Flex work used to be a unicorn among US job hunters, but it’s now becoming one of the most common, and coveted, job benefits. COVID may have boosted the trend, but flexible working shows no signs of slowing down.
The crowd of eager talent searching for flex work presents a unique opportunity for your business. Instead of letting the opportunity pass, join the 70% of other US businesses building flex working plans to compete for talent in this challenging market.
Mercer’s US Flexible Working Policies & Practices Survey covers program characteristics and strategies for building a flex working plan to meet the needs of your employees and your organization. The survey includes results from industries across the US, including tech, financial, nonprofits, and professional services.
Let’s take a look!
The current state of flex work in the US
Did you know that there’s more to flex working than just offering remote and hybrid positions?
Flexible working plans include policies that support schedules outside the traditional nine-to-five work week. That includes policies supporting time-based flexibility and part-time working practices.
Workplaces find that adopting more flexible options as part of their employee value proposition attracts new hires, improves current employee satisfaction, and opens the talent pool to new talent.
Currently, you may only be seeing a fraction of the potential workforce. Many qualified candidates in the US aren’t actively applying to open positions because they don’t coincide with the lifestyle they desire. Flex working attempts to minimize that challenge, building a door to an untapped talent pool.
For instance, this flexibility accommodates working parents, caregivers, and those with multiple jobs who may find it difficult to work a nine-to-five job. Flexibility can also increase a business’s diversity, such as allowing more workers to enter the workforce who otherwise couldn’t because of childcare obligations.
Hybrid, remote, and part-time schedules are some of the most well-known flex work arrangements. There are also other less common options offered by US businesses, including:
- Compressed work week: Four 10-hour shifts or similar arrangements that reduce the number of days worked in a week
- Fluctuating work week: Different shift hour requirements by week, like 50 hours in the first week and 30 hours in the subsequent week
- Variable shifts: Different options for shift length, such as 4, 6, or 8 hours
- Alternative shifts: Shifts include hours outside the regular work week, such as weekends or evenings
- Shift selection: Employees schedule their own shift hours
- Shift swapping/sharing: Shifts are traded or split between colleagues
- Nonpermanent employees: Employees work on a contract, gig, or freelance basis
- Internal marketplace: In-house employees take on additional projects not in their job description
How US businesses are changing the flexible work structure
Now that US businesses are no longer in the depths of COVID-19 restrictions, flexible work is transforming as businesses seek to institute a long-term solution that benefits both employee and employer. This transformation supports a more even balance between in-office and remote work.
In balancing the two, the benefits of in-office schedules are retained, like collaboration and stronger company culture, while also allowing employees freedom throughout the week to accommodate other obligations, like second jobs or caregiving.
Through the survey, businesses shared some of the ways they’re adjusting to flex working. The change doesn’t happen overnight but involves several small steps to streamline approval and offer small flexible arrangements.
- Offer more time-based flexibility: Employees still come to a physical office, but they have options for when they come.
- Decrease onsite working hours for hybrid workers: Businesses are reducing the required in-office time, as an imbalance between the two may discourage new hires.
- Increasing the number of full-time remote workers: Businesses are adding more remote positions to attract more talent.
- Involving fewer steps for remote work approval:
The new flex work trends are even overflowing into industries that couldn’t support remote and hybrid positions during the pandemic. For example, manufacturers and retail workers must come to a physical location to perform their job roles.
While these essential workers can’t work from home, they can still adopt more flexible schedules. Job sharing, time flexibility, four-day work weeks, and schedule control are just a few ways flex work has overflowed into these in-office industries.
According to our survey, 30% of US businesses adopt flexible working arrangements for nonremote workers. Widening the industries for flex work will have positive benefits in those industries as more essential workers can find jobs that fit their schedules and essential employers won’t feel the impact of the job shortage as strongly.
Designing new flex working policies in your company begins with establishing governance. Who will approve schedules, monitor attendance, and enforce in-office policies?
A strong governance structure maintains consistency and ensures your company remains productive. Only 20% of US companies oversee flex work schedules at an organizational level. Instead, over half of companies prefer to monitor attendance, schedules, and productivity through their managers.
How to incentivize hybrid workers to return to the office
One notable shift in flex work since COVID is the call for more in-office time for those workers considered hybrid. According to our survey, 31% of US businesses have issued an in-office mandate, and workers are expected to comply.
However, transitioning back to the office takes time and may require additional incentives, especially for workers who prefer the remote work life.
There are several ways that businesses are encouraging workers to return to the office other than mandates. One effective way is through incentives and improved work environments, such as:
- Relaxed dress code
- Flexible in-office working hours
- Commuting assistance
- Better technology
- Improve office space
- More office amenities
Benefits of investing in flex work
While there are significant hurdles to overcome, policies to create, and working environments to adjust, the return is well worth the investment.
Of the respondents in Mercer’s survey, almost 60% reported seeing a positive increase in productivity, which they attribute to remote/hybrid working. Other metrics US businesses use to track the success of their new programs are employee satisfaction, retention, and engagement.
If you see those areas improving, you know you have a successful flex work program. If those areas are not improving, some ways to further support your flex work policies include:
- Building a fresh company culture around remote work
- Training managers and employees to work remotely
- Strategically sourcing talent with remote work experience
- Investing in new technology like videoconferencing, email, and chat tools
With consistent effort, you’ll soon see the reward of improved employee satisfaction, more new hires, and diverse company culture.
What is missing from your flex work policy?
Are the options and considerations for a flexible working policy overwhelming?
You don’t have to guess what works and what doesn’t because we already did the research for you. Mercer’s US Flex Working Survey gives you the data you need to build a competitive and attractive flex work option
For more information on flex work data, view the complete survey
Contact us if you need help understanding or implementing these flex work policies in your business.
Email us at surveys@Mercer.com or call us at 855-286-5302.