Article main image
Jul 3, 2013

That was refreshing.

Sitting there comfortably in my home office nook, speaking with a global health care customer about the future of work and the fact that recruiting “local” means “anywhere” for many professions and job families — the way work gets done becomes about how and when it gets done, not where. Where the proverbial “battle for talent” becomes one internally fought to change the corporate mindset of clocking time in a cubicle.

The fact that I’m a perfect case study to that effect wasn’t lost on me.

Workplace Flexibility is a business strategy

OK, maybe not perfect; I do take bathroom breaks. Actually, my wife would tell you a funny story about the time she was under the weather and for one series of back-to-back calls, I became relegated to our master bathroom, perched on the porcelain throne, smartphone in hand, headset on head and laptop in lap.

No, I wasn’t using it. Don’t look at me like that.

The point is I’m one of a growing professional body who telecommutes and works from home — and who gets the work done. There are, of course, mother ship headquartered meetings of varying frequency, and other travel, as well as video conference calls, old school phone calls and sound social collaboration platforms.

Last week I spoke at the NCHRA (Northern California Human Resources Association) Talent Management Conference in San Francisco, and the last session of the day was presented by Lisa Horn, Co-Leader of SHRM’s Workplace Flexibility Initiative and a SHRM Senior Government Relations Advisor.

What flexibility improves

Lisa made a compelling case as to a changing world and why the “best places to work” emphasize work-life fit (not balance, thank you) that includes some form of workplace flexibility, calling it a “business strategy,” not an employee benefit. Workplace flexibility has been shown to reduce absenteeism, turnover, real estate costs, utilities and other expenses, while in the same breath improving:

  • Attracting and retaining talent;
  • Employee loyalty;
  • Employee engagement;
  • Customer satisfaction and service levels;
  • Continuity/disaster readiness;
  • Productivity;
  • Profitability;
  • Employee health and wellness.

For example, a company-wide Unilever policy permits 100,000 employees — everyone except factory production workers — to work anytime, anywhere, as long as the work gets done. Closer to home for me, Plantronics (where I spoke recently), makers of amazing and magical headsets (and now the software that drives them as well), has implemented a similarly progressive program called Smarter Working.

Smarter Working is all about giving Plantronics’ employees greater freedom and flexibility in how, when, and where they work. It’s about understanding the need for and creating environments where employees can be their most productive. They believe that their people are more engaged and productive when they’re free to work as they please, as long as the work gets done, which it does.

This initiative is still new at Plantronics, so while there isn’t a lot of definitive data yet moving the P&L needles, the HR team there knows it’s working. They “feel” it every day and it plays out with better attraction, engagement and retention. They’ve even redesigned their physical office environments to encourage collaboration, communication and contemplation.

The benefits of a good work-life fit

I’ve seen it. Pretty awe-inspiring.

According to SHRM, when employees have a high degree of work-life fit:

  • Almost two times as many employees want to stay in their current jobs (79 percent to 44 percent).
  • Four times as many are highly engaged at work (43 percent to 11 percent), and,
  • Two times as many are in excellent health (35 percent to 19 percent).

Also, 97 percent of HR professionals say productivity is the same or better with flexible work and companies can reduce operating costs by more than $6,500 for every person who telecommutes once a week. I’m fortunate that my company feels the same way, with multiple locations, telecommuting flexibility and many more remote workers today. Smarter working indeed.

While it doesn’t work in every workplace culture for one reason or another, flex pundits like me would argue that, for most “knowledge workers” globally, companies that want to attract and retain the best talent will get there cultures closer, more intimate and engaged — regardless of where they work. And since 41 percent of workers spend their time “convincing people to give something up” in exchange for something else, let’s get to selling workplace flexibility. That’s the smartest sell I live.

Happy Independence Day, Kids. Be safe in those home office nooks.

This was originally published on Kevin Grossman’s Reach West blog.