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Why flexibility in the workplace is important and how to foster it

Marlo Oster

Flexibility can mean a world of difference in your employees’ already busy lives. Without flexibility in the workplace, your team can become stressed and overextended, risking burnout. According to Gallup, 44% of employees stated they feel burnt out at work occasionally, and 23% said they feel burnt out at work frequently.

Stress at work means stress at home, and vice versa, which is why it’s so important for employers to do all they can to support their team’s wellness and healthy work-life balance. Happy employees are productive employees, and introducing some flexibility into your team’s lives can go a long way to ensuring they have the space to excel in both their professional and personal lives—without the risk of burnout.

In this post, we’ll break down flexibility in the workplace, including why it’s so important and what you can do to provide your team with more flexibility.

Why flexibility in the workplace is important

Let people work how they work best

Everyone has a different style of working, and not everyone fits the mold of an employee who punches in at nine and punches out at five. While this may work for some, it doesn’t work for everyone, and forcing someone to work in a way that doesn’t suit their natural habits and preferences is not an effective way to promote productivity and efficiency.

Offering workplace flexibility allows your team to work in the ways they work best. What matters most is that the work gets done, and to the best of everyone’s ability. When employees work and for how many hours in a row they work should not be as important as the quality of their output.

When managers provide their team with this kind of freedom and trust, employees will work all the harder to prove they deserve that trust. They’ll feel more invested in their work because it will feel more personal—an extension of who they are and what they value instead of just the steps they need to take to earn a paycheck.

Allowing people to work in the way that suits them prevents a “hey, I just work here” attitude while promoting accountability, skill development, and job satisfaction.

Provide healthy work-life balance

Your employees have a life outside of work, and it’s important for managers and business leaders to recognize that. Employee burnout is a real thing, and it’s a lot more common than you might think. If your employees overwork themselves either due to your aggressive management style or because they think more hours mean more productivity, they will exhaust themselves and put a strain on their personal life and mental health. This, in turn, will negatively affect their performance at work, torpedoing their efficiency and effectiveness.

Providing work-life balance allows employees to take a break from work to focus on other important things in life, such as family, personal wellness, and their own hobbies. When employees have the space and time to take care of themselves, they’ll be better able to focus on their work when it comes time to do so. They’ll feel more satisfied with their job and experience a boost in morale.

Attract and retain talent

Employees who are allowed and encouraged to work in the way that best suits them feel recognized, trusted, and valued by their employer, which builds loyalty to your organization. They will be much less likely to look for work elsewhere if their current employer consistently demonstrates trust by offering flexibility.

Word will spread outside of your organization as well. Employees talk, and the more positive that talk is, the better for your business. Plus, with Millennials currently making up the bulk of the workforce and with Gen Zers now beginning to enter it, flexibility will continue to be a major priority for prospective employees. The more your organization can demonstrate its commitment to flexibility and work-life balance, the more likely you are to attract talent and increase retention.

📌 Learn more about understanding Millennials in the workplace

Promote accountability

Giving your employees more flexibility and freedom also means they will need to police themselves. While micromanaging your employees can keep them productive in the short term, after a while, constantly being told what to do can become very grating. Your employees are adults. If you feel you have to watch them like a hawk or they’ll stop working, they’re not your employees; they’re your children.

Treat your employees like the autonomous, capable adults they are, and that’s the way they’ll behave. Everything isn’t going to fall apart if your team has the freedom to work how they work best. Instead, your team will rise to the occasion and take more ownership of their work. They’ll put more of themselves and their identity into the job, which means they will own the results. This, in turn, will boost employee pride and satisfaction, enhance team trust and morale, and increase innovation and creativity.

📌 Learn how to build a culture of accountability in the workplace

Build leadership qualities

More flexibility means employees will have the space to develop self-reliance and self-confidence. They will begin to trust their own instincts and problem solve before taking every issue to their manager—though their manager will always be there should they need them.

Slowly but surely, a more flexible, hands-off management style will build leadership qualities in your employees, and soon-to-be leaders in the workplace will emerge. This will help fill your team with strong leaders who are ready to take on more responsibility and advanced roles within your company.

Plus, by leading with flexibility, you also help create the right kind of future leaders, leaders who understand the importance of empathy, adaptability, creativity, innovation, integrity, and mutual respect. With your guidance, these leaders will rely on macromanagement as opposed to micromanagement. Macromanagers lead with enthusiasm and encouragement, as they understand it’s better to influence an outcome than it is to control it.

📌 Learn more about transformational leadership and how to inspire innovation

How to provide flexibility in the workplace

Flexible hours

Flexible hours can introduce more flexibility into the lives of your employees. Not all of us are morning people, and even if we are, some of us have children we need to get to school or gym memberships we want to fulfill. It’s hard to get your kids to school, exercise, meditate and eat a healthy breakfast all before 9 am. It’s so difficult that for most people, this just doesn’t happen—even if they work remotely or from home and don’t have to worry about a long, tedious commute.

Flexible hours can be as simple as saying your team can start at 7 am, 9 am, or 11 am. They can start earlier or later or stop earlier or later—whatever works best for them. If they’re morning people who want to get started right away, they’re able to. If they’re late risers who like to take their time to wake up in the morning, they’re able to. Whatever helps your team do their best work.

We all work and wake differently, and allowing your employees to determine when they want to start or end their workday provides them with the flexibility to live their lives and complete their work in the way that best suits them.

Work from home options

Allowing your employees to work from home can really bring flexibility into their lives—especially if they usually commute to work. According to the US Census Bureau, on average, U.S. workers spend 26.1 minutes on each one-way commute. For a full-time employee, that’s over four hours a week and 16 hours a month. How could your team’s work-life balance improve with an extra four hours each week? 

If your team members are trapped in their car for four hours every week, that’s time they can’t spend with their friends and family, enjoying a hobby, or working. Allowing your team to work from home gives them back this time to use as they see fit. 

But it’s not only about the commute. Working from home gives your team the ability to design their own work environment, develop healthy routines that suit their work habits and lifestyle, and care for any loved ones at home who cannot care for themselves—pets included! 🐶🐱🦜🐢 With so many apps and remote office tools out there, including Zoom and Charm, working remotely has never been easier for both managers and employees. 

Plus, if your team works remotely, it will save you quite a bit of money you would otherwise be spending on renting your office space. 

If a complete switch to working from home seems unrealistic or daunting at this point, consider a hybrid option, where your team members can choose which days of the week they work from home and which days they work from the office. As always, check with your team to ensure a hybrid or work from home option is something they’re interested in. 

📌 Learn how to set employee expectations for remote work →

4-day workweek option

A 4-day workweek also adds flexibility to the lives of your employees, and there are many different ways you can implement it. The most common 4-day workweek schedule has employees work Monday-Thursday or Tuesday-Friday so that they can have a 3-day weekend, either taking Friday or Monday off every week. You may also choose to have everyone take Wednesday off to break up the week. In either case, your employees will have a 20% decrease in their work hours.

If that sounds like too radical of a decrease in working hours, you could also have your employees work the same amount of hours but over four days instead of five. As opposed to working eight hours for five days of the week, employees could work ten hours for four days. However, choosing this schedule may ultimately hinder an employee’s productivity, as working that much could lead to increased stress and burnout. The key here is that it must be up to the employee’s discretion to freely navigate their own ideal work structure.

You could also allow your employees to work an extra hour each day, which adds up to an extra day off every second week, typically taken on Friday or Monday. 

Make sure that your team feels like they can actually take this time off. If an employee feels like they have too much on their plate to be able to afford to take a day off, a 4-day workweek won’t do much to add flexibility into their lives. 

It’s important to determine what you believe is the best fit for your organization, but it’s just as important to consult with your employees and gather their feedback. Which option do they prefer? Are they interested in a 4-day workweek? Do they feel like their workload allows for a reduction in their work hours? 

Adding some flexibility into the lives of your employees and coworkers can make a world of difference to their productivity and well-being. Be sure to consult with them on how best your organization can prioritize and facilitate flexibility in the workplace.

The flexibility of Charma

Simplify your work with Charma, an all-in-one platform for one-on-one and team meetings, action items, team collaboration, 360 reviews, feedback & recognition, and goals. With Charma, both managers and direct reports can experience greater autonomy, flexibility, and seamless communication in one simple platform designed to help teams focus on what they do best. Try it yourself risk-free for up to 21 days.

Want to learn more? We have a library of resources for managers and employees on how to run effective meetings, give constructive feedback, build your leadership skills, and more. If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas for future guides, reach out to our team at any time.

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