July 30th, 2021

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In workplaces all over the globe, workplace flexibility trends are all the rage. Depending on where in the world your office is located, you may be more familiar with some flexible workplace strategies and less familiar with others.

Now that workplace flexibility has become one of the most important employee benefits, more and more businesses are incorporating flexible workplace practices.

So, how can you make flexible workplace strategies a success for your organization? Use these 6 examples of flexibility in the workplace from countries around the world as inspiration.

What is flexibility in the workplace?

Before we dive into what's trending in workplaces around the world, let's establish a common definition of workplace flexibility.

What does it mean to be flexible in the workplace?

Some terms are subjective, but for the sake of this article, when we say "flexibility in the workplace", we're referring to workplaces that give employees more options and agency, including these three flexible working categories:

  • Location flexibility: Giving employees more options to choose where they work
  • Schedule flexibility: Allowing employees to modify and adjust their schedules
  • Time-off flexibility: Offering more opportunities to take time off work

Workplace flexibility trends around the world

If your organization is considering creating a flexible workplace, learning about the trends in workplace flexibility that are gaining traction in different countries is a great place to start. Here are some of the best examples of workplace flexibility to explore implementing in your office.

Trends in workplace flexibility in Denmark

While in the United States the 40-hour workweek is standard, around the world the average number of work hours varies by country. Many European countries are known for shorter workweeks, particularly in Scandinavian countries. Denmark is known for having the shortest workweek at just 37 hours.

Offices are empty by 5pm and people are discouraged from staying extra hours, with most employees leaving by 4pm to pick up their children and prepare dinner, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

In addition to flexible work hours, Danes are legally entitled to five weeks' paid vacation per year.

Workplace flexibility trends in Belgium

Belgium is a leader when it comes to having time away from work, even going as far as to allow every worker a year-long "career break" during their lifetime. In addition to that major benefit, mandatory vacation, paid time off, and various paid leave, including both maternal and paternal leave, are offered to employees in Belgium.

But it's not only vacation and paid time off. Employers also need to separate working hours from non-working hours.

Workplace flexibility trends in Ireland

In Ireland, the government has taken a clear stance on an employees' right to disconnect while working from home. In 2019, they launched a consultation seeking the public’s views on flexible working as part of Future Jobs Ireland and in April of 2021, the Code of Practice was issued. It maintains employees have the right to be offline outside of work hours and may even penalize employers who don't comply with the separation between home and work.

According to their definition, flexible work options include:

  • Starting or finishing work at differing times
  • Working compressed hours
  • Having access to flexi-time
  • Being able to work remotely
  • Having the right to disconnect outside work hours

Workplace flexibility trends in Japan

Japanese work culture was traditionally considered to be very office-driven. But back in 2018, Japan began preparing for the Olympics to be held in Tokyo by starting to embrace telework as a way to reduce traffic around the Olympic Village, having seen the same strategies successfully adopted in London during the previous Olympic games.

Once COVID-19 hit, the shift in remote work turned traditional ways of working on its head. Before the pandemic, there were strict rules around working hours in many companies. Now, more and more Japanese companies have started to explore flexible working options.

One example of this shift is IT solutions provider, Tsuzuki, which introduced new flexible working hours and shortened core working hours by 2 hours.

Workplace flexibility trends in Australia

In the APAC market, there's been significant growth in the number of remote job listings and applications, with Australia's remote job postings increasing 3.4 times from March to May of 2020.

And much like the rest of the world, Gen Z and Millennial employees are demanding greater flexible working options and flex hours. According to McCrindle Research, 61% of Australian Gen Zs say flexible working hours are extremely important and 26% want workplace flexibility.

The advantages of being flexible in the workplace

There are many benefits associated with workplace flexibility, including lower turnover rates, reductions in stress, increased loyalty, higher productivity rates, and time and cost savings. Each of the categories of workplace flexibility have been shown to improve the employee experience, so we'll break the benefits down further in the next section.

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Benefits of flexibility in the workplace

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work arrangements — which were already on the rise in most countries  — transformed from a job perk to a business necessity. Thanks to the accelerated adoption of digital technology, remote work is not only possible for more employees, it's also easier than ever to implement.

That's good for employees for several important reasons, and global employee survey results can help illustrate why employers should consider offering more flexibility in where employees are able to work. Data from a 2018 FlexJobs survey showed that 75% of remote workers report having fewer distractions when working off-site and 86% said that working remotely helps reduce their stress levels.

Given those potential risks, it's not very surprising that in the The State of Remote Work 2017 report, Owl Labs found that companies with remote work options had a 25% lower employee turnover rate. And in their 2020 State of Remote Work report, they found that 1 in 2 employees would leave their current job if they didn't have the option to work remotely.

Considering the attention being given to remote work arrangements these days, you may be surprised to learn that employees care more about having a say in when they work versus where they work  — though they're both top of mind.

According to EY's 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, which included 16,000 employee responses from 16 different countries, 54% of employees want more flexibility in their schedules and 40% want more flexibility in their work location.

What experts expect to see after the pandemic is less emphasis on work from home (WFH) and more on WFA (work from anywhere). Before the world became more mobile, working from home required staying near your computer and phone. Nowadays, digital tools are freeing us from the constraints of being tied to a single location in order to get work done.

The bottom line: In an era where work can be done anywhere, providing a great workplace is less about a single physical location and more about giving employees the ability to choose the right environment for the task at hand.

For best practices on adopting a successful hot desking strategy, download the Hot Desking e-book.

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