Flexibility has its Benefits

Management didn’t want it. The job function wasn’t a match. Technology needed to support it, unavailable. And productivity would suffer, without a doubt. Put a big red X through flexible working arrangements and file it in the round bin.

Yet less than two years after the Conference Board of Canada survey found the previously mentioned roadblocks to flexible working options, we’re all doing it, all the time.

Even before the pandemic, a study by Regus, a global flexible working space firm, revealed that flexible office spaces and co-working locations outside traditional urban centres could contribute billions of dollars to the Canadian economy and improve employee health and well-being.

“This study reveals a shift in jobs and capital-growth moving outside of city centres, where it has been focused for the last few decades, into suburban locations,” said Steve Lucas, managing director of Development Economics and the study’s author, in a press release. “This can benefit businesses and people, from improving productivity and innovation to reducing commuting time, which leads to improved health and well-being.”

The shift to smaller urban locations also opens up opportunities to those who may not be able to travel, like people with disabilities or those with child- or elder-care responsibilities, or to talent that might otherwise remain unavailable.

Employee Demand

Beyond the economic and well-being benefits to flexible or co-working locations, there’s a demand from employees for these working conditions. When surveyed online by FlexJobs, some respondents said they’d consider a reduction in pay or vacation time in exchange for more job flexibility.

not too old for life insurance

Indeed, respondents chose job flexibility as a contributor to their quality of life, eliciting a response of positive impact for over half of those surveyed, improving health for three-quarters, and to lowering stress levels in 86 per cent of those polled.

As well, the work flexibility poll had 79 per cent of employees respond that the option would make them more loyal to their employer, and almost three-quarters said it would improve their relationship with coworkers.

“Employees value flexibility when it comes to when and where they work for a variety of reasons, and demand for flexible work arrangements is likely to increase as the Canadian population ages,” said Allison Cowan, director of total rewards and compensation research at the Conference Board of Canada, in a press release with the 2018 survey results.

Happier, healthier employees equal less absenteeism, decreased need for drugs and other medical services, which ultimately translates into reduced benefits plan claims. Less health and dental claims results in lower insurance premiums for employers, thus more profit.

Reduced Work Week

As everyone continues to work from home due to the current circumstances, a new flexible work option is emerging: a reduced four-day work week.

“What [the pandemic] has shown organizations is that people can work in different work situations,” said University of Saskatchewan assistant professor of organizational behaviour Erica Carleton. “They’ll get their work done. You don’t need your boss sitting on top of you to finish your work.”

Time will tell if the renewed interest in the reduced work week will actually turn it into reality. It’s not a one-size-fits-all option for businesses, and not an option at all for service-based companies. However, early results from businesses testing the new format indicate that staff seem happier, more productive, and took fewer days off.

If nothing else, the pandemic is changing our way of thinking, proving employees can work away from the office and that the once seemingly insurmountable obstacles preventing the shift away from the office is doable—and in many cases profitable to the community. It’s likely that as we transition back into existing or new co-working locations, job flexibility will remain.

Look for next month’s blog where we’ll investigate employee well-being during and post-pandemic. What will the new preferred work style be for staff as they emerge from months of isolation? How can employers support them to ensure the profitably of their businesses?

As always, we’re here for you now and in the long run. Stay in touch with us to ensure know about any potential updates from your carrier. We’re always available to discuss benefits solutions for your small business. Stay safe, well, and flexible!

Victoria Miron Vranic