Over 38 million people quit their jobs in 2021, with more projected to leave this year as part of The Great Resignation. What this shortage has done is pose a new challenge for employers to not only hire quickly but retain the workers they have by optimising job satisfaction — and we're not just talking about ping pong tables and the occasional company parties. But what new research has shown is that workplace flexibility plays an overwhelming factor in employee retention.
During the pandemic, where it felt like burnout was unavoidable for most, we saw mental health and striving towards a healthy work-life balance come into focus. But while we make sure to take our lunch breaks and switch off as much as possible, at a certain point, our wellbeing is in the hands of our workplaces, too. While it's hard to extract something positive from the last few years, the collective shift towards remote work may have changed how we approach jobs now and forever.
The results, while unsurprising, reflect the shift in priorities when it comes to working. It's been said that flexible work is the future, but it really comes down to the fact that even those who were once opposed to remote work have felt the undeniable benefits of being able to do so. In fact, it feels almost inconceivable to go back to a full-time office situation. Not only are our social small talk skills a little rusty, but the little things, like being able to tick off chores in our breaks or ditch our exhausting commutes, or spend more time with our family and friends have been invaluable.
Employee satisfaction is about having options
A study by Skynova found that 65.4% of employees had flexible work schedules, and more than half said that they appreciated these arrangements even more than their salary. And when it comes to retaining employees, it seems that inflexibility can become the deal-breaker. Almost four out of five workers who reported having inflexible schedules were looking to leave their current jobs.
Ultimately, the respondents with flexible schedules said that they work fewer hours overall, and think less about leaving for greener pastures.
“Our findings show that there is a direct correlation between a flexible work schedule and a healthy, manageable daily routine,” said Joe Mercurio, project manager for Skynova, adding that hours in the office don't necessarily result in increased productivity.
“Employees with flexible schedules are able to wake up at a more reasonable hour, and they end up working fewer hours overall. This just goes to show that work quality is superior to work quantity,” he said.
Other studies on the matter identify inflexible work as the driving force behind The Great Resignation. One investigation by Topia found office workers overwhelmingly demand flexible work arrangements — and are willing to look elsewhere to get it. A staggering 94% of employees agreed that they should be able to work from anywhere, as long as they keep getting their work done.
One manager, Ellen*, 29, says that the key is in the freedom of having the choice.
“It comes down to trust,” she said. “I trust that my team is working hard wherever they are, and I would never want our output or team culture to take a dive just for the sake of visibility.”
“The trust goes both ways, and we communicate online enough that I'm never stressed that the work isn't getting done. There are days that, with the nature of our work, we need to be on-site, but for the rest, I personally get more done from the comfort of my home, and my team shares that sentiment.”
“The office is there should anyone need or prefer it, but satisfaction is all about having options — and that just benefits us all as a team!”
Work is never going to be a Utopia, and working remotely isn't a fix-all to workplace issues. Hell, some people prefer to have the separation of work and home or have limited access to the Internet or other resources at home, but if we’ve taken anything away from the last few years, it’s that the choice to have flexible work is a game-changer, and a hack for achieving more balance in our lives.
*Names have been changed