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Creating a flexible work environment

Allowing for greater freedom in the workplace can help companies bring out the best in their staff. Giving employees more control over their schedules and location is a balancing act, but providing more flexible working arrangements benefit organisations and their employees in a number of ways. 

What’s driving the work-from-home trend? 

Job candidates are seeking employers that offer more work-life balance, with telecommuting and flexible working hours helping some people juggle their personal and professional responsibilities.

Similarly, cutting down on commute time and setting up a working environment that suits an individual’s personal preferences where he or she can be the most productive may help to create more at-home and off-the-clock time for those burdened by stressful, busy schedules. The Work Foundation* found that employees who work longer hours, frequently travel for business and ultimately spend more time away from home suffer from increased anxiety, so creating ways for them to save time and spend at least part of their working hours at home could help. 

Research from A Better Balance** has shown that 77 per cent of surveyed managers found workers’ general health and stress levels were much improved after the introduction of a work-from-home policy and more flexible office environment.

And these arrangements aren’t beneficial to workers alone: According to research by Stanford University***, employees working from home could be more productive than those in the office. The report revealed that when travel agency Ctrip randomly assigned volunteers from its workforce to either continue in the office or carry out their duties from home over a nine-month period, those who worked from home saw a 13 per cent increase in overall performance.

Furthermore, each employee did more work per day – something which was attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment. After implementing a work-from-home policy across its organisation, Ctrip saw its output boosted by 22 per cent. Of course, these results will vary depending on industry and individual preferences and responsibilities, but for some people the option may facilitate more efficient, productive work. 

Why isn’t everyone doing it?

While the benefits to productivity are clear to see, many companies are not following the trend. Research from the US President’s Council of Economic Advisors**** outlined that only 15 per cent of the entire American labour pool works from home at least once a week. 

Why aren’t more jumping on board? First of all, not every company’s operations are suited to remote or flexible working arrangements. Others may simply be unsure how to create a strong policy and establish the technological resource remote staff need to thrive. 

While cloud technology and mobile tools make it easier for workers to complete their tasks from remote locations, companies need to ensure they’re able to uphold their obligations to provide safe working environments for their staff, addressing a range of regulatory and compliance stipulations that may be more complicated with a dispersed workforce. 

To understand these considerations and learn strategies to coordinate work-from-home practices more effectively, organisations can download WorkPro’s free e-book on the subject: Working Alone, Isolated Work & Remote Work.

*The Work Foundation, “Stress at work”.

**A Better Balance, “The public health case for workplace flexibility”.

***Stanford University, “Does working from home work?”.

****Executive Office of the President Council of Economic Advisers, “Work-life balance and the economics of workplace flexibility”.

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