Workplace Flexibility: Is It Really Beneficial and Effective for the Millennial Generation?
Workplace flexibility was first introduced to accommodate generational diversity and rapid changes in societal norms. Today, organizations are filled with employees from multiple generations, diversifying the workplace with a variety of work preferences and attitudes. Generational diversity, the multiplicity and unique differences among generational groups, has been demonstrated to affect overall workplace engagement, team turnover, and social integration (e.g. Jackson et al., 1991; Judge & Ferris, 1993; McGuire & Hutchings, 2007). In the past, our parents’ generation was more “disciplined”, expected to be physically present at their cubicles from 9 am to 5 pm, Mondays to Fridays. Due to differences in work values and upbringing, some of “Generation Y” rejected this premise in preference for a more balanced lifestyle between work and personal life (Gursoy, Maier, & Chi, 2008).
According to key findings from “The PlayStation Generation” from Hong Kong HR magazine and “5 Reasons Why Workplace Flexibility Is Smart Talent Strategy” on Forbes, current college graduates prefer a more balanced work culture than a traditional employment and entrepreneurship (Arkwright, 2015; Biro, 2013). Following “compensation and pay”, “better work/life balance” is, in fact, one of the top five factors guiding employment decisions among young talent. Furthermore, “workplace flexibility” accommodates employees with special needs, such as those with disabilities, mothers with newborns, and parents with multiple children.
Is “workplace flexibility” actually effective? YES – it is working as the society’s work pattern changes. Not only does it attract talent, (especially from the Millennial generation), but it also provides benefits to the current workforce, helping organizations flourish.
The most common conceptualization of this structure is known as “work-from-home;” employees are allowed to complete their duties away from their standard organizational settings. In fact, it has been shown that working remotely can yield a better work-life balance, decreasing stress and leading to lower levels of fatigue and burnout. Reducing burnout ultimately improves employees’ motivation and well-being (Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001). Today, leading multi-national companies including JP Morgan, PwC, EY, and Deloitte, have proposed and adopted this concept in hopes of facilitating a better, more positive, work environment for their employees. In the long run, companies will benefit from having happy and healthy talent.
The impact of “workplace flexibility” is extensive (e.g. Hall & Parker, 1993; Pitt-Catsouphes & Matz-Costa, 2008; Shamir & Salomon, 1985). Despite the common misconceptions of employees being unwilling to put in a complete day of work due to the surrounding temptations of a home or coffee shop setting, the strategic advantage of improving employee engagement and performance mustn’t be ignored (Judge & Ferris, 1993).
So, how is workplace flexibility beneficial (to the employees AND employers)?
- Employee Satisfaction. Employees buy into this construct – they are happier while they work simply because the company is not imposing a set of traditional rules on them. They appreciate the autonomy that comes from having a choice as to when and where to complete their assignments.
- Better Talent. Thanks to modern technology, workers are not physically required to be in the office. They are able to host meetings, conferences, and complete their tasks almost anywhere. As a result, companies are able to attract, recruit, and retain a vast variety of high-quality talent located all around the world.
- Lower turnover rates. Research has shown that companies that promote workplace flexibility have a significantly lower rate of turnover rate than those that do not (Jackson et al, 1991).
- Trust is facilitated. When companies allow their employees to work from a distal setting, it builds trust and commitment between the employees and employer. When trust, a key component in an organizational setting, is fostered, positive work relationships are developed, allowing staff to minimize stress and uncertainty at work.
Ultimately, this sounds like a win-win situation. Wouldn’t you agree?
Arkwright, P. (2015, June 1). The PlayStation generation. Retrieved September 17, 2015, from http://issuu.com/hrmagazinehk/docs/hr_magazine_summer_2015_lowres_fina
Biro, M. (2013, August 13). 5 reasons why workplace flexibility Is smart talent strategy. Retrieved September 17, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghanbiro/2013/08/18/5-reasons-why-workplace-flexibility-is-smart-talent-strategy
Gursoy, D. Maier. A. & Chi, C. (2008). Generational differences: An examination of work values and generational gaps in the hospitality workforce. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 27, 448-458.
Hall, D., & Parker, V. (1993). The role of workplace flexibility in managing diversity. Organizational Dynamics, 22(1), 5-18.
Jackson, S. E., Bretty, J. F., Sessa, V. I., Cooper, D. M., Julin, J. A., & Peyronnin, K. (1991). Some differences make a difference: Individual dissimilarity and group heterogeneity as correlates of recruitment, promotions, and turnover. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76(5), 675-689.
Judge, T. A., and Ferris, G. R. (1993). Social context of performance evaluation decisions. Academy of Management Journal, 36(1), 80-105
Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 397-422.
McGuire, D., Todnem By, R., & Hutchings, K. (2007). Towards a model of human resource solutions for achieving intergenerational interaction in organizations. Journal of European Industrial Training, 31(8), 592-608.
Pitt-Catsouphes, M., & Matz-Costa, C. (2008). The multi-generational workforce: Workplace flexibility and engagement. Community, Work & Family, 11(2), 215-229.
Shamir, B. & Salomon, I. (1985). Work-at-home and the quality of working life: Some theoretical considerations. Academy of Management Review, 10(3), 455‑464.
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