Although social distancing and mask mandates have been lifted in some places across the world and many companies are now welcoming employees back to the workplace, don’t expect office life to return to how it was in 2019.

People have grown accustomed to the nontraditional hours and remote setup they’ve experienced in the last 18 months that flexible work arrangements are now a must-have in a job. Companies that don’t continue to offer remote work could face many employees quitting on them and be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to recruiting new talent.

According to the Work Reimagined Employee Survey from Ernst & Young (EY), which canvassed the views of 16,000+ employees across 16 countries, more than half (54%) of respondents would consider leaving their job post-pandemic if they are not afforded some form of flexibility in where and when they work.

The EY survey also revealed that, on average, employees would want to work between two and three days remotely after the pandemic, and 33% of respondents said they want a shorter working week altogether.

“Employees’ willingness to change jobs in the current economic environment is a game-changer. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that flexibility can work for both employees and employers, and flexible working is the new currency for attracting and retaining top talent,” Liz Fealy, EY Global People Advisory Services Deputy Leader and EY Global Workforce Advisory and Solutions Leader, stated in a press release.

After seeing some of the benefits telecommuting can have for their organization – such as it helping to improve recruitment and retention efforts and reducing costs on corporate space – many employers are embracing this workplace flexibility model for the long term, with companies like Twitter, Dropbox, Nationwide, and Facebook enabling their staff to work from home permanently.

Allowing flexible hours

More companies, realizing that not everyone performs their best work during traditional 9-to-5 hours, are also offering employees leeway, and a flexible work arrangement, with their schedules.

After the country of Iceland conducted a successful trial for workplace flexibility, testing a shorter four-day workweek, some organizations are now considering this option for employees. Researchers deemed the study, conducted from 2015 to 2019, an “overwhelming success,” with the data showing that productivity remained the same, or improved, in the majority of workplaces and employees’ well-being “dramatically” increased.

Borrowing a page from Iceland, Unilever New Zealand announced in December 2020 that it would trial a four-day workweek at full pay. Meanwhile, Microsoft, which tested a four-day workweek in Japan in 2019, reported that productivity, measured by sales per employee, went up by almost 40% compared to the same period the previous year, due to workplace flexibility.

Addressing telecommuting challenges

Despite the many benefits that can arise from telecommuting arrangements, one of its disadvantages is that it can potentially lead to employee burnout during the flexible work arrangement. Because there is no clear delineation between work and home life, it can be hard for some people to switch off. Employees also may feel there’s an expectation from their employer to always be “on” and available outside of “normal” business hours.

Companies have begun taking steps to address this mental health issue, even with employee flexibility at work. According to a recent survey from executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, one in five companies are offering employees more vacation time this year.

Recently, LinkedIn and Bumble both gave their entire workforce the same week off to mitigate burnout from working hours. Since everyone had off simultaneously, employees didn’t have emails and project requests piling up while they were gone, so they could fully step away to recharge their batteries.

Another challenge arising from remote work, flexible working hours, and the employee experience involve the distractions at home from partners, children, and pets. Plus, many realize there are limitations to videoconferencing tools and sometimes colleagues do need to be in the same room to get a job done.

For those times when small teams need to come together – or even when individual employees want a break from their domestic distractions throughout flexible working hours – American Express Global Business Travel offers Workspaces.

Currently available in the US, Canada, Ireland, and the UK, the workspace booking service allows remote workers and small teams to search and book day passes at co-working venues, including hotels, in their local vicinity. These spaces are conducive for work, meaning employees can enjoy total peace and quiet in a comfortable setting and reliable Wi-Fi that won’t cut out because too many family members are overloading the connection. Plus, at many of the properties, workers can enjoy a few perks, such as discounts on food and access to the fitness center and pool.

For employers, the benefit is clear for employee flexibility at work: increased productivity and employee satisfaction at a fraction of the cost of an office lease.

Workspaces

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