Withholding flexibility is more expensive than most employers realize. In today’s workplace, not adapting to a work-life design environment (a balanced approach to the integration of work and life) means decreased productivity, low morale, and low talent retention rates.
Employees are searching for opportunities where they can grow their skill set without having to sacrifice every other area of their life. As an employer, it is imperative to understand this desired balance.
Research into the payoff of nontraditional work assignments is blooming as employers and consultants try to figure out if giving employees a culture of work flexibility is worth the perceived trouble.
In a recent study by Ernst & Young’s Global Generations Research, found that workers across the nation have been finding it harder to juggle the demands of work and the rest of life in the past five years. Many of these individuals are working longer hours, deciding to delay or forgo having children, discontinuing education, or struggling to pay tuition for their children.
Research indicated two major reasons workers are struggling to find a suitable work/life balance:
- The Economy: Professional workers in companies that have shed employees in the past few years are doing the work of two or more people and working longer hours. Salaries have stagnated, and costs continue to rise.
- Inflexible Companies
What do workers want in a job:
- When seeking a job, after competitive pay and benefits, flexibility issues and “not working excessive overtime” were the most important to full-time employees.
- Among the top five reasons that employees say are extremely/ very important, there was a tie (74%) between “being able to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion” and “working with colleagues, including my boss, who support my efforts to work flexibly to meet both my professional and personal goals.” Other flex perks full-time employees seek are: the ability to work flexibly informally when needed (71%), receiving paid parental leave (69%) and not working excessive overtime (67%).
- Millennials, globally, are more likely to say it is important to receive paid parental leave (74%, 71% and 58% for Gen Y, Gen X and boomers, respectively), onsite or subsidized child care (62%, 57%, and 47%) and telecommuting one to two days a week (50%, 48% and 38%).
- One surprising finding is that two-thirds (64%) of full-time employees picked “being able to relocate to another company office to be closer to family.” This ranked above “ability to reduce overnight business travel” and “onsite or subsidized childcare” (tied at 56%), “ability to shut off emails/calls when needed” (55%) and telecommuting either one to two days a week or three to five days a week (46% and 42%, respectively).
- About half of US millennials (46%) would prefer being able to relocate to a company office closer to family
Sacrifices made to manage work-life balance:
- Job (63%) and career changes (57%) are the most common sacrifices workers have made, or would be willing to make, to better manage work and family/personal responsibilities in the US.
- Full-time employees (54%) have, or would be willing to, give up an opportunity for a promotion to manage work life.
Millennial workers, the group that companies say they are scrambling to attract and retain, are the most dissatisfied:
- Millennials want flexibility in where, when and how they work.
- Lack of flexibility was cited among the top reasons millennials quit jobs.
- They see technology as something that frees them to work productively from anywhere.
This research shows how vital it is to embrace a flexible work culture, not only increasing productivity but reducing turnover of top talent that companies can’t afford to lose.
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