What’s viewed as the ‘normal’ workday has changed immensely over the last few decades. The rigid 9-5 structure, while still present in many offices, is in a state of decline, and rightly so. The further we progress into the 21st century, the more our workforce is formed of the ‘millennial’ generation who endeavour for more freedom and creativity in the way that they work. Times are changing – we’re in the digital age – and companies have to keep up to ensure they stay ahead of the competition.

One of the best ways that employers can achieve this is by listening to what it is that their employees want. Granted if they go around asking for free alcohol on tap and three-day weeks then you’re free to ignore them and question their merit as a part of your company, but most of the demands they make are more than reasonable. Right now, what they’re looking for is probably more flexibility at work.

A new study by Workfront surveyed 1000 UK office workers to identify what perk would motivate them to be a better employee, and found that the majority (52%) of respondents wanted flexible hours more than anything else. Other responses to the survey included ‘generous bonus packages’ (40%), unlimited holidays (31%) and free/discount gym memberships (20%).

Employees that don’t already have flexible hours are entitled to request them, and it’s not something that should be feared. After all, it could make the difference between retaining and losing some of the stronger members of your staff.

Flexibility is also a key factor for many women returning to work after having a child. Research has found that one in six women takes up a new job in a different function to what they did prior to giving birth, while 38% change the industry they work in altogether. 59% of respondents admitted they have better flexibility in their new jobs.

Finding the right balance between work and home can be incredibly difficult – 54% labelled it the biggest challenge in their professional life – and every parent is entitled to want to keep up a job while raising a family. It’s an employer’s duty to do what’s in their power to retain their best employees, and introducing flexibility to the workplace is by no means a hard ask.

The survey by Workfront also discovered that praise by employers might also be effective at increasing productivity and improving the satisfaction of the workforce. 37% of respondents said that praise by those in higher positions was their biggest influence for excelling at work, while an additional 36% said that criticism from these people was an incredible de-motivator. It pays to look for the good in an employee’s work, even if you have to tell them they’re not performing to the standard you expect.

“There is often a chasm between what businesses think their employees need and what their employees actually need,” says Jade Balster, a marketing director at Workfront. “It’s a common misconception that workers are only motivated by money and the results from this study make that quite clear.”

How you incorporate flexibility into the office should be discussed between employer and employee to ensure that both sides are happy with the outcome. It should be as beneficial to you as it is your staff to help your company strive for as much success as possible.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.
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