Do flexible jobs create happy employees? What we define as a traditional workplace is swiftly changing into a relaxed, communal space for coworkers to enjoy work life in ways previously unthinkable. Work-appropriate menswear is changing from the stuffy business suit to khakis and a dress shirt, polished off with a slick pair of leather loafers. These days full-time employees don’t even have to leave their homes to finish their 8-hour workday thanks to productivity platforms connecting colleagues with the day’s tasks.

Many of the changes to the traditional workplace come from the innovation in the tech industry. Large, open spaces allow for a communal atmosphere while at work. Many companies are turning to “activity-based” working for the office floor plan instead of individual desks. This allows for more creative and thought-provoked interactions between coworkers.

As the rise of working remotely increases, the need for communal workspaces, besides a library or café, arrived in the market. WeWork, an office renting and coworking company, strives to provide a workplace for entrepreneurs and small businesses alike to work in a shared environment. Founded only in 2010, WeWork valued at US $16 billion in 2016 with 77 locations around the world and plans to open 376 new locations by the end of 2018 (Kessler, 2016).

Communal workplaces

Start-ups have also affected the traditional business dress code. PwC Australia removed the dress code after a HR Management change in order to amplify the corporate culture. The idea is as an adult, you should know how to dress in a presentable manner according to your own schedule. Stuffy, suit-clad auditors strolling into an organization where casual-Friday is casual-everyday stick out like a sore thumb. Even in financial hubs such as New York, London, Paris and Geneva bankers are spotted sporting a long, thick yet neatly groomed beard.

The globalization of business has further boosted telecommuting, where at times employees are expected to be available 24/7 due to the international connectivity. Productivity tools have changed how people work with applications such as Slack where employees stay on task with group projects without the need to correspond in person.

Why should companies consider allowing employees to work from home? To increase morale, productivity and even retention.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, 77% of teleworkers report being more productive while working outside the office (Wright, 2015). The travel time to work itself can deter many employees’ motivation and productivity, stuck in traffic or facing difficulty to find a parking spot.

Many companies entrust their employees to work flexibly from home to improve the bottom line. Whether the change of workplace environment is to decrease a rising turnover rate or to lower the fixed costs of office spaces, many employees feel incentivized when they can work according to their own schedule and productivity levels.

This is not just some short-term trend, 87% of job applicants search for their next job using flexibility as a high priority according to a survey by FWI (Lewis, 2011). There are also sacrifices when it comes to working from home. Employees must overcome the challenge of staying on task and maintaining communication with colleagues despite a potential lack of face-to-face contact.

It seems that the work environment has turned into an extended form of relaxed, work-intensive university library or midnight procrastination to finish a deadline in our pajamas. Who ever said that this is a bad thing?

Olivia Meiners

Credits

Economist (2017). Citation un site Web – Cite This For Me. [online] Economist.com. Available at: http://www.economist.com/news/business/21721423-their-eccentric-buildings-offer-clues-about-how-people-will-work-technology-firms-and-office [Accessed 1 May 2017].

Kessler, S. (2016). WeWork Valuation Soars To $16 Billion. [online] Fast Company. Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/3057670/wework-valuation-soars-to-16-billion [Accessed 1 May 2017].

Lewis, K. R. (2011). Flexible jobs = happy worker bees?. [online] Fortune.com. Available at: http://fortune.com/2011/04/20/flexible-jobs-happy-worker-bees/ [Accessed 30 Apr. 2017].

Schmeiser, L. (2017). One Sure Fire Way to Boost Your Bottom Line: Let Employees Work From Home. [online] Observer. Available at: http://observer.com/2017/04/benefits-telecommuting-work-from-home/ [Accessed 1 May 2017].

Wright, A. (2015). Study: Teleworkers More Productive—Even When Sick. [online] SHRM. Available at: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/technology/pages/teleworkers-more-productive-even-when-sick.aspx [Accessed 1 May 2017].