Your Workers Want Work Flexibility But Companies Benefit Most

Working from home often solves the dilemma of balancing career and personal life while improving productivity and retention. That's what companies want, right?

learn more about Sara Sutton

By Sara Sutton • Oct 30, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For most companies, flexible work options are still a perk rather than standard operating procedure. Forward-thinking business owners (hello, entrepreneurs!) understand, however, that trends are clearly moving towards embracing flexible work as a way of doing business, rather than doing business the same old way.

FlexJobs recently conducted a survey of over 1,500 job seekers looking for more flexible work options to learn why working from home, having a flexible schedule, or freelancing are such attractive options, and what they mean for companies. The results of this survey show that people from all ages, careers, and life stages consider flexible work options a priority. Smart companies will understand that in order to both compete for and keep top talent in the years ahead, they'll need to ramp up their flex work programs.

Related: Business Turns to Flex Time for Relief

Main reasons employees want flexible work

When asked why they want flexible work options, the clear number one reason was work-life balance (74 percent). Health and exercise and family reasons came in second (52 percent each). Close runners-up included time savings and reduced commute stress (47 percent) and cost savings (43 percent). Other interesting reasons included the conditions of their local job market, and more time to travel.

Why working from home is so popular

When it comes down to it, people want to work from home because commuting to work, and the office environment, sap their productivity at home and at work. Respondents were asked, "Where do you go when you really need to get something done for work?" 54 percent report that home, not the office, is their location of choice to undertake important job-related assignments. Additionally, 18 percent said they would choose the office, but only outside standard hours. Only 19 percent said they would go to the office during regular working hours to get important work done.

Think about that--the workspace most employers require people to report to every day actually hinders employees' ability to do their job. Hybrid arrangements, such a 50-50 split between working from home and working in the office, allow employees to collaborate face-to-face with coworkers in the office, while also choosing alternative locations for independent work where focus is crucial.

Related: Workers Without Borders: Managing the Remote Revolution

All this closeness is stressing people out

According to the survey, the number one reason people think they would be more productive working from home is the reduction of office politics (61 percent). Fewer interruptions from colleagues was close behind (59 percent), as was fewer general distractions (56 percent). Yes, teams are a vital part of any successful company. But the trend towards more in-person collaboration by removing cubicle walls and corralling people into open workspaces doesn't necessarily create a more effective team.

Companies benefit from flexible work

According to survey respondents, here are just a few of the clear benefits flexible work options offer companies:

Cost savings: In addition to real estate savings with full-time remote workers, 20 percent of survey respondents would take a 10 percent pay cut for flexible work options. Twenty-two percent would be willing to forgo health benefits. 18 percent would be willing to work more hours.

Increased productivity: The survey results showing that employees leave the office to get important work done and that they need fewer interruptions from colleagues supports this.

Better recruiting and retention: A huge majority (82 percent) of professionals said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options. Thirtynine percent have turned down a promotion, have not taken or have quit a job because of a lack of flexible work options.

What flexible work means for companies

Does anyone at your company ever work from phones, tablets, or laptops when they're away from the office? Of course they do--we all do. As more people do it, especially in leadership positions, an expectation is set that this is the norm. Proactive companies will take time to harness this momentum, crafting it into a formalized program that maximizes the benefits for the company and staff.

As you consider what flexible working could mean for your company, remember that occasional telecommuting, semi-flexible work hours, and alternative schedules are all options that can be molded to fit both the company's and the employees' needs. Flexible work isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. Smart companies will figure out their own customized flexible work policies now because in a few short years, work flexibility will be the rule rather than the exception.

Related: Why It's OK to Let Employees Work From Home

Sara Sutton

CEO & Founder of FlexJobs

Sara Sutton is the CEO and founder of FlexJobs, an award-winning, innovative career website for telecommuting, flexible, freelance and part-time job listings, and founder of Remote.co, a one-stop resource for remote teams and companies, and the 1 Million for Work Flexibility initiative. She was named as a Young Global Leader (class of 2014) by the World Economic Forum for her work in technology and the employment fields. Sutton is a graduate of UC Berkeley and currently lives in Boulder, Colo. Sutton is also the creator of The TRaD Works Conference, dedicated to helping companies leverage the benefits of telecommuting, remote and distributed teams.

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