Flexible schedules are in high demand.
Finding balance between work and home is a high priority for workers. — kohei_hara/Getty Images

Workers want a balance between the office and home more than ever. With technology making remote work effortless, and the job market giving candidates all the power, workers are placing a premium on flexibility.

According to a new study by professional services company ManpowerGroup Solutions, flexibility is one of the top three factors for 40% of candidates when making career decisions. The study, which globally surveyed 14,000 workers aged 18-65, found that the desire for flexible policies has grown 29% in the United States alone. Two-thirds of the workers surveyed say they don’t need to be in the office to be productive — after all, technology makes it possible to work almost anywhere.

That desire isn’t just for flexible work hours. It also includes policies like parental leave, unlimited time off, work-from-home days, and even part-time and remote work. Those policies are becoming more common, especially as companies are looking to retain employees in the current job market, which has one million more job openings than candidates to fill them.

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, a firm that researches and finds solutions for telework, says that every worker has different needs, and technology helps to fulfill them. “In the days of 9-to-5 jobs, it was easier to draw a line between work and life,” Lister said. “Technology has allowed us to work anywhere, everywhere, and anytime and that’s what we’re doing.”

[Read: 4 Ways Your Business Can Support Remote Workers]

Here’s how your business can accommodate employees looking for a little flexibility.

Workers want a balance between the office and home more than ever.

Offer a broad range of flexible choices

To create a flexibility-focused culture for your business, says Lister, pay attention to the needs of every employee, as they’ll likely be different. While one employee may have a grueling commute and request work-from-home days, another might want to work remotely to take care of their children.

By offering several options, you can work with employees to find what works best. “That way, everyone has the opportunity to participate and you don’t create a culture of haves and have-nots,” Lister said.

Hear out your employees

If employees belong to an office without flexible policies in place, they can make the case for them. The best way to frame the conversation, says Lister, is for employees to explain why remote work or flexible schedules can benefit the company. If you’re not sold on the idea, Lister adds, you can have a test period where the new policy can be evaluated.

For example, if an employee wants to work from home twice a week, see if they’re still as productive as they would be in the office. Having those conversations with your employees can keep the lines of communication open and prevent unmet expectations later on.

[Read: 5 Smart Strategies for Communicating With Your Employees]

Find the “sweet spot” for you and your employees

A common misconception about remote work is that it’s a permanent shift away from the office, when it’s typically a part-time or temporary change. “It doesn’t have to be (nor is it in most organizations) an either/or,” Lister said. The best outcome for both employer and employee is what Lister calls the “sweet spot”: the perfect work-life balance for the employee, and the perfect productivity level for the employer.

“We are entering an era where work is becoming much more fluid,” Lister said. “The contingent workforce which is predicted to mushroom in the next decade will change the very nature of relationship of the employer/worker relationship.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published January 22, 2020