The most important perq you can provide – and it’s free!

flexible

Bill Gates was recently quoted about the best perquisite you can provide your employees:

The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead. Companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge in this area.

So what exactly does he mean by flexibility? For one thing, where the employee or team member works. That doesn’t mean if they aren’t at the office they are at home. Staff should be able to work anywhere they can get a [secure] internet connection. That could be office, home, or the local coffee shop. Of course, the other parameter is when. Developers are notorious for wanting to work at night. Do you know why? They have learned that there are far less interruptions. Programming requires intense concentration and interruptions for meetings and other corporate overhead cut down on productivity. Conversely you HR staff should be available in person for the full work week, or at least enough of it so the HR department always is available. So you need to be careful about the when.  The best way to go is to poll you staff about what split between in-office and out-of-office time works best for them. Then come up with some guidelines, not policies! Policies are for bureaucracies, guidelines are for fast and flexible companies.

And there is far more to work time flexibility than the work week. Your venture should have guidelines for major HR contingencies: illness, maternity, death in the family, etc.  But keep these guidelines simple and easy to understand. The fewer, the better.

The best process is to define when people are needed in the office, such as for all-hands meetings or for their departmental meetings. Best to push this decision making down in the organization rather than having come from the top of the organization. Those closest to the issue are best equipped to handle it.

So what’s in it for the firm in providing flex time?  A lot according to the The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 a lot! I don’t ordinarily quote at length from articles, but in this case I can’t add much to this important list:

1. Longevity.

Millennials and Gen Z may stay in a job for more than five years if their employers are flexible about where and when they work.

2. Job satisfaction.

According to a recent Staples study, a massive 90 percent of workers indicated that more flexible work arrangements will boost morale and increase their satisfaction at work–a key component of employee recruitment and retention.

3. Companies save money.

It’s a simple equation: Healthier employees lead to more engaged and productive employees. Lost productivity due to poor health costs U.S. businesses nearly $226 billion per year. Companies also pay less in health coverage for healthier employees.

4. Improve employee retention.

Companies with no flexible working policies in place are losing valuable talent. Per the Staples study, 67 percent of employees would consider leaving their jobs if work arrangements become too fixed.

5. Recruit better talent.

Flexible working will also improve your recruitment metrics. A 2018 Zenefits survey found 77 percent of employees list flexible work as a top perk when evaluating job opportunities.

6. Employees are more productive.

People who have some control over their schedules are more productive, plain and simple. Ron Friedman, award-winning social psychologist and author of The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplacesaid in an interview, “We have decades of studies showing that people are happier, healthier, and more productive when they feel autonomous.” Friedman explains that autonomy is a basic psychological need so that “the more autonomous we feel, the more likely we are to be engaged.”

So yes, salary, stock options, and bonuses are very important in attracting and retaining talent. But in my experience staff soon get used to their salary and unless there is some intervening event, like a new hire who comes in at a salary above them – and people do talk abut their salaries, whether you like it or not – they get acclimated to their compensation. (Though bonuses are a good way to break through this normalization of compensation, but that’s a topic for another post.)

Providing flexible scheduling costs a company little or nothing, (although leave has to be accounted for) especially compared to salary and other benefits, such as health insurance. The ROI on providing flex time is huge!

Go easy on the foosball tables and free food and heavy on the flex time and you will save money and have a more engaged and satisfied work force. Successful companies need to evolve and adapt,;flexibility is a critical element in adaptation. Only the fittest survive!

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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