now and then and 2) every worker needs a vacation at some point. Many companies have the “if you don’t use it, you lose it” policy when it comes to time off. Instead of an individual losing his or her vacation or sick time off, employers should give the option of donating. Perhaps you have a few vacation days left before the year is over and you don’t plan to use them. Yet, a colleague would really like some time off to visit a sick relative but he or she has used up his or her vacation time. With a donation option, you can donate or give your vacation days to your colleague instead of the free time going to waste.

Employers can also offer to buy back an employee’s unused vacation and sick time. The buyback funds would be added to the worker’s paycheck. This can be an incentive for employees to work more days out of the year, which could result in increased productivity for a company.

Flexibility is not always an option in the workplace, but, if possible, employers should find a way to institute it more. Life situations can be unpredictable and often rarely adhere to set schedules and time frames. Being flexible when it comes to jobs shows workers that employers not only understand this, but are willing to do something about it.



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