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Why It Pays To Have A Flexible Workspace

(5-7 minute read)

Successful entrepreneurs are not born. Rather, they are taught, practiced and cultivated in what it takes to succeed. Their mindset is comprised of various domains, all of which are crucial to starting a business and outpacing the competition. One of these domains is flexibility.

Two definitions of the entrepreneurial mindset reveal flexibility as an essential ingredient:

  1. “The ability to rapidly sense, act and mobilize, even under uncertain conditions” (McGrath and McMillan, 2000)
  2. “A growth-oriented perspective through which individuals promote flexibility, creativity, continuous innovation and renewal” (Ireland et al., 2003)

Based on those two definitions, it’s safe to say that successful employers know the importance of being flexible—which is vital to job design and workplace flexibility.

What Is Job Design?

Per the Management Study Guide, job design “refers to the what, how much, how many and the order of the tasks for a job.” Specifically, it requires determining which tasks are included in the job, how the tasks should be performed, the number of activities that must be done, and the sequence (or logical order) for doing the tasks.

The job design process ultimately allows you to detect problems within the job description, therefore the following four areas must be examined and tweaked accordingly:

  1. Evaluating work overload
  2. Evaluating work underload
  3. Defining work hours
  4. Defining work processes

Good job design is about continuously assessing and making the necessary adjustments to those four areas.

What Is Workplace Flexibility?

There are many definitions out there for workplace flexibility, but one of the most fitting descriptions comes from the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College:

“Flexibility is about an employee and an employer making changes to when, where and how a person will work to better meet individual and business needs.”

Research shows that employees today want a flexible workplace. In a 2015 study by Flexjobs, 82 percent of respondents said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options. Further, 30 percent of respondents would accept less pay for more flexible work arrangements.

One of the main drivers behind the need for a flexible workplace is the rising demand for telecommuting jobs. Flexjobs reported that 85 percent of millennials—the largest generational cohort in today’s workforce—would prefer to telecommute full time. Millennials also seek flexible work options that promote more work-life balance.

Job Design Meets Workplace Flexibility

To establish good job design and a flexible workplace, you will need to:

Get feedback from the employees who will be doing the work, including how the tasks will impact their personal needs and relationships at work.

Provide training so employees know what is expected of them and how the work should be done. Training can also enhance employees’ skills and knowledge so they can qualify for future career opportunities.

Clearly define the number of hours needed to do the work, such as 40 hours per week, and allotted time away from work, including rest breaks and paid time off.

Make adjustments based on the needs of the employee and the organization. These adjustments should carry equal weight—one should not outrank the other. For example, if an onsite employee would prefer to work full time from home, determine whether this move is feasible from an organizational perspective as well.

Depending on the nature of the work, the employee may be allowed to telecommute full time. For some jobs, however, telecommuting may not be possible—this is usually the case in manufacturing, healthcare and hospitality environments. In some instances, a compromise may be reached. The employee may, for example, telecommute and work onsite on specific days.

Adjustments may also be needed for physically demanding jobs. You might, for instance, limit the amount of time employees spend consecutively working if their job requires a lot of heavy lifting. You may also need to adjust the schedules of employees with disabilities, family obligations or health issues.

Job design is a constant and evolving process that requires cooperation between the employee and the employer. The chief driver behind this cooperation is flexibility—a hallmark of winning entrepreneurs.



October 18, 2018




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