Employers: Flexibility or bust

  • Mary Lynn Fayoumi

    Mary Lynn Fayoumi

 
Posted4/7/2022 1:00 AM

There is nothing new about people wanting to have their own way.

Sinatra sang about doing it "My Way" back in the 1960s, and in the 1970s Burger King built their brand around the promise to "Have it Your Way."

 

In the decades to follow, Amazon and Starbucks won over consumers with their ability to customize orders and quickly adapt to individual customer's preferences. Based on these positive experiences, a new gold standard was set for companies in a wide array of industries. One might argue that the power to say, "My way or the highway," shifted somewhere along the way.

Fast forward to 2022, we are two years into a global pandemic and in the middle of a major talent shortage across the country and much of the world. Employers are simultaneously trying to bring employees back to the office, keep pace with rising wages, boost employee engagement, attract new employees and compete with other employers who are also battling "The Great Resignation." It's an employee's market out there, and it comes with a whole different playbook than the one we've used since the start of the industrial revolution.

While it is well-documented that the balance of power in the workplace has been shifting for years, the pandemic put these shifts into overdrive. When millions of Americans were sent home in 2020 to do their jobs safely, it provided a valuable learning opportunity for employers and employees alike.

For most organizations, productivity improved because most employees can, and did, work effectively from the comfort of their homes. Time normally spent dressing for the office and commuting was reallocated to getting work done. Home responsibilities, including cooking, cleaning, laundry and supervising children's e-learning, were incorporated into the day based on each individual's specific job duties, required work hours, lifestyle, family obligations and personal preferences.

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In short, people were able to get their "stuff" (both work and home) done their own way.

It all comes down to flexibility and the power to choose. Of course, this is much easier in industries that employ primarily white collar, professional and administrative employees. Industries such as manufacturing, distribution, health care, retail, public services and hospitality are much less able to offer the full range of flexible work options that many workers desire.

However, with the notable uptick in demand for flexibility, employers in all industries are getting creative and finding new ways to provide employees with the freedom to help them align their work and home lives. Options include alternating days, varying shifts, weekend-only schedules, job sharing and employing seasonal workers.

Flexibility can also be incorporated into paid-time-off benefits by giving workers the opportunity to take time off on days and times that work for them, rather than being restricted by a rigid holiday or vacation schedule with limitations that are employer-focused.

Given the escalating war for talent, wise employers are heeding the call to offer more flexibility and let employees have it their way.

• Mary Lynn Fayoumi is president & CEO of HR Source.

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