Lower costs, higher productivity, better work-life balance and happier employees – plus: pro advice for employers to capitalise on it right now
Higher talent retention. Better performance. And more productivity. That’s just some of the demonstrable benefits according to a recent study that shows flexi work boosts employee engagement. But there are some key moves SA companies need to make to ensure they get it right.
Here are the study findings, lessons for employers and ideas to capitalise on flexible working arrangements:
ABOUT THE STUDY
A new South African study by Marcel Weideman and Karl B. Hofmeyr shows that flexi work does in fact boost employee engagement at actual SA companies. The 2020 study, titled, “The Influence of Flexible Work on Employee Engagement: An Exploratory Study”, was published in the SA Journal of Human Resource Management in April – see it here.
(And it’s a big deal because earlier this year, another study found that companies worldwide are losing money because only 16% of employees are fully engaged at work.)
The new study included an analysis of existing peer-reviewed research on flexible working arrangements and employee engagement, to find a correlation between the two. And the findings here were used to create questions for semi-structured face-to-face interviews with recognised experts and actual employees at different companies in various industries.
It considered flexi work as flexible working hours or working from home, as put forward in the previous study by Allen, Johnson, Kiburz, & Shockley, 2013. And used Christian, Garza, & Slaughter, 2011’s model to define employee engagement.
STUDY FINDINGS: FLEXI WORK BOOSTS EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
The study found a “positive relationship between flexible work agreements and employee engagement”, especially in terms of cost-saving, productivity and employee well-being.
- 100% of companies saw cost-savings
- 62.5% of experts said flexi work is necessary for companies to stay competitive in the global market
- 50% of experts said flexi work helps cater for millennials
- 37.5% of companies saw a direct impact on employee engagement
- 50% of companies saw a direct increase in productivity
RISKS TO SUCCESS: WHAT EMPLOYERS SHOULD KNOW
The study did find some drawbacks. There was some abuse of flexi work policy. It sometimes resulted in a communication breakdown in the organisation. And a perception of unfairness in how the policy is executed (where not all employees were given the opportunity) resulted in resentment between employees.
The main risks to the success of flexible work arrangements were technological readiness, how the company communicated and executed the new policy, and when company leadership didn’t really buy into the idea. (And, on the flip side, you run the risk of having disengaged teams – see what happens when you have employee withdrawal.)
MORE IDEAS TO CAPITALISE ON FLEXI WORK TO BOOST ENGAGEMENT
The study suggests getting management on board before implementing, investing in technology and enabling and upskilling employees to work efficiently. It also makes a special note on investing in company culture to improve communication.
It’s not really surprising that company leadership can sabotage its own initiatives in this way. Our traditional top-heavy T-model style of leadership comes with some excess baggage from the industrial revolution when on-site hours was directly linked to productivity and profits. But the world’s not like that anymore.
Some suggestions here is to explore your entire company’s vision, core beliefs and organisational management systems. It’s something that LifeXchange Solutions champions through science-based Agile management training and organisational development.
And, if you really want to empower your people to drive your business, you need to recognise that our current educational system and work environment doesn’t teach people how to self-organise and self-drive. As a company, you can get huge benefits by investing in helping build your employees’ own self-management skills, especially if they’re working remotely.
Good news, though. Because this is how our own company has worked for many years, we’re teaching others: We’ve just created a new self-management course.
FOCUS ON COMPANY CULTURE
Remember, we help organisations manage change. So, if you need any advice on employee engagement or modern work initiatives, connect with us right now.
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See the 4 new roles and purpose of HR in the Fourth Revolution.