Remember the classic '80s movie “9 to 5,” where office workers get fed up with their horrible environment, then take matters into their own hands? Fast forward to today, and the millennials who weren’t even born when that movie came out are taking the workplace by storm—making the typical 9-to-5er more obsolete than those '80s hairdos.
How did we get here?
The confluence of technology, the millennial workforce, talent shortage and increase in temporary workers have all contributed to the extinction of the typical workday. And while each of these trends warrants its own 20 minutes of fame, now is all about putting the final nail in the 9-to-5 coffin and embracing a better way to work.
Since some of the best ideas happen away from the desk (and often in the shower), why not encourage some flexibility? Companies embracing this trend are reaping some major rewards. Here’s why:
Autonomy drives productivity (and it doesn’t take the scenic route). In his bestselling book, “Drive,” Daniel Pink identifies three key areas that are motivators for total employee engagement: autonomy, mastery and purpose. With autonomy, you’re empowering employees to want to do more, achieve more and stick around longer than they would otherwise.
According to the Bersin’s “Engaging the 21st Century Workforce” report, companies with flexible work options have 40-percent higher levels of innovation and 12-percent higher employee satisfaction.
Work-life integration is the new work-life balance. In a 24/7 world, a 9-to-5 gig isn’t realistic. We’re always on, even sleeping with our smartphones so we can check work emails before passing out and upon waking—even before coffee! This hyperconnectivity shouldn’t be one-sided, where employers reap the rewards without giving any leeway in return. What millennials really want is work-life integration. The lines between personal time and professional time are already blurred. Millennials just want a job that can help them effectively manage what used to be two separate universes.
Flexibility is not a green light to slack. Although millennials prefer flexibility over pay, they are often viewed as sluggards. A recent Ernst & Young study found nearly one in six millennials say they have “suffered a negative consequence as a result of having a flexible work schedule.” This is a company mindset that needs to follow the typical workday to its shallow grave.
As long as the work is getting done, why not encourage your millennial workers to have their cake pop and eat it too? There are several metrics and technologies you can implement to verify that work is still getting done effectively, including everything from timekeeping software like TickSpot to project management tools like Basecamp. If not, flexibility may not be the culprit—consider time management, lack of engagement or other factors.
Put flexibility into action
Not quite ready to get all Yoganidrasana with your workplace policies? Here are a few steps you can take to move toward a more flexible corporate culture (and all the benefits that go along with it):
Think about the wants and needs of your employees. One of the best ways to achieve this? Ask. Whether it’s an online engagement survey or a stay interview, show employees you care about their needs and are willing to listen to suggestions.
Experiment with the right mix of flexibility for your company. Flexibility doesn’t have to be black and white. Do employees simply need to leave at 3pm on Wednesdays, or prefer to work from home a few days a week to eliminate distractions? Of course, some in-person interaction is still essential for mentoring, providing feedback and collaborating. But take a long, hard look at which meetings should happen in the confines of your office.
Invest in the technology that makes flexibility work. There are several tools and technologies that would help your workforce collaborate (with greater productivity) in a more flexible environment, from cloud-based platforms like Google Docs for writing and editing, Trello for project management to Skype and Google Hangouts for video conferencing (many of them don’t require much investment). Even your learning management system (LMS) can be optimized for mobile learning, allowing employees to train anywhere they are, phone in hand.
If your company doesn’t offer the flexibility today’s millennials demand, you may find yourself scraping the bottom of the worker barrel due to a talent shortage—a move that definitely won’t lead to innovation or increased profitability.