Hot Topic: Workplace Flexibility

Most internet-having folks on the planet have heard about Marissa Mayer’s controversial decision to bring all remote employees in-house (no exceptions). Many workplace flexibility advocates, and managers on the cutting edge of company culture, claim the move is a backward one. They claim that flexibility on work hours and location is often good for company morale and the bottom line. However, Mayer’s decision suggests that new research isn’t the only thing to be considered in determining a company policy on flexible work hours.

First, let’s establish that flexibility as a part of company culture is a very broad topic. Employers can be flexible by allowing telecommuting, time off for appointments, extra vacation days, and flexible work hours. Determining your company policy on flexibility means deciding which of these things you would like to offer to your employees.

Which type of workplace flexibility you offer should depend on your business. While many studies tout the positive effects of telecommuting and other flexible work hours, they do not take into account the demands of different industries. One obvious example is the medical field. We’re still a few decades away from remote medical exams! I think. There may be an app for that.

A less obvious example is creative workplaces. For example, Google is listed by this metric as the best company to work for in the country. However, it doesn’t top the list in telecommuting. Google, like many other Silicon Valley giants, relies on a high level of creative output from its employees. Creativity certainly does happen by working alone and without interruption (burning the midnight oil, sitting in the bath and shouting Eureka! and that kind of thing). However, group collaboration also cultivates ideas. Furthermore, the group can help fashion those raw ideas into something useful for everyone involved.

So, when it comes to workplace flexibility, it is important to take a look at your business’s needs and your company culture. Do you need creative brains to convene frequently? If you do—as Marissa Mayer says she does—be attentive to other kinds of workplace flexibility. Workplaces like Google famously have “nap pods,” which allow employees the flexibility to take a quick power nap on the job.

Consider allowing employees that come into the office to have more flexible hours, so that they can attend their kids’ soccer games. Or take off early for a fishing weekend at the lake (no judgments). These perks have been shown to increase employee satisfaction, loyalty, and yes, productivity. So, consider incorporating some flexibility into your company culture. Your employees, and your bottom line, will thank you for it.

How does your company culture respond to workplace flexibility? Leave a comment below. Also, check out this great opinion piece about trying to balance the group and the individual creativity.

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