Flexibility at Work: Definition, Benefits, & Best Practices

31 Jan, 2023 | Read in 5 minutes

Explore the concept of Flexibility at Work and learn about its definition, advantages, and best practices for success.


Today's modern organisations realise that flexibility at work is essential for a healthy, growing, and productive culture. Some call it work-life balance.

Before the pra-pandemic, people usually took requests for flexibility in the workplace on a case-by-case basis. For example, a person has to take care of his parents on Wednesdays, and to make up time; they extend working hours on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Another example is when a team will be remote for specific periods.

But the definition of flexible is sometimes different in the employer's eyes. They are often hesitant about promoting flexibility in work because it feels like pushing for less work. However, flexibility is not about finding a balance. Instead, it means creating a culture where employees meet their personal lives while maintaining work performance. Flexibility is about when, where, and how the work gets done.

What is flexible work?

Flexibility at work emphasises willingness and ability to adapt to change. It underlines how and when people should complete work.

Contrary to what employers think, flexibility should benefit both the company and the employee. In a workplace, flexibility means employers' needs and employees' expectations are met. Moreover, some companies also use flexibility as a tool to retain employees.

A study shown by Flexjobs on 2,202 employees found that 41% quit because the organisation did not allow flexible schedules. There are two types of flexibility in the workplace, including the following:

  • Formal flexibility: It’s an ongoing regulation that differs from the office's standard hours or location. It could be remote working or changing the schedule.
  • Informal flexibility: It is often a simple agreement between employees and managers. It's occasional and has little impact on others in the office.

Also, flexibility in the workplace does not mean pitting work against life – as if work is the enemy's life. Both of them can walk together hand in hand.

Trust is a critical factor in a flexible workplace

Remote work with flexibility is the highest trust culture in the company. Meanwhile, leaders cannot monitor employees while they are working.

How to grow trust? Upwork released 12 tips for increasing trust in remote teams, one of which is transparent and reliable. As a result, employees feel satisfied, and their performance rises.

WeWork also applies flexibility in the workplace. When individuals are trusted (employees or employers), they will be comfortable when working and growing.

How to be flexible at work?

Other than the organisation, we as individuals must also be able to be flexible. This is something we can only wing or do with proper planning. We must be aware of our daily schedule and plans.

We cannot predict many situations, so we should be flexible. In addition, there are several reasons, such as:

  • Flexibility can make you win over potential clients. It could be that your client is running late today, and you can offer to meet at another time that suits them.
  • You work remotely in a different time zone. So you have to be flexible about work schedules and meetings.

To get started, here are three tips to help you be flexible:

  • As an individual, strive to develop a flexible mindset. You must see that being less rigid is essential.
  • Be proactive when a problem arises. Accept that life is full of changes and will not be the same forever.
  • Make an effort to include flexible hours on professional hours.

Flexibility vs Adaptability

When it comes to flexibility, we are often familiar with adaptability. Although these words are used together, they are different. At the workplace, flexibility means accommodating many things without sacrificing time and routines.

Meanwhile, adaptability means you can adapt to a new environment. It may leave your previous way of doing new things, such as promotion or trying a new role.

Why do organisations need to be flexible?

From an employee perspective, flexibility can save time and money. They don't have to drive or commute. There is no time to deal with traffic jams or vehicle fuel costs.

When organisations remain constrained by flexibility, they will lose great talent in the office. Many employees choose to resign after the pandemic when the company does not offer flexibility in the workplace. Based on Envoy's Return to the Workplace report, half of their employees would leave their jobs if the employer didn't offer flexibility.

Employees want flexibility and remote work to stay. One study in HRExecutive shows that 64% of individuals prefer a permanent work-from-home situation over a salary increase. So, organisations may need to offer flexibility in their work to achieve more.

Flexible working arrangement and environment

Regarding flexibility in the workplace, there are two terms: flexible working arrangement and environment. The two terms will be described as follows:

Flexible working arrangement

It refers to flexible hours, a work environment and a schedule that does not have usual constraints. These arrangements consider individual personal needs and allow employees to align their working hours. That means employees should take responsibility for their personal lives with work. The most common example of a flexible working arrangement is working from home.

The flexible working arrangement benefits employers and employees. Employees can achieve a better work-life balance and lower stress levels. Likewise, those who have side jobs can also manage work portions better.

Meanwhile, for employers, this regulation results in boosted employee performance. Employee productivity grows faster, and costs for operations are reduced. A symbiotic mutualism for both of them.

Despite the benefits, this regulation also has risks: too many employees' freedom, cutting their productivity. Employers can use software to monitor employee performance to deal with this risk.

Flexible working environment

It encompasses how employees can be productive wherever and whenever they work. The company recognises the needs of employees and supports them to achieve better welfare.

The main benefit of a flexible working environment is that employees can maintain control over their time off and work. They can finish their work at the most productive time or in a more peaceful environment. Or they can leave work equipment and access the cloud anytime, anywhere.

As for employers, this environment can retain the best staff. They can also have access to a wider talent pool. A flexible schedule also reduces the number of employee absences.

But employers will also face obstacles when implementing a flexible environment. This regulation runs the risk of fading employee motivation to take the initiative. The next chance is wasting time if employees are not reliable.

Wrapping Up

The world is changing rapidly, and organisations must build new capabilities to adapt. They must pay attention to employees' needs and ensure a positive culture in the company. From the discussion above, we can all agree that flexibility plays an important role. Organisations must embrace flexibility in the workplace to ensure they remain agile for what is to come.

Further, try a project management tool using VirtualSpace today to embrace flexibility at work.

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