June 4th, 2021

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Thinking back to the early 2000s, do you remember what came to your mind when someone mentioned "flex workers"? Back then, you might have thought the only people pushing for more flexibility were the millennials in the workforce.

Au contraire. In reality, all generations value the option for more flexibility. In Bloomberg's May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, 39% said if their employers refused to be flexible about remote work, they would consider quitting. For millennials and Gen Z workers that number was slightly higher, at 49%. So clearly, younger generations do value flexibility.

But now, more than ever, so do other generations. 

And because you already can find hundreds, maybe even thousands of articles about how to make millennials more comfortable in the workplace, we thought we would mix it up by outlining how you can implement flex working arrangements that benefit everyone in your workplace.

Why more employees want to be flex workers

People plan on staying in the workforce past 65

You may have experienced, read about, or seen it depicted on your TV screen: the traditional employee from an older generation cursing their younger colleagues and their flex work schedules.

But even though many baby boomers are already retiring, that doesn’t mean they have stopped working or even that they want to stop working altogether. In fact, 54% of U.S. workers plan to retire after 65 or not at all, according to recent research from Transamerica.

Older workers can remain in the labor force as mentors or senior advisers to new and younger employees. If you want to run a multigenerational business, having older workers train and share their knowledge with younger ones is a great way to better retain both groups — and to bridge the generational gap.

Millennials are more engaged after COVID-19

Before the pandemic, there was another thing plaguing employers: the largest generational group in the workforce was also the least engaged. 

Companies tried everything to boost millennial engagement, from in-office happy hours and nap rooms to ping pong tables and complimentary snacks. Still, the majority of employees in this age range were not only the least engaged, 55% weren't engaged at all.

But then, engagement increased significantly. What was it that caused the change? Millennials who have worked remotely since the onset of COVID-19 were 75% more engaged when they felt that their managers kept them informed and that they were well prepared at work.

Flex workers save money and time

Think about the past 15 months. Without long commutes to and from work, employees are saving a significant amount of time each day. Daily drive times kept employees from using their time on things like going to the gym, spending time with friends and family, and practicing their hobbies.

A recent study found that after the pandemic hit, newly remote workers gained more than 10% of their workweek back on average. This finding is supported by Upwork's research that shows those working from home due to the pandemic are saving an average of nearly 50 minutes a day.

Plus, they aren't having to pay for gas, parking, or other transportation costs. That same study estimates the cumulative cost saved per day for those who became remote workers after COVID-19 is $758 million. People can spend less on fuel, parking fees, maintenance, and all the other costs that go along with commuting to work.

What flex workers want in the workplace

Three in four employees want to be flex workers, with a mix of office-based and remote working.

Which means supporting flex workers is a smart business move. Modern flex workers have many valuable traits. With more than a year's worth of experience teleworking, they bring a level of maturity to the organization and are comfortable with the additional responsibility that comes along with being a flex worker.

So here’s how you can accommodate all of your flex workers' preferences.

3 strategies for accommodating your flex workers

1. Be flexible with location

Some companies offer a “snowbird” program where employees are able to split their time between different locations on a seasonal basis, typically allowing older workers to work in warmer clients for part of the year. One company's Snowbird Program allows hundreds of their older pharmacists living in Northern states to work the winter months in warmer Southern states. Since it’s not uncommon for retirees to want to fly south for the winter, if you have offices down there that your employees could transfer to for a season, let them.

The same can be done for your other workers, too.

A new report from Citrix shows that 78% of employees expect companies to create more work hubs in suburban and rural areas and move away from the centralized headquarters. This shows that more than three in four employees expect to have some location flexibility in the coming year.

Allowing flex workers to telecommute is one way to accommodate new ways of working.

While telecommuting isn’t for everyone, people do see the value of cutting back on commute times. Alternating the days spent working in the office and working from home, whether full time or a few days a week, allows them to do so. And no matter where an employee works, today’s tech tools allow effective collaboration to happen more easily.

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2. Offer flexible schedules

For some employees, the appeal of being flex workers has more to do with their other responsibilities. For instance, parents and caregivers often find it difficult to balance their jobs and caretaking obligations. Flex worker schedules can help reduce the stress they experience when trying to juggle their personal and professional roles.

In one study last year, 66% of employees said they were willing to take a pay cut in exchange for being a flex worker. 

Flexible schedules make a difference in retainment, so let your employees work part time by coming in three days a week or working shorter shifts every day for just 4-5 hours. You can also allow flexibility when these flex workers come into and leave work, instead of requiring a traditional 9-5 work schedule.

Just make sure you have the tools in place to support your flex workers when they do come into the office. Desk hoteling software is one way to support flexible seating arrangements that accommodate a hybrid workforce.

3. Give workers more autonomy

Offering the opportunity to be a flex worker to all your employees increases your chances of attracting, hiring, and retaining talented employees of all ages.

While some roles might not be compatible with a fully remote or hybrid work arrangement, giving them more control over their work environment can go a long way. For instance, implementing space booking system to allow employees to book the spaces that meet their preferences. That way, they can reserve a desk that's in an ideal location and book a conference room for their in-person meeting based on specific equipment needs.

Get flex workers excited about returning to the office

Employees are looking forward to a flexible future post-COVID. With the right workplace tools, you can eliminate return-to-office anxiety and help support your returning flex workers.

Remind your workforce about the magic of the office — in-person collaboration, the variety of experiences and interactions, and the spontaneous conversations with coworkers. 

Our tools help make the transition to flexible work simple. Learn more.

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