For most professionals, asking for flexible working hours has often been looked down upon and signals a career break and maybe even derailment from the career path. However, in the new age knowledge economy, flexible working has become more prevalent and recognised as a way that can actually benefit both employees as well as employers.
Flexible working is a type of working arrangement which gives an employee the flexibility on how long, where and when the employees work. Thus, the flexibility can be in terms of working time, working location and the pattern of working. There are different ways of working flexibly among which the most common are job sharing, working from home, part time work, compressed hours and flexitime.
According to a recent study by Regus, almost 80% of companies globally and in India offer flexible working options to their employees – either in terms of hours or location. Businesses are recognizing that flexible working is not only important for older workers but is becoming a part of the value proposition that they offer to their younger employees as well. It helps an organization in remaining lean and cost effective which can be a significant source of competitive advantage. Over 75% of respondents in India feel that going flexible allows for higher revenue generation and productivity.
Apart from making business sense, flexible working is also being recognized as having significant advantages for the employees. A recent article in Economic Times highlights some of these advantages such as improved employee productivity, increased retention and work motivation. For an employee, it is a signal that the firm not only recognizes their contribution to work but is also cognizant of their needs and aspirations and thus, actually motivates them to perform better and increase commitment. These benefits have convinced employers of the important business implications of implementing flexible work practices and over 51% of firms surveyed by Regus intend to hire more freelance workers in the coming year.
This trend is gaining prominence not just in India, but globally as well. A recent endorsement of this is the session on ‘Flexperts’ at the recently concluded World Economic Forum in Davos led by Geraldine Chin Moody. The session was based on using technology to match business needs with those of ‘stay at home’ mothers and was attended equally by both men and women highlighting the growing importance of working flexibly and independently for the modern employee.
However, the trend of flexible working is still considered acceptable only for senior level professionals and is yet to gain popularity at all levels. It also faces certain barriers from within the organization and outside. One of the main barriers to implementing flexible work is operational pressures. Other roadblocks include maintaining customer service requirements and the ability of the manager’s to effectively delegate and manage flexible workers. From the perspective of the employee, major issues include the nature of work and attitudes of other employees and line managers. Thus, only providing an option of working independently without ensuring that the organization is ready for it is not a good step. It needs to adapt to this growing and inevitable trend instead of being a mere formality.
For today’s professional, this trend signals the beginning of a period of freedom and choice. It enables one to be in better control of their career without compromising on their personal or family commitments. An organization is also benefited with lower costs and improved productivity. Thus, working flexibly is not a passing trend but a stable and accepted way of working that is here to stay.