How Do Employers Define “Flexible Work”?

With the tightest labor market in recent history, employers are getting creative in the ways they attract talented workers. Offering flexible work arrangements, a priority of jobseekers, is one recruitment strategy. In a new Express survey, job seekers cite a “flexible work schedule” as the most important non-health benefit.

According to Express Employment Professionals franchise owner Jason Patrick of Nashville, employers who offer flexible work arrangements see other benefits beyond recruitment. It also improves morale and retention, he says.

Daniel Morgan, an Express franchise owner in Birmingham, Alabama, adds that it improves a company’s overall image.

“The company appears to be more innovative by creating a culture that supports employees,” he said.

He notes that employees will actually take less time off. A more flexible schedule allows them to respond more easily to life obstacles that arise.

Flexible Industrial Jobs?
Flexible work arrangements may come easy for “office jobs,” but what about industrial jobs? Bruce Hein, an Express franchise owner in Sarnia, Ontario, explains that some major employers have restructured their shift work to provide more flexibility for workers.

“There are a lot of people who wanted to work, but can’t work a traditional shift,” he said. “Some employers are opening earlier and closing later, and employees just have to be present on site for their shift hour requirements.”

Lee Wenninger, an Express franchise owner in the Indianapolis area, explains how one local manufacturer found a way to offer flexibility when he was having trouble finding workers.

“There were a lot of people he spoke with who wanted to work for him, but could not work a traditional shift,” Wenninger said.

Instead, the manufacturer opened his factory at 7 a.m. and turned out the lights at 9 p.m. Workers are required to produce a certain number of components daily; however, they can do so any time between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. So, some employees work a traditional eight-hour shift, while others work only three or four days until they reach their weekly allotment.

“This allows retirees to come in early and then have the freedom to leave for appointments or other commitments,” Wenninger said. “They return later in the day to complete their allotment. And there are parents who work while their children are in school, then leave when their kids come home from school and return after dinner to meet their quota.”

Morgan emphasizes that any job is flexible if a company prioritizes communication.

“Employees need to communicate their needs ahead of time and companies will do their best to accommodate,” he said.

Communication is Key to Flexibility
Express Employment Professionals franchise owner Jessica Culo of Edmonton, Alberta notes that some jobs do not allow for flexible shift work. But she emphasizes that any job is flexible if a company prioritizes communication.

“Employers should ask what flexibility their workers value and do their best to accommodate in a way that works for everyone,” she said. “For example, some employers are offering extra ’emergency days’ to deal with unexpected personal or family issues that arise.  Other employers are offering the option of shorter lunch breaks in return for an earlier end time.”

Flexible Work Survey: What Do Job Seekers Want? What Do Employers Think?

In a survey of job seekers, Express asked respondents, “What benefits-not including healthcare-do you value most from employers?” “Flexible work schedule” was the number one answer. Similarly, “opportunities to work from home/remotely” was the number three answer.

When employers talk about “flexible work,” what do they have in mind? Express surveyed business leaders and asked them, “What does ‘flexible work’ mean to you?”

“Technology, communication channels, family structures, business practices and commuting habits have all changed dramatically over the last couple decades, even the last few years in some cases, so it’s only logical that work arrangements can and should adapt as well,” said Bill Stoller, CEO of Express. “It’s much easier to build a workforce that will take a company into the future if the company’s practices aren’t stuck in the past. Of course, not every arrangement will work in every situation. But a company shouldn’t see offering flexible work as a concession to employees; they should see it as a way to build a more committed, productive team and a stronger, forward-looking business.”

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