The working world is changing, there’s no denying that. The office that you’re sitting in today would probably have looked pretty different 20 or even 10 years ago.
Hot desking, casual dress codes and office pets are all reasonably new adjustments. Weekly exercise classes, open plan workspaces and free snacks have only become common since millennials entered the workplace.
But one change that stands out above the rest is flexibility. Today, employees enjoy more freedom than ever before.
Companies all around the work now offer their staff members perks like remote working, flexible hours or even unlimited holiday leave.
Timesheets are quickly becoming a thing of the past and if you asked employees in any startup to start clocking-in they probably wouldn’t even know what you’re talking about.
In fact, according to our research for the Jobbio #WorkHappy Index, the number one benefit that employees look for when searching for a new job is flexibility.
It’s become the new buzzword for job descriptions and company websites, however, how do you know where to draw the line? How far can flexibility go before staff performance starts to crumble? One new Zealand company decided to find out.
Perpetual Guardian, a company which manages trusts, wills and estate planning has been in the news quite a lot recently thanks to their progressive staff policies.
Earlier this year the company allowed 250 members of their staff to trial a four-day work week (while still receiving the same pay).
Academics who studied the trial found that staff at the firm’s offices were less stressed more satisfied and had an improved sense of work-life balance.
The company’s founder Andrew Barnes was so impressed with the results that he has now introduced the policy for the company’s entire workforce.
However, even Barnes is quick to point out that this approach will not work for every workplace.
“The right attitude is a requirement to make it work – everyone has to be committed and take it seriously for us to create a viable long-term model for our business.”
Will this policy be more common in the future? Perhaps, but we still have a long way to go.
While prominent business thinkers and CEOs such as Richard Branson have spoken out about the benefits of a shortened work week, other people are not so sure that this is the way forward.
Many business professionals are against the idea because they believe the benefits are greatly over exaggerated.
In 2008, Utah’s governor enacted a mandatory four-day work week for all state employees in a bid to curb energy costs.
However, by 2011 the scheme was scrapped as the predicted savings had failed to materialise.
Others have argued that shortened work weeks simply put more pressure on staff members to complete tasks in a shorter period of time, this, in turn, can have a knock-on effect on their health.
As part of a recent study Dr, Xiaoxi Yao and Allard Dembe used 32 years of work-hour information to analyse the relationship between working long hours and chronic diseases. They found that the dangers were substantial, especially for women.
Besides the health issues, employers and workers also need to consider the effect that compressing hours into a four-day period has on workers’ mental health.
Occupational psychologists are quick to point out that people do not function as effectively when tired or stressed. Longer working hours can also increase the likelihood of long-term health issues.
So, what is the solution? Personally, I think it lies with complete flexibility.
Let workers choose what works best for them. If someone wants to work 10 hour days from Monday-Thursday then let them. If someone wants to start at 8 and leave at 5 then that should be okay too.
Educate your employees on the basics of self-care and then give them the chance to make their own decisions. They will know what works best for them, you just have to trust them.