Flexibility in the workplace is more than just a buzzword, it’s the future of successful business. Find out how to use SMART goals to improve your company’s flexibility.
Flexibility at work may be one of the new business trends, but it’s one that’s here to stay. The increased prevalence of millennials in the workforce is encouraging companies to ditch rigid structures in favour of a more flexible approach. But what does flexibility mean for a business?
Flexibility is a broad term that covers multiple aspects of working life. Flexibility means empowering your employees and giving them the autonomy to do their jobs to the best of their ability. It’s the opposite of micromanaging. Rather than breathing down your employees’ necks, flexibility is all about trusting them to take the reigns and make their own decisions. By allowing your staff to own their own career paths, take the lead on projects or set their own working hours, your business could reap some serious benefits.
But how can you make your workplace more flexible, and how can the use of SMART goals help?
What’s the Benefit of Workplace Flexibility?
It’s not difficult to imagine why flexibility is so enticing for employees. We would all jump at the chance to have control over our time and the ability to come and go as we please. That’s just one of the reasons flexibility works so well in the workplace. In a flexible workplace, employees feel more in control of their careers and entire working lives, which can result in increased productivity, company loyalty and an overall boost in morale. But flexibility can benefit your company too. Let’s take a look at the stats and get to the bottom of this emerging trend.
The demographics of business are changing. Millennials now make up a large proportion of the workforce and they’re bringing with them new ideas about the most efficient ways to work. A staggering 45% of millennials would choose flexible schedules over higher pay — that really says it all. It all boils down to work-life balance — a crucial but somewhat elusive concept — with 86% of millennial workers claiming it’s their top career priority.
When a company incorporates flexibility and balance into its work culture, it sends a positive message that it’s listening to the desires of its workers. The result? A happier workforce and lower turnover. The numbers don’t lie — 90% of organisations that have prioritised work-life balance and flexibility state that it’s improved overall staff satisfaction, with 74% claiming it’s improved retention.
Flexibility also increases productivity and profitability. Vodafone’s study of workplace flexibility illustrates the power of flexible managerial practices. The study found that 61% of respondents claimed flexibility increased profits, 83% claimed it improved productivity and 58% claimed it improved their company’s reputation — and that’s only a teaser of some of the positive results gathered in the global survey. It’s clear that flexibility can have broad and beneficial effects on a company-wide scale.
Addressing the Potential Problems of Workplace Flexibility
Imagine you’re a busy single mum or dad, balancing work with raising your children. You need to leave the office early every day to collect your children from school. You speak to your managers and they allow you to leave early — great! Now imagine you’re that person’s co-worker. You not only have to work full office hours, but also bear the burden of additional work. Workplace flexibility can end up benefiting some more than others.
When incorporating flexibility into your company culture, it’s integral that the same standards are applied to everyone. When it comes to flexibility, consistency is key. That’s not to say that everyone can just saunter in and out as they please, but rather that a reasonable equilibrium has to be achieved across the board. Any limits to flexibility should be clearly explained and boundaries enforced to ensure the system is fair.
Ideas for Improving Workplace Flexibility
Every company is different. Culture and working practices differ. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for workplace flexibility, here are some areas that you can easily look at.
People are most productive working 9 – 5, right? Not necessarily. Research from the University of California, Irvine, found that productivity varies depending on the person. For some, a 4am start sets them up for the day. Others find that their productivity peaks late at night. The take-away? Optimal productivity hours are personal and they’re not predictable. This makes enforcing a specific and rigid set of hours dedicated to working nonsensical. If you want to get the best out of your employees, offer flexibility when it comes to working hours.
This is where having good quality, measurable SMART goals is key. When working hours become flexible, success needs to be defined by specific deliverables and impact rather than hours worked.
Have you ever felt so overwhelmed and frazzled that you had to take a moment away from your desk? Didn’t that short amount of time make you feel better? Work life can be stressful and taking short breaks to rest and recharge are vital to prevent burnout. However, studies show that only 33% of employees take breaks during their working day. The main reason? Pressure from their superiors to stay put. So encourage your managers to take regular breaks themselves. This will then encourage their team members to do the same as they lead by example. Your employees will ultimately feel more balanced, in control and capable of completing their work more efficiently.
Meetings are crucial to a business’s success, but if you’re spending your days hopping endlessly between meeting rooms, it’s a sign that something needs to change. Executives find that 67% of these back-to-back meetings are unproductive — it’s no wonder you end the day feeling as though you haven’t accomplished anything.
One of the easiest ways to improve your company’s flexibility is to cut out unnecessary meetings. Stick to a strict calendar and plan meetings in advance, ensuring each has a clear objective and goal in mind. Not only will this free up your employee’s schedules, but it will also improve productivity, allowing more time to be spent on actually taking action, rather than merely making plans to.
Encourage Personal Interests
Flexibility is a solution to the struggle to maintain a work-life balance — one that we shouldn’t ignore. With increased demands on our time, we’re more eager than ever to achieve stability. One way of keeping that balance, without compromising work, is to incorporate personal interests into the workday. A lunchtime netball game, a mid-afternoon yoga session, a team viewing of the World Cup — there are endless ways you can show your team that you care about their passions and interests.
How Can SMART Goals Help Flexibility?
‘SMART goals’, used properly, set clear expectations and timelines. They enable managers to judge performance according to on-time delivery of goals rather than focusing on hours worked. Without these measurable goals, presenteeism and lack of trust can become the norm making a flexible working culture impossible to achieve.
When you successfully implement a trusting, flexible working environment supported by SMART goals, the long-term benefits for your business include a huge boost in morale and overall staff satisfaction.
Are you looking to introduce more flexibility into your company culture? Using SMART goals and implementing small but effective changes to the way you operate benefit both employer and employee. To find out how you can improve your business further by using SMART goals, check out our performance management software.