Flexible working increasingly seen as top option, claims major new study

A new report from ManpowerGroup Solutions claims that 40 percent of job candidates cite flexible working as one of their three most important career considerations. The firm polled 14,000 people in 19 countries. Among the countries surveyed, the US had the highest percentage of job candidates who want work flexibility (45 percent). A majority (63 percent) of workers said they believe they can work outside the office, and the number of men who want flexibility has significantly increased according to the study. The report, Work, for Me: Understanding Candidate Preferences for Flexibility, Manpower Group Solutions claims to offer ‘both the immediate steps and the long-term actions that companies can take to better meet their prospective employees’ preferences around flexibility’.

When it comes to workplace flexibility, the survey claims:

  • Flexible arrival and departure times and full-time work from home/location independence are generally the most desired types of flexible working policies. Twenty-six percent of global candidates say flexible arrival and departure times are most important, followed closely by the ability to work from home or any other place they choose (22 percent).
  • The rise in the importance of schedule flexibility is driven by a wide range of local factors. These include the presence of multinational companies or unions in that location; the influence of technology firms in the marketplace; workforce composition, such as proportion of Millennials; and congestion, infrastructure or public transportation that can impact commuting times.

“Workplace flexibility doesn’t just mean working remotely. It includes all types of working arrangements, from when to take breaks, working from home or caregiving leave. While no employer can accommodate every option, they can provide a range that appeal to a variety of candidates,” said Kate Donovan, Senior Vice President of ManpowerGroup Solutions and Global RPO President. “It’s clear that candidates across the globe seek a way to achieve ‘One Life,’ which means integrating work and home life. Organisations need to be ready to drop old work models that emphasise presenteeism over performance. It’s time to shift the needle – employers who meet candidate expectations around schedule flexibility have the advantage in recruiting and retaining the best talent.”

The key practical recommendations for employers set out in the report are:

  • Take baby steps. A company does not have to force the transition from traditional to virtual workplace overnight. Shift to a 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. schedule or designate a number of remote working flex days to combat long commute times.
  • Normalise existing flexibility policies. Neutralise flexibility stigma by changing company culture to make working outside the office acceptable. It starts from the top – leaders need to be transparent and lead by example.
  • Align incentives with outcomes. Replacing face-time requirements with logged hours on a virtual private network (VPN) can be perceived by employees as inauthentic. Instead, set goals and deadlines – if employees meet them, managers can worry less about clocking in and out.
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