The Rise of Flexible Work Arrangements

Published on
August 31, 2023

The Rise of Flexible Work Arrangements

In the 1950s, the “traditional” American couple consisted of one person in the workforce and another whose primary focus was taking care of the home. As time has passed, this dynamic has changed in many homes across the country in one way or another and now, nearly 60% of American homes have both partners working. Many of these workers were impacted in one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. This global phenomenon shifted many industries to an abrupt work-from-home arrangement in order to keep businesses afloat amid those uncertain times. As the world has shifted back to normal, many employees have found that they prefer the flexibility that they experienced during their temporary work-from-home stint. In fact, many job seekers state that the ability to work remotely is one of the driving forces for them when considering a new position, even more important than salary in some cases. Employees of companies that have stuck with the work from home setup have even gone as far as to say that they would leave their current role if their employer required them to return to the on-site office. 

The Pros

Employees argue that if they can do their job from anywhere, then why not allow them to do so? It cuts down on costs for office space for businesses and can expand the pool which employers choose from when creating their work teams. Additionally, without a commute into work and with all of the other responsibilities held in the average person’s personal life considered, the ability to work from home is believed to support a much better work-life balance – especially since most families do not have that one person whose primary role is taking care of the home like they might have in the past. Individuals who work-from-home 100% of the time make up a mere 12.7% of the workforce, meanwhile a whopping 98% reported a desire to work-from-home at least in some of the time. Many of the folks who have worked from home feel that they are able to be more productive while doing so, and that is not just due to the fact that they aren’t in the office. 

Flexible work expands beyond the place in which you work, but other factors as well, the biggest one being work hours. The growing adoption of work-from-home and hybrid work setups has people realizing that they may be more or less productive at different hours of the day. Working parents, for example, may find that they can get substantially more done once everyone has gone to bed for the night or bright and early before the morning sun when they have a rare moment of alone time to really hone in and focus on the task at hand. Young people may also find that they love the idea of spreading their 8-hour work day over the span of a 10-12 hour window so that they can squeeze in a lunch with a friend or a quick morning hike as the weather gets nicer and nicer out. Flexible work hours takes the idea of the work-life balance and leans into it even further than work-from-home.

Some businesses will likely be able to offer more flexibility than others based on the type of services offered; many companies who are early adopters of these flexible work hour arrangements find success in having certain hours of the day set up where folks are required to be online (sort of like office hours for a professor) and then apart from that, it is a matter of productivity – if the employee is able to get their work done by flexing their hours, then the employer is fine with them taking on that sort of schedule. 

The Cons

There is quite a bit of trust on the end of employers to allow for employees to not only work remotely in some capacity, but even more to allow them to work the hours that work best for them, which might not align with a typical workday. While most employees will likely respect this fact and be sure to put in the effort necessary to get their job done and get it done well as a member of their team, there are some who will abuse this trust by not working all of their hours or not being productive enough during their dedicated work time and lead to difficulties for the rest of the team.

Conversely, there are some individuals whose work-life balance will be impacted negatively by working from home and having the freedom to work at any time, as these individuals will overwork themselves and burn out quicker than if their work was separated outside of the home. 

Additionally, though much communication for businesses across the board is via instant messengers like Microsoft Teams, or via email and phone call, a sense of togetherness and an air of teamwork can be harder to find for some work teams who have adopted flexible work arrangements. Managers have to work diligently to get their people connected and for the camaraderie to come close to what it might be on-site. 

Keeping in regular communication with your employees is key as a manager here - if someone appears to be underperforming, talk with them and see if they require a different work arrangement in order to be a productive member of the team. Additionally, be sure to emphasize to your employees the importance of balancing their work and home life and not working more than necessary - there is work to be done and it is nice to have go-getters on the team, however, if your employees burn themselves out then their productivity will tank. Balance is key whether employees work 100% traditional 9AM-5PM, 5-day work weeks or flexible schedules.

Cybersecurity Considerations

With remote work, the area that your employees take up is much greater than it would be if everyone was in one office building. This can make cybersecurity a daunting task for some, but it can be done and done quite well. 

  • Educate employees on cybersecurity risks, expectations, and who to contact in the event of a potential risk or concern.
  • Conduct regular audits of your networks to search for vulnerabilities. 
  • Create an incident response plan and update it regularly - be sure to inform key staff of their roles in the event of a cybersecurity incident.
  • Practice and promote strong password hygiene by using unique, complex passwords for every account.
  • Physically protect devices by locking them when not in use.

Image by @lookstudio for Freepik.