- IWG’s 2019 Workplace Survey reveals startling findings on flexible working arrangements around the world.
- 62% of firms globally reported that they now have a flexible working policy in place, which is largely due to employee demand.
- Flexible working practices are valuable, and could boost the US economy alone by $4.5 trillion annually.
International Workplace Group (IWG) recently published the findings of its 2019 Global Workplace Survey “Welcome to Generation Flex – The Employee Power Shift”. The survey canvassed over 15,000 business professionals across 80 countries.
Flexible working has been on the rise over the past few years. Over half of polled employees reported working outside of their main office for at least 2.5 days a week.
It is now so ingrained in modern working practices and expectations that it is becoming the new normal, with some countries including flexible working in their legislation: the Netherlands, Australia, the UK, Belgium, Italy, and Norway. And for good reason: flexible working is good for the economy.
A recent report estimated that by 2030, “the US could see an economic boost of as much as $4.5 trillion annually from flexible working, while China and India could gain respectively $1.4 trillion and $376 billion extra annually.”
This increase in flexible working — 62% of firms globally reported that they have a flexible working policy in place — is mainly due to worker demand. IWG found that “more than half of global business people place so much importance on location that they regard it as more important than working for a prestigious company, while almost a third think it is more important than a prestigious role.”
New workforce generations are demanding more than good salaries from their companies, and businesses worldwide have started to adapt.
Top 6 Benefits of Flexible Work Arrangements
1. Talent Attraction and Retention
Given that workers are the ones demanding flexible work arrangements, it should come as no surprise that flexible working has become an effective strategy for businesses to attract and retain top talent. 83% of global respondents reported that the ability to work flexibly acts as a clincher in case of indecision between two similar job offers.
Flexible working, therefore, plays a key role in widening a company’s talent pool, especially as 70% of workers reported that “choice of work environment plays a key role in evaluating work opportunities.”
2. Greater Productivity
IWG’s survey found that 85% of businesses are aware that flexible working has made their business more productive and that 67% believe flexibility can improve productivity levels by at least a fifth.
3. Increased Agility and Scalability
One of the greatest benefits of flexible working is that it enables companies to be more agile and to scale quickly, especially in new markets as it helps improve speed to market. One way businesses use flexible working to improve agility and scalability is by using more ‘as a service’ providers, including workspace, technology, and administration. Only 24% of businesses reported that the cost of rental for flexible workspace would be an issue when compared to the benefits.
4. Improved Work-Life Balance and Reduced Stress Levels
“When people can choose to work closer to home or to wherever they want to be, they struggle less with combining their personal and professional lives.” One way flexible working contributes the most to work-life balance is by reducing the stress of commuting. 75% of companies surveyed reported that they are introducing flexible working in order to reduce staff commute times. IWG found that two out of five workers define commuting as the “worst part of their day”.
5. Reduced CAPEX and Operation Costs
The survey found that 65% of businesses say flexible workspace helps them reduce CAPEX/OPEX, manage risk, and consolidate their portfolio. In simple terms, flexible working helps businesses extract more value out of their operations by reducing fixed overhead costs.
6. Increased Diversity and Inclusion
According to the report, “flexible working can help improve the inclusion of groups that struggle to balance personal and work life such as carers, people with mental health issues such as depression, or older workers.” Furthermore, a McKinsey report found that flexible working plays a critical role in improving diversity and that companies that have inclusion and diversity policies are actually more successful.
Even though companies are increasingly embracing flexible working practices, there are nonetheless some challenges that businesses need to overcome to reap the benefits of flexible work.
Top 3 Challenges Preventing Widespread Adoption of Flexible Working
1. Different Definitions of Flexible Working
Flexible working means different things to different people. IWG found that:
- A fifth of global workers describe flexible working as the ability to make some decisions regarding their working hours.
- A quarter equate it with being able to manage workload.
- More than half relate it to being able to choose the type of work location they work from.
In order for flexible working arrangements to work for companies and staff, they need to have a clear definition and clear expectations of what flexible work means for them.
2. Access to Professional Work Environments
In order for flexible work to work, professionals need to have access to the right tools and environments, including a professional working environment and acknowledging that one size doesn’t fit all. Companies need to offer their employees access to specific types of work environments for different work functions and tasks. To do this, businesses need to evaluate the needs of each team or individual worker and their optimal set-up.
Suggested Reading: “The How, What, and Why of Activity-Based Working”
3. Privacy and Security
IWG survey respondents also highlighted “how concerns over safety and privacy of people and their belonging, but also of information and, critically now, data, can cause resistance to the need to move to flexible working.”
45% of workers report that companies are concerned about data security and 37% are concerned with being sure that workers have access to the right technology in order to work productively and securely.