More Companies Can Offer Workplace Flexibility - Should Yours?
It's not a compromise, it's a win-win: a flexible workplace benefits Employee and Employer.
Last week, we sat down with Quality Assurance Engineer Ashita Kulkarni to discuss how workplace flexibility benefits employees like her. We also got her tips on how to work from home effectively.
Today, we'll complete our interview as we examine why workplace flexibility is something employers should consider offering for their own benefit.
As a connected company, you can build an attractive culture. Why not use that?
Hiring and holding on to highly talented professionals is harder than ever: social media does a good job of broadcasting other options, and creating job-envy in your employees. This isn't a new phenomenon, but it is a growing one, and it's caused company culture to become an increasingly pressing concern for organizations looking to field more competent teams with less turnover.
Company culture is now a fundamental factor in how applicants and offerees judge one job prospect against another. One of the most visible aspects of company culture is workplace flexibility, the flexibility for employees and employers to negotiate where, when, and how work gets done.
What may not be immediately obvious is that, while workplace flexibility is a positive for those who need it, it's also a clue to jobseekers—even contented 9-to-5ers—as to the general trust and confidence they can expect to find within the cultural makeup of a company.
Not every company can offer a flexible workplace. Traditional hours are part of the job description at many longstanding institutions, just as some professions come with the requirement to be where the customer is, or on-hand to perform physical tasks or physical components of the work.
Still, for those companies that can support remote work and flexible schedules, the advantage is there for the taking.
Here are some interesting numbers to consider when thinking about hiring and retaining top-shelf talent (from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com):
- 36% of people say they would choose the ability to work from home over a pay raise
- In a poll of 1,500 technology professionals, 37% said they would take a 10% pay cut to work from home
- 95% of employers say telework has a high impact on employee retention
- Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical, and many others show that teleworkers are 35-40% more productive.
- Over two thirds of employers report increased productivity among their telecommuters.
You'll find that offering even partial workplace flexibility widens the pool of professionals you can draw from, and makes you more attractive to jobseekers considering your company. Even if you're skeptical about increasedproductivity, there’s enough data and anecdotal evidence to say remote workers are no less productive on average than their in-office counterparts.
Technology companies in particular can take advantage of this, especially for positions and in cases where face-time isn’t an everyday necessity, and where the connectivity and collaboration tools may already be in place (or are easy to integrate).
At Carnegie Technologies we’ve made workplace flexibility a core piece of our culture, and it’s helped us grow tremendously. Ashita helps us understand why, from an employee's perspective.
Ashita is a high-performing QA Engineer at Carnegie, who selected us in large part thanks to our flexible workplace policies.
Workplace flexibility means more to jobseekers—and therefore to hiring organizations—than ever before.
Lead Quality Assurance Engineer, Ashita Kulkarni, whom we spoke with last week, rejoins us to talk about her own job decision, and why companies that can should offer flexible workplace options.
CT: Hello again, Ashita! One more time, please introduce yourself, and tell us about your work week.
Ashita: Sure. My name is Ashita and I'm a QA Engineer at Carnegie Technologies, working on the Longview IoT project. I work from home two days out of the week, and work the other three days in the office.
CT: Great. So let's start with this: upwards of 79% of job-seekers across generations stated workplace flexibility was an important factor in pursuing a job. For you, between salary and workplace flexibility, which was more important in your decision to accept an offer from Carnegie? Or was it something else, like your enjoyment of the work?
Ashita: For me, it was definitely that flexibility. My husband and I, we are both working parents, and there are so many things going on in our lives. So it was important to me that I would be able to handle everything, and that I wouldn’t be punished for it. And yes, [Laughing] salary is important too. But, to be honest, I did have an offer from another company when I was interviewing with Carnegie. They offered a higher salary, but it was a longer commute, and they told me up front that they had very strict policies on work schedule, and a mandate that work be done in the office. And that was a deal-breaker for me.
CT: Do you think those priorities would be different if you were not a working parent?
Ashita: It does have an effect. If I was single, or married with no kids, I would be more comfortable with sacrificing flexibility for salary, or even prioritizing enjoyment of the work above all else. You have to balance things out when you are married and have kids. You can’t think about yourself as much. You have to think as a family.
CT: Do you think prioritizing that way has paid off?
Ashita: Yes, it has been a boon to me as a working mother with two young kids, because they do sometimes fall sick, or need to stay home for another reason, and need someone there. In these cases, I still have time to work and be a mom. I can do both. So the flexibility to split my time between home and office was a real boon.
It’s been an amazing thing about working at Carnegie—just how accommodating the company is to our particular situations. There is a lot of flexibility around what time we do our work, and whether we’re at home, in the office, or on the moon doesn’t matter as long as we get our work done. The usual rule is that, as long as the work gets done well and on time, and the product is moving smoothly, that’s what matters. That freedom is sometimes even a necessity, especially when trying to coordinate with our coworkers around the world.
CT: Imagine you’re talking to an executive running a traditional tech company. In the past, she’s had a very strict policy about her employees working from 9 to 5, and only working in the office. However, in recent years, she’s started weighing whether to implement more workplace flexibility.
What can she do to facilitate employees’ ability to operate from home as well as in the office, and to give them confidence in their choice to do so?
Ashita: I think she’s already taking the first step by deciding to make a change and be more accommodating.
One thing I’d say is that it’s essential she trust her employees. Trust is mutual: if you trust them, they will return and honor your trust.
Because of the trust my own manager shows me, I wouldn’t say I’m obligated, but I’m able to feel good about meeting my responsibilities in my own way, according to my plan, and it makes me more productive. My manager doesn’t feel the need to repeatedly ask me whether I’ve done something, or how I’m doing it; in turn I always feel motivated to put in maximum effort to make sure that trust doesn’t diminish. So it is mutual. If you’ve hired the right people, a gesture of sincere respect for how your employees go about their work can go a long way.
Then I would say that it’s important she extend appreciation to her employees, including the ones who work from home more often and are less visible. Make sure all continue to be heard and seen, even if they are not physically there.
The last thing I’d say to her is to guide them. Your employees want to work for you, they want to do a good job, so if you need better from them, you should be willing to show them how to produce better—whether they’re working remotely or not. Let them know how to improve the results they provide you, and give them a chance to put that into practice.
CT: Do you believe companies that are able to should offer more workplace flexibility? Why or why not?
Ashita: I do believe they should. The truth is that not everyone who comes into the office works hard. By the same token, those working from home can be much more productive in their own environment. It all depends on the person, and what conditions most suit them. Being able to provide that trust and flexibility increases your ability to attract talent. There are very talented people who don’t have the ability to commute within a strict or traditional timeframe, or who live in other parts of the country. These are individuals whose work can really benefit companies, who are prevented from contributing for the sake of a needlessly strict rule. 9 to 5 doesn’t fit everyone, and that has nothing to do with how productive they can be, or what kind of brilliance they can offer.
At Carnegie, I believe our flexibility has helped us in this regard. In my case, there's no micromanagement at all, and that’s helped me be more effective. I'm the boss of what I'm doing, and I'm responsible for what I'm doing, and that is exactly how I work best. As long as the work gets done to the satisfaction of others, there’s no need for someone to step in and question your process. That’s the experience I have had here, and it really is what makes this a beautiful place to work. Restrictions on someone’s process become restrictions on their ability to think and perform the way they ideally would. They begin to devote time and thought to how to cope with their restrictions, and that takes energy and focus away from the matter at hand: the work itself!
Workplace flexibility can be a positive for both the employee and the employer, and at Carnegie Technologies, this has certainly proven true.
We've very much enjoyed speaking with Ashita, and would like to thank her for being so giving with her time and insight. To learn more about Carnegie Technologies, or to discover a career at Carnegie, visit our website, or find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.