08.05.2023 Human Resources Flexibility People management Productivity Trends

The Secret to Productive Employees? A Radical Shift in Work Flexibility

Radical flexibility — giving employees flexibility not just when and where they work, but also with whom, on what and how much — helps employees feel autonomous. And the icing on the cake, it also fuels performance.

Big Picture: Work Flexibility

Employees want to feel autonomous in their work — which happens when they’re provided radical flexibility not just over when and where they work, but also with whom, on what and how much they work. Radical flexibility also drives performance. The challenge for HR? Balancing the tension between ensuring employee productivity, while providing employees a choice of flexible work options.

Key Takeaways Impacting Employee Productivity

The desire for flexibility is here to stay

Employees, white collar or not, want more flexibility than their organizations currently offer. They’re seeking what the best organizations provide: flexibility in who employees work with, what they work on and how much they work.

  • Sixty percent of employees expect to work remotely at least once a week, compared to only 38% who reported doing so before the pandemic.
  • Flexibility is not reserved for one type of job or industry. Both white-collar and non-white-collar employees want — and receive — proportionally similar rates of flexibility. But both groups want more flexibility than their organizations currently offer.

Radical flexibility fuels performance

When HR leaders reframe flexibility around a whole person’s identity and life experience, they make employees feel understood, autonomous, valued, cared for and invested in their organizations. When you generate these emotions in employees, both the organization and the human beings that comprise them, win.

  • When organizations deliver radical flexibility, compared with delivering flexibility only around when and where employees work, the percentage of employees defined as high performers increases by 40%.
  • Performance improves in part because radical flexibility provides employees with a much-needed sense of autonomy, and in part because it dramatically reduces the risk of burnout.

HR must ensure productivity while providing choice

In offering radical flexibility, HR leaders must balance productivity with employee choice. When managed poorly, it can reduce the ability for team collaboration, lead to inequity and be an inconsistent experience.

  • The best organizations manage the natural tension between ensuring employee productivity and providing them a choice of flexible work options, with responsibilities.
  • Set expectations, boundaries and team norms around how to be productive in a flexible environment when employees’ schedules, personal needs and home environments differ.

The Story Behind the Radical Flexibility Research

“HR leaders can make all dimensions of flexibility more inclusive — even the “when” and “where” — by focusing on the activities of a role, rather than the role itself. While most organizations provide opportunities for flexibility based on employees’ roles, focusing on activities that comprise a role instead can reveal hidden opportunities for flexibility in all roles, even those that are commonly considered ineligible.”

Emily Rose McRae, Senior Director in Gartner’s HR practice

3 Things to Tell Your Peers

  • To increase team alignment and collaboration, give employees choices about where, when and how they work within team-established boundaries.
  • To increase inclusivity, break each role down into its respective activities, then determine the activities that can be flexible.
  • Scale flexible work practices by providing a virtual space for managers of remote teams to share best practices and learn from one another.
Source: Gartner