The future of flexibility in the workplace

When Netflix launched its unlimited vacation policy a few years ago, I think the HR professional inside all of us cringed a little.

A flexible vacation policy sounds like the start of chaos and the decline of productivity in the workplace. While that’s not necessarily the case, Netflix did start a trend in employee perks that would later be adopted by some of the largest companies on the Fortune 500 and become almost a staple for startups in Silicon Valley.

I think flexibility is going to be the big trend in 2015. We’ve seen it take off in the last few years, but I believe the competitiveness of the market and the strong talent pool will cause companies to start doing any and everything they can to develop policies that attract better candidates.

Flexibility in work schedules

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Raising a family and other personal responsibilities and interests keep your employees busy outside of work. In some cases your employees are so busy they accomplish personal tasks during normal working hours.

Introduce a flexible work schedule that allows employees to put in hours more conducive to their lifestyle and temperament (for example, some people work better late in the evening than they do early in the morning), and see how hard your employees perform. A flexible work schedule isn’t compatible with all jobs, but where it is, allow it.

According to the Working Mother Research Institute, only 29% of employees work for companies with flextime policies. Those who were allowed the flexible lifestyle said they were more productive, happier, less stressed, and more motivated to do better work. Companies looking to offer a unique work/life balance should have a policy in place to allow flex time when needed. As long as work is getting done on time and with the same quality standards, flexible schedules shouldn’t be an issue for those employees whose jobs allow them to adopt one.

Flexibility in vacation policies

A lot of Fortune 500 companies have already initiated flexible vacation policies, but I think in the new year this trend is going to get bigger as more employers come to understand the value of supporting employee work/life balance. Mimic companies who are doing this successfully and enjoy the benefits of introducing perks employees want into your workplace. Also, recognize that one of the leading causes of company burnout is overwork.

Employees will only invest so much in a company taking too much time away from their life. Being flexible with vacation allows employees to take the driver seat and control their own work/life balance in a more efficient way. Even if the “unlimited vacation” isn’t really unlimited, employees will appreciate the idea that they’re able to get up and get away when they need to, whether to save their sanity or for some other reason.

There are many ways employers can be more flexible in the workplace, thereby improving the work life of their employees, and even starting small can make a real difference on your retention rates.

What is flexible about your workplace? Vacation policies? Flextime? Flexible working environments? Tell us in the comments.

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4 Comments on "The future of flexibility in the workplace"

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Judy Catto

I would like to show this to my HR classes.

D Ozley

I think this is a great idea. My employer doesn’t offer the flex vacation, however, we do have flexibility in hour work schedule, and our employer is lenient when it comes to time off. We are a training facility for the disabled and all of our employees/staff where numerous hats, and are responsible for several different tasks/jobs. And I am of the opinion that a happy rested stress free employee will be a more productive employee.

G. MacDonald

it really comes down to doing what is right for the business. This can be an easy win!

Brandy Shirley, HR Director
Brandy Shirley, HR Director
Great article, thank you for sharing. My only comment is in regard to “even if the unlimited vacation isn’t really limited”. I’ve been reading up a lot on this, mainly to see what legal implications there could be since this is something our company has some what been entertaining (yes, somewhat…I have some work to do here ;). My understanding is that if you allow for an unlimited paid time off, including “caveats” or “restrictions” opens up potential litigation issues. I am a huge fan of flexible work options and I’m proud to say that our company offers fantastic solutions… Read more »