The workplace is getting even more flexible.
Seven in 10 employers are struggling to find qualified applicants in a tight labor market with record-low unemployment, a new survey finds, and many are offering work-life perks to entice job seekers.
More than half (61%) of human-resources professionals say they offer some type of flexible work arrangement to retain and attract talent, according to the survey by global outplacement and coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
‘If the tight labor market continues, employers will have no choice but to respond to the expectations of the talent they are attempting to attract and retain.’
Those employers were most likely to offer flexible work schedules (90%), followed by remote work options (62%) and unlimited paid time off (19%). Almost one in 10 employers offered a “9/80 schedule,” which lets workers put in 80 hours over nine days in a two-week period, and potentially take off every other Friday.
Nearly a quarter of HR professionals said they had recently introduced new benefits to attract and retain workers, while a third said they were contemplating flexible offerings to draw in talent.
“If the tight labor market continues, employers will have no choice but to respond to the expectations of the talent they are attempting to attract and retain,” vice president Andrew Challenger said in a statement. Other options on the table for employers: paid time off (PTO), student-loan assistance, professional development opportunities and tuition reimbursement.
Flex-friendly benefits appear to be in demand, even if too few employers offer them: 96% of U.S. workers say they need some type of work flexibility, according to a 2018 survey of 1,583 white-collar employees by the startup Werk, which promotes work flexibility.
However, just 42% say they can actually access their needed form of flexibility. Around a fifth of millennials and Generation Zers planning to leave their companies in the next two years said poor work-life balance was a main reason, the 2019 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey found.
Some 18% of British workers who had used flexible working arrangements in the past said they had suffered career repercussions as a result.
Some 35% of U.K. workers believed people who use flexible work options create more work for other people, according to this U.K.-based study, and nearly one-third thought flexible workers had diminished promotion chances. Indeed, 18% of those who had used flexible working arrangements said they had suffered career repercussions as a result.
Phyllis Hartman, founder of the human resources company PGHR Consulting, said those who show up to the office every day have issues with those who don’t. The same dynamic may play out with millennials and baby boomers who have conflicting ideas on work flexibility, she added.
Other potential pitfalls: Poor time managers could struggle to complete their work on time, and not every industry (like manufacturing) or job function (like a receptionist) lends itself to flexible options.
Unlimited paid time off could even hurt workers professionally. “Someone else might have more projects and more time to impress their leaders,” said HR consultant Susan LaMotte, CEO of the consulting firm Exaqueo, which offers unlimited paid time off along with two weeks of shared paid time off.
“There’s still so much stock put in face time instead of ‘Are you actually getting your work done?’ that people are afraid to do it,” LaMotte added.
Here’s how to make the most of your own flexible work schedule:
1. Plan out your unlimited PTO off at the beginning of the year, said LaMotte, to ensure that you take off your desired number of days and space them out properly. Budget how much time you want to take off that year — say, three weeks — and put in for those days while blocking them off on your work calendar. (You can always move the dates around later on, she said.)
Keep tabs on your progress, LaMotte said. It can be challenging when everyone in the office requests off for large blocks of time toward the end of the year after failing to use vacation time sooner.
2. Be respectful of your coworkers’ time. Consider the busiest times in your industry, LaMotte said. If you work in the corporate offices of Walmart
for example, taking paid time off the week before Black Friday might not be the brightest idea.
Keep tabs on your progress. It can be challenging when everyone in the office requests off for large blocks of time toward the end of the year after failing to use vacation time sooner.
And if a colleague’s work depends on some output that you provide, Hartman said, consider the impact of your vacation and accommodate their needs. Similarly, if a coworker has a special occasion (like a wedding) coming up during the time you’d been eyeing a vacation, LaMotte added, be willing to shift your plans if they allow for flexibility.
3. Stick to your hours. “There are a lot of people who work a flexible schedule, and they get asked to do stuff outside of their hours,” LaMotte said. “They have to be really diligent about not checking their phone, their computer, when they’re outside of hours.”
4. Be sensitive to what others may not have. Unlimited vacation days likely wouldn’t work for non-exempt workers who are paid hourly and make overtime pay, Hartman pointed out. “Their job may be such that they can’t do it,” she said. “So try and be kind to those people and don’t brag about it.”
5. Come with solutions. Employers are indeed looking to recruit and retain talented workers, many of whom expect work flexibility, Hartman said — “but sometimes the scheduling can become a nightmare.” Help your boss help you, she said, by coming up with a proposal rather than expecting them to figure out an arrangement. “Can you help your employer figure it out?”