By Reagan Nickl
Enterprise Customer Success Senior Manager
Flexible work environments accommodate employees by stripping away rigid rules and replacing them with general guidelines. There’s a sense of freedom and autonomy inherent to flexible work environments, alongside the structure and support of a traditional workplace. Flex work is often seen as the happy medium between remote work and traditional office work, or freelancers vs. full-time employees.
A flexible workplace might not care about the timeframe in which you work as long as the job gets done. You likely won’t sit at your desk all day—if you even have a designated seat. Flex work might even mean the lack of a traditional boss. Instead, you may work with diverse teams on strategic initiatives where multiple managers are involved. Whatever the case, it’s a strong departure from the traditional concept of office work.
The rise in flexible work environments coincides with the influx of Millennial and Gen-Z employees. Younger workers demand work-life balance and are proving that, given autonomy and freedom, they’re able to perform in ways best for them. Read more on what is flexible office space?
Check out some of the chief benefits flexible work environments afford employees and their employers:
The benefits of flexible work environments come from moving away from rigid workplace demands. Gone are the days of write-ups for clocking in at 9:03 a.m. or working Saturday hours to make up for a Tuesday doctor’s appointment. Someone might work from home on a day they have an appointment or flex in and out of different workspaces throughout the day to accommodate their changing schedule.
In addition to greater worker autonomy, flexible work environments rely on digital infrastructure, which keeps employees more connected to their work and their peers. It’s easy to pop open a cloud-hosted document to make changes, regardless of where you’re working. Similarly, apps like Slack and Zoom make chatting and video conferencing available in seconds. These technologies make work simpler and more efficient.
Ultimately, it’s easier for employees to achieve work-life balance in a flexible work environment. Preserving this balance encourages employees to self-moderate their workflow, leading to better productivity.
The advantages of flexible working extend to employers as much as employees. Giving freedom to employees means business owners gain more control over their workplace design and cost. Flexibility in work habits translates to flexibility in workplace design, which often results in the creation of agile spaces that maximize utilization. Costs are typically tied to dedicated workspaces. But as employees transition into flex work, reliance on traditional seating falls. It’s a big win for space planning efficiency and can result in lower lease costs.
Businesses also benefit from improved culture and employee morale. Employees who control their work habits and schedules can relax their attitude about work. They’re apt to chat with coworkers without fear of being chastised for being “off task.” Flexible work environments also make it easier for employees to commingle in different spaces. The laid-back atmosphere helps attract and retain talent and strengthens bonds to the company itself.
The benefits of flexible environments may increase workplace ROI beyond revenue. Positive morale and culture, combined with an optimized floor plan, are keys to success in the current commercial climate.
Potential disadvantages to flex work
It’s important to recognize both pros and cons of flexible working. While the positives are numerous, drawbacks exist.
The most obvious problem is employees that lack the discipline or organization to self-govern. Employees unable to find their own groove in a flexible environment can quickly fall behind, becoming a burden more than an asset. Employers need to establish guidelines when problems arise—missed deadlines, communication problems, lack of awareness, erratic work habits, etc.
Flexible work environments demand careful planning and management on the part of facilities managers. Employees flexing into and out of spaces at various intervals represent an uncontrolled variable. The workplace itself needs to be the control point. Setting up rules and processes for how employees interact with different workspaces is imperative. Facilities managers also need to provide the means to keep everyone connected—employee directories, workspace reservation software, and wayfinding apps.
Keeping flexible workspaces viable and productive means creating order to accommodate the unknown. How will you manage employees? What methods ensure fairness despite differing work habits? Are there systems to track employee contributions and working hours? For a flex concept to work, it needs proper oversight.
Accommodating an agile workforce
Employees and employers alike have embraced the concept of flexible work environments. Given the opportunity to self-govern around a set of guidelines, the benefits for both are obvious: improved productivity, better morale, work-life balance, and positive culture. Flex work isn’t just in-demand, it’s on its way to becoming the new norm.
Keep reading: How Agile is Your Real Estate?