The last five years have seen unprecedented—but not unexpected—growth in the number of workers wanting flexible work arrangements and the quantity of companies offering some form of flexibility. These work arrangements include telecommuting, part-time, unlimited vacation, compressed workweeks, time-agnostic scheduling, and flex-time.
In this post, we’ll take a dive into the reasons spurring this growth of flexible work, and what this means for the future of our economy.
Learn more about the benefits of flexibility for all work environments.
The Millennial Change: Work-Life Value
Everyone is quick to blame the Millennial generation for the change in the workforce, and this is true in some regard. Millennials are the first generation of workers that are demanding flexible work arrangements from their employers.
In fact, the Intelligence Group found that 74% of surveyed Millennials want flexible work schedules and 88% want work-life integration (when work and life are indistinguishably melded).
According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, work-life balance is the leading factor in the Millennial’s evaluation of job opportunities. To win over the “next generation of leaders,” companies need to offer flexibility.
A key reason for this desire for flexibility and work-life balance is a new definition of the value of work. Millennials don’t view work as “work;” they want to find meaning and purpose within their companies and roles. Research at Boston College found that employees are more likely to find meaning in a company if they have control over their working conditions, including having the flexibility and responsibility over their own schedules.
Flexible work arrangements acknowledge that people are more than their work. They are the summation of the different parts of their schedules, including their work hours.
But the demand for flexibility by this millennial “generation of entitlement” may be benefiting all workers—including those who need flexible work even more than Millennials want it.
The Sandwich Generation: Family Care
Adults aged 30-59, a range spanning three separate generations, all make up a single type of worker: the sandwich employee. This is the group of workforce adults who are caring for both aging parents and growing children.
After work-life balance, family care is the number two reason that people want flexible work arrangements, according to a FlexJobs survey. In fact, more than half (52%) of respondents said that a commitment to family care played a factor in their work decisions.
We have an aging population, where people are living longer than ever before. Despite this longevity, the concerns and illnesses of age do not change. In this way, there is now a greater population of elders who need to be cared for by their adult children.
Almost half of today’s workforce is expected to provide for aging family members in the next 5 years, according to the AARP. Furthermore, this study found that 61% of those who provide for a family member over 50 must also balance employment in order to survive.
Furthermore, the working parent is—and always has been—an important issue in the discussion of flexible work. Parents with young children don’t necessarily want to send their kids to daycare, which can be expensive and worrisome.
In addition, parents of children with special needs of all ages (children and adults) are finding it especially challenging to navigate the traditional work environment.
A majority of the populace of working adults must care for family members. Flexible work enables them to be present to take care of their family as necessitated.
The Gender Divide: Working Moms
Today there are more women in the working world than ever before. 57% of women participate in the labor force and 70% of women with children under 18 are working moms, according to the Women’s Bureau.
Despite the desire for equality of the sexes when it comes to family care, the proof has yet to hit the pudding. Women are still offered more parental leave time than men, which usually necessitates that they will stay home with the child. In addition, women have to take off during part of their pregnancy while men don’t have that same biological need.
But this doesn’t mean that women stop working. In fact, most moms want or need to work in order to support their families. Thus, working moms are looking for flexible work arrangements in a way that will allow them to control their careers and their family.
Don’t be fooled—this is just as much a working dads problem!
The Generational Span: Meeting Schedule Needs
Along with an aging population comes an aging workforce. People aren’t retiring immediately at age 55—mainly because they fear what retirement brings. Adults soon leaving the workforce are beginning to appreciate the potential for flexible work arrangements as a way to ease the transition from work to retirement.
In addition, there are multiple generations working together. And different generations have unique work-life balance needs. Leaders and company policymakers are struggling to create regulations that allow for varying generational needs without losing out on productivity costs at work.
Implementing flexible work arrangements has simplified the ability to meet these needs—while actually boosting productivity, saving costs, and encouraging engagement and job satisfaction.
Changes In Healthcare
Even changes in the healthcare world are influencing the flex-working environment.
With a change in healthcare, doctors are reducing their hours in office to save money (and have their own work-life balance). This means that it’s harder to get a doctor’s appointment, especially after the 5pm workday end. Flexibility allows people to better schedule doctors’ and other appointments.
And now more than ever, people need their doctors. Workplace stress is at an all-time high. In fact, stress is the modern-day epidemic. Flexible work can help minimize these health concerns. Learn more with our article 12 Practical Ways To Relieve Stress At Work.
Furthermore, flexible work gives people the freedom and time to better care for their health. Exercise and eating right is proven to be easier, more consistent, and more beneficial for those with flexible work arrangements.
As discussed in The Tree of Time Management, people have different productivity rhythms. People want the flexibility to work when it’s best for their schedules, productivity, and behavior. This is often referred to as time-agnostic work.
Customers and clients expect more now with growing advancements, globalization, and increased business competition. Flexible work improves employee productivity to better meet these customer expectations.
For example, in a restaurant environment, customers want fast and attentive service. Servers are more likely to be “on their game” if they have scheduled their own work hours. They choose the time they will be at work in a way that best fits with their home schedule and productivity rhythms. This means that when they are at work, they’re ready to work.
Flexibility offers proven productivity and engagement benefits that directly influence customer satisfaction.
New Societal Values
Overall, our societal values have changed on the whole. Workers apply higher significance to autonomy and choice; they want to have control over their schedules. People no longer accept the parent-child relationship of a hierarchical company, where their boss is constantly telling them what to do and when. People want to control their own lives and have responsibility for their work.
Ultimately, people value work-life balance. They want more time to spend with their families. They are demanding that their companies be compassionate and understand the health and psychological benefits of a strong integration of life and work.
So what does this mean for the future of work?
Flexible Work Is The Future
Currently, there are no federal guidelines around flexible work schedules. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t address flexible work, so it’s up to the discretion of the employer. As flex-work becomes more commonplace, though, this will likely change in upcoming years. We expect to see new legislation around labor laws of flexible work.
In addition, nearly half of the organizations from the 2014 Workforce Flexibility SHRM study responded that it was somewhat or very likely that flexible work would be a larger proportion of their organization’s workforce in five years. That was three years ago. We have seen immense growth already—and the next five years are showing even greater implementation of flexible work arrangements.
Forge is proud to be at the forefront of this flexibility movement. We believe in the power of agile work. We believe in work-life balance. And we believe that every individual deserves to control their own integration of work and personal life schedules.
Additional Reading: Editorial: work-life balance: a matter of choice? CIPD Policy Report May 2016 The Benefits Of Flexible Working Arrangements: A Future of Work Report Fortune 50 Best Workplaces For Flexibility FlexJobs Best 100 Companies for Flexible Jobs