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The surprising element of flexibility your future workers will crave

June 28, 2019
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Think flexible work means working from home? Think again: Colorado workers care more about when they work than where they work. While 20 percent say they would prefer to work from home, nearly double that number—38 percent—believe when they work (as in flexible hours) is most important, according to research from Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado's largest workers' compensation insurance carrier.

There's no question that the future of workers will continue to shift to employee autonomy. One survey finds that 60 percent of companies currently permit employees to set their workday's start and end time.

If you're not one of them, now is the time to consider how to evolve in order to attract and retain workers; however not every small business is equipped to allow workers free reign over their hours. After all, you still need to keep cash registers and production lines manned and provide customer service in a timely manner. However, with a little creativity, even companies that don't have an obvious model for choose-your-own-hours work can offer some flexibility.

Explore these three ideas:

1. Embrace work-life blend—including when it creeps into “work" hours

When it comes to work hours, both sides benefit when they each give a little. You probably appreciate when an employee answers an email or takes care of a client situation outside of “regular" office hours, so remember that when they need to duck out early for a doctor's appointment or want to take advantage of a gorgeous Colorado day by going on an afternoon bike ride.

Embracing schedule balance can help drive employee loyalty, but it has additional benefits for employers: Sixty-six percent of self-identified “stressed" workers find their biggest headaches come from either their workload or trying to juggle their work and personal lives, finds the American Institute of Stress.

Besides a loss of productivity, these issues can have a real impact on your bottom line. Job stress costs U.S. businesses an estimated $300 billion annually, due to a combination of occupational injuries and illnesses, absenteeism. Thus, giving your employees more authority over their schedules can help prevent costly claims down the road.

2. Let employees complete certain tasks on their own schedule

Colorado earned the top spot for the highest percentage of employees who work from home, according to FlexJobs. If you're one of the employers who has yet to look into telecommuting, the time to do so is now.

While telecommuting isn't realistic for every company, you can still identify ways for workers to exert control over their hours. Even if a job function requires an employee to be onsite for specific hours, as is the case for most retail associates and receptionists, most jobs have at least some component that employees could do flexibly. Perhaps they can reconcile call logs or work on quarterly reports on a Sunday afternoon. Alternatively, you could let them choose a convenient time that works for them to come in and do inventory.

3. Encourage employees to choose shifts that work for them whenever possible

Hourly workers often have the least control over their schedules, and yet more than half of hourly workers aged 18 to 34 say that scheduling flexibility is necessary for job satisfaction. Surprisingly, nearly half would trade pay to have more control over their schedules.

Most small businesses can't let employees set their own schedules⁠—but they may be able to work together to find a suitable situation. Start by asking your employees what's ideal for them; You may find that a parent would prefer to work weekends so they can pick up their kids from school during the week, while another employee would gladly cover weekday afternoons in exchange for a work-free weekend. The same goes for client coverage in an office setting: One worker might choose to come in early to cover East Coast clients, while another would prefer to stay later and handle those on the West Coast in exchange for sleeping in.

Creating a simple system and encouraging employees to trade shifts, so that they can seek some control over their schedule, can help inspire loyalty, while still ensuring the work gets done.

With a focus on output rather than “face time," you can reap the benefits of engaged, satisfied, and productive workers.

Read more about building your future workforce.

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