Workplace flexibility is seen as a means by which diversity in the workplace can be encouraged and this is very beneficial to an organization as it helps retain talents which will result in sustained productivity and innovation. This, more than anything else, makes workplace flexibility something for every organization to try and implement. Having had the opportunity to experience this first hand, as well as having read up on it to better understand what it is about, I have put this together to help you understand what workplace flexibility it is about, how it influences diversity in your workplace and how this is to the advantage of your business.
So, what is workplace flexibility and diversity? Workplace flexibility refers to a situation whereby employees have a choice as to how, when and where they work and accomplish their tasks. Diversity, on the other hand, refers to the presence of a diverse range of people with different circumstances and backgrounds within your workforce.
Diversity is very important if a company is to remain competitive as it is a requirement for innovation and creativity due to the simple fact there are different people from different backgrounds and with different experiences that will bring new and diverse perspectives to problems facing the establishment. How diverse and inclusive an organization’s workforce is can be the deciding factor of how competitive they are in their industry. This is why it is important that ways to increase and improve the diversity of the workforce should be pursued and workplace flexibility is one such example.
When we talk about workplace flexibility, we are talking about how employees can choose to work at home, a café or even the park as opposed to working in a traditional office environment.
Workplace flexibility also includes employees being able to choose when they want to work. For instance, an employee can decide that he/she does not want to work between the hours of 9-5 and instead come around later from 10-6. This might be due to many different reasons such as the need to fulfil a familial obligation, or something similar. Workplace flexibility also allows employees to determine the means by which they want to accomplish their task.
Workplace flexibility has been proven to offer many benefits both for the employer as well as the employee which is why many businesses are making the transition from the traditional workplace environment to a flexible workplace environment.
While workplace flexibility has many advantages, it is not all rosy as it has certain disadvantages which if not well managed will lead to the exact opposite of what you set out to accomplish in the first place.
By virtue of this, it gives space for diversity to occur in the workplace. When people are able to influence such things as are mentioned above, diversity is encouraged, and a more varied set of people will be part of your workforce. For instance, a working father or mother who needs time to nurture to the needs of a new born. Unless there a flexible workplace exists, such an individual would leave the organization just so he/she can have time to cater to the needs of his/her family. A flexible workplace eliminates the need for this, however, as all that is required is that he/she choose one of the options available as a result of workplace flexibility and still deliver as is required and expected.
There are two different types of workplace flexibility policies that you can make use of in your establishment. These are;
Formal and Infomral Workplace Flexibility policies
The formal workplace flexibility policies refer to those policies regarding workplace flexibility that are officially sanctioned and approved as human resources policies, and which has a due process that has to be followed when an employee is seeking for flexible worktime or other types of workplace flexibility while the informal workplace flexibility policies is the opposite as it is not official and does not follow official channels. It refers to informal policies that allow a superior to grant flexible worktime to employees based on his/her discretion.
Workplace flexibility has been made possible due to the advances in communication thanks to technology. With how easy it is to communicate in real time these days, employees can choose to work from anywhere, receive instructions and input while at the same time submitting their output simultaneously.
In the event that you want to implement flexibility into your workplace, the following are five steps by which you can do this drawn from in-depth research.
- 1. Advertise and encourage flexible working options among your employees at work
- 2. Ask them to make suggestions and give their opinions on better and innovative ways to work
- 3. Set an example for your employees by using your managers as role models for the flexible working arrangement you want to implement
- 4. Ensure that the option of flexible working is included in the recruitment process so that prospective and new recruits will know the options available to them in a particular department and role within your organization
- 5. Observe and monitor the productivity of those utilizing the options workplace flexibility provides them so that you can ensure that their work output is duly recognized
Flexibility and Diversity in the Workplace
Workplace flexibility is a means by which you can ensure that your workplace is inclusive and that it has a diverse range of workers from different backgrounds and with different circumstances for example, working families. Having a flexible workplace helps ensure that the employees of a company achieve a balance between their work and life. Imagine, as already mentioned, a working family with kids that need attending to, without workplace flexibility, there would be little to no time for them to spend with their families. As such, workplace flexibility helps reduce the stress on parents and then helps them achieve a balance between their work and life. Normal working time would severely limit the time that parents spend with their kids as well as that which spouses spend with each other. With the option of workplace flexibility, people are better able to plan their time so that they can spend more quality time with those that matter to them. This is how workplace flexibility comes in and encourages diversity.
There are two factors that influence whether work can be considered good or otherwise, and these are;
- – The amount of money available that will be helpful in raising a family and,
- – The availability of time and support from the organization for those employees who have other responsibilities to cater to such as family and community among other things
Some of the best practices you will find around related to workplace flexibility and the diversity it allows are the following;
Time: several things fall under this category such as zero-hour contracts; flexible working dos and don’ts among others
Well-being: the number of hours or extremity of the jobs you perform as well as the impact of these on your well-being and happiness
Respect: this is also quite important if workplace flexibility is to really kick off in your workplace. Respect should be present in every and all areas of work and it should feature via such things as inclusive recruitment and rights for fathers some of which should mirror those provided for mothers
Money: employees should get fair wages for their work, how is work for older women being handled and so on
Society: plans should be put in place for childcare by parents, there should be access to certain rights at work for certain employees among other things
For workplace flexibility to work, the above should be attended to such that nobody will feel marginalized in the workplace, employees will feel appreciated and they will be able to achieve a healthy balance between their work and life.
An organization that is looking to provide equal opportunities for all of their employees will have no choice but to implement workplace flexibility in their workplace. This is because it will provide an opportunity for people from different backgrounds and parts of the population to meet their individual needs while at the same time being productive for the organization. There is a diverse range of options affordable as a result of workplace flexibility and this could be any of the following;
- – Job sharing
- – Flexible timing
- – Work from home
- – Telecommuting
- – The presence of childcare facilities
- – Part-time working
- – Staggered maternity leave
Job sharing: job sharing involves the sharing of a particular task between two or more employees thereby allowing such a task to be accomplished innovatively and creatively.
Flexible timing: flexible timing refers to the opportunity available for employees to choose and dictate their own working time. For instance, if an employee feels like he or she performs better at night, he/she can choose a worktime that is closer to that time so that there can be more productivity.
Work from home: employees can also choose to do their work from the comfort of their homes. This particular arrangement does not only benefit employees, it also benefits employers. For employees, there will be time to work on and achieve other things such as take the kids to school, attend a variety show or a football match and so on all of which will lead to happiness and satisfaction. It will also help employees avoid the stress of commuting to work twice a day as well as the cost that would be associated with this. The result of this is a boost in productivity for the company which is more or less an advantage to the employer. Apart from this, however, employers will also get to save money on real estate as the more employees work from home, the less office space is needed to get things done.
Telecommuting: telecommuting is yet another means by which you can explore workplace flexibility. It involves working from a remote location while maintaining contact with your office via the internet.
The presence of childcare facilities: organizations that have childcare facilities where parents with small kids can drop off their kids are also encouraging diversity through workplace flexibility. This is because the availability of this will take off the stress of having to make arrangements to drop off the kids before coming to work or arranging for a nanny for them. This will help ensure that parents with small kids have a place within the organization’s structure and that they can give their best without any hindrance.
Part-time working: the option of part-time working is yet another workplace flexibility option that encourages and advances diversity in the workplace. This is because it provides an opportunity for people who have other obligations and responsibilities to still contribute their quota to the development and advancement of the organization.
Staggered maternity leave: staggering the maternity leave of women in the workplace is yet another way by which workplace flexibility can advance diversity in the workplace. This is because it allows you to retain your company’s talents and reduce the rate of turnover as well as absenteeism.
Employees can then work with the organization to create a flexible arrangement after factoring in their role in the organization and whether or not this will afford them to opportunity to have a flexible work time. For instance, the needs that a flexible workplace can accomplish for a young unmarried man is different from those that it can accomplish for a family man. Thus, each employee has to make a flexible work arrangement that aligns with and will help them fulfil their individual needs.
After all is said and done, workplace flexibility can and will encourage diversity in the workplace. It can be the reason why an organization can and will retain its talented workforce. Workplace flexibility is very important for the growth and development of an organization due to the fact that it can lead to a boost in the happiness and satisfaction of the workforce. This will, in effect, result in them being engaged in their work such that they will be more productive for the organization. More productivity by employees will inadvertently lead to more profit for the organization.
As can be seen in steps put forth in this article, workplace flexibility is very important in order to have a diverse and all-inclusive workforce which is important for a business to thrive and move forward. As such, every business will benefit greatly from implementing and adapting this arrangement in their workplace.
For things to work smoothly, however, you should ensure that your managers are receptive to the changes that will be brought about by a switch to this arrangement. You should also ensure that they are able to adapt to these changes. Work should be done to ensure that there is no prejudice against those who opt for this arrangement such that any employee interested in pursuing a flexible working option can do so without any fear of being discriminated against and without having a fear of aspersions being cast on his/her performance. In the event that the performance of an employee is hindered as a result of his/her pursuing a flexible working option, such should be handled as per company policy the same way any such matter would be handled.
Also, to ensure that employees do not misuse such an opportunity, training programmes should be organized as well as a means of communicating effectively.
If all these are put in place, your business will be well on its way to becoming an all-inclusive workforce and as such, top talents will be attracted and will be interested in working with you.
Further Reading – OSW Article 25 Workplace Flexibility Benefits
What are the benefits of workplace flexibility? Workplace flexibility has many benefits to offer both the employee and the employer. Quite a number of these has been mentioned in this article, some of those benefits, however, are a boost in career ambitions, a boost in productivity and employee engagement, and a reduction in absenteeism.
Is diversity important in the workplace? Yes, diversity is important in the workplace. A diverse workplace affords an organization the opportunity to have a wide range of talents working to help fulfil its goal and drive it forward.