Published June 26, 2000

Benefits of Flexibility in a Job With Flexible Schedule

What do today's workers value over money? Flexibility. Or so say 6,000 American and Canadian workers surveyed by Randstad North America, the parent company of several employment firms.

The telephone survey, conducted by Roper Starch, found that employees want to balance competing work and family responsibilities. Fifty one percent of employees said they would stay at their current job rather than switch if their employer offered flexible working hours. Also, 62 percent said they prefer a boss who understands when they need to leave work for personal reasons over one who could help them grow professionally.

Perhaps most surprisingly, 51 percent of employees prefer a job that offers flexible hours over one that offered an opportunity for advancement.

The desire for flexibility does not translate into a lack of dedication. The survey found that the majority of employees, 64 percent, describe themselves as ambitious when it comes to work and career, and 61 percent agree that to get ahead at work you must put in 110 percent. And 58 percent of employees feel that it is within their control to make sure their personal lives do not interfere with work.

What - other than money - makes people happy at work? The survey found the following:

  • Liking the team they work with- 71 percent.
  • Pleasant work environment- 68 percent.
  • Workplace is an easy commute- 68 percent.
  • Challenging work- 65 percent
  • Job security- 65 percent.
  • Ability to work independently- 59 percent.
  • Opportunity for advancement- 55 percent.

The survey's findings have interesting implications for human resources people, if they pay attention. Consider the second and third reasons people are happy at work - a pleasant work environment and an easy commute.

"Pleasant work environment" could mean anything from sitting next to someone who regularly uses deodorant to having a boss who says "Good morning." But I'll take it to mean the actual physical environment in which we labor. Many companies give no thought to the Dilbertian gray environments they provide. How about a workplace that includes natural light, fresh air, and a splash of color? (Oh, for heaven's sake, what kind of commie-granola-heresy could have gotten into me?)

So, if I were an employer, and I had just discovered that employees valued flexibility over money, and that they liked a pleasant environment and an easy commute, here's what I would do:

  • Think of some cheap, creative ways to make the office look better. Get plants. Invite local schools to display art. Host an exhibit with a local museum. Open a window. Buy a few full-spectrum light bulbs to replace those midnight-at-the diner fluorescents.
  • Try to hire locally. If people value a short commute, hire people who'll have a short commute. Step up efforts at local community colleges, high schools, adult education centers.
  • Let responsible people work from home. With the new technology, an office can be anywhere.
  • Establish non-traditional schedules. Rigid 9-to-5 schedules don't always make sense. Sometimes four-day weeks can work and sometimes employees can set their own schedules.
  • Consider part-time, flextime and post-retirement work. You never know what mutually beneficial work arrangements can be structured until you ask.

Article - Copyright 2000 Evan Cooper. Syndicated by ParadigmTSA