Workplace flexibility has become an increasingly important issue in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape. The ongoing advances in technology, increasing prevalence of remote work, and growing need for work-life balance have all contributed to the demand for more flexible work arrangements. As a result, companies are rethinking the traditional 9-to-5 workday and exploring new ways to offer employees flexibility in terms of when, where, and how they work.
Workplace flexibility takes many forms. This guide describes four key types of workplace flexibility and provides examples of companies that implement them effectively.
One of the most common types of workplace flexibility is location flexibility, which allows employees to work from locations other than an office. This can improve their work-life balance, reduce their commuting time and expenses, and increase their job satisfaction and productivity. For employers, location flexibility can help to attract and retain top talent, leading to more diverse teams, and it can reduce the costs associated with office space and infrastructure.
Remote work is the ability to work outside of a traditional office setting. For many, remote work means working from home. However, many employees who work remotely choose to work from a third space, such as a coworking location.
Companies that have everyone working remotely are fully remote, sometimes called FROGS (fully remote organizations). But, the majority of companies that offer remote work are hybrid, meaning that some employees work remotely—either some or all of the time—and some employees work in the office.
Here are four companies that offer some level of location flexibility to their employees:
- Dell Technologies: Dell allows its employees to work anywhere in the world, provided they have the necessary tools and technology to do their job effectively.
- Aetna: This health insurance company offers its employees the option to work from home, as well as other flexible work arrangements, to help them better balance their work and personal lives.
- Intel: This technology company offers its employees a range of flexible work arrangements, including the option to work from home or from a remote location, as well as allowing for flexible schedules and part-time work.
- In-N-Out Burger: This fast food chain is one of the largest in the United States and has a fully remote corporate team.
Coworking and Flexible Work Spaces
A coworking space is a shared office environment where individuals from all different freelance, contractual, or remote work situations can rent a desk or private office on a flexible basis. Coworking spaces often provide a community atmosphere, with opportunities for networking and collaboration, as well as access to shared resources such as meeting rooms, printing facilities, and high-speed internet. The goal of coworking spaces is to provide a supportive, productive, and cost-effective alternative to working from home or renting a traditional office.
Companies who wish to offer a “third space” to their employees can contract with organizations set up to do just that. Here are three of the leading providers of flexible workspaces:
- WeWork: WeWork provides access to a network of shared workspaces, along with flexible and scalable desk options, allowing companies to accommodate employees who work both in the office and remotely.
- Regus: Regus provides businesses with access to a network of shared workspaces and private offices, allowing companies to create an environment that is flexible and adaptable to the needs of their employees.
- Proximity Space: Proximity Space provides businesses with access to a network of shared workspaces, along with private offices, meeting rooms, and other collaborative spaces, allowing companies to accommodate employees who work both in the office and remotely.
Some companies provide employees with a stipend they can use for a coworking space. This benefit helps employees to set up a comfortable and ergonomic home office or offset the costs of working in a coworking space if they don’t have a dedicated workspace at home. It also provides opportunities to collaborate and network with others, leading to increased creativity and innovation.
Here are three companies that provide coworking stipends to employees:
- FlexJobs: This remote job search platform provides its employees with a coworking stipend to help cover the costs of working in a coworking space.
- Close: This sales automation CRM company offers coworking stipends to its employees.
- GitLab: This software development company provides its remote employees with a coworking stipend to help cover the costs of working in a coworking space or to purchase ergonomic equipment for their home office.
Hot-desking is a flexible workspace arrangement where employees do not have a designated, permanent desk, but instead work from any available, shared workspace on a first-come, first-served basis. The concept of hot-desking is often used in coworking spaces and open-plan office environments, where it’s common for employees to use laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices as they work from different locations throughout the day.
The goal of hot-desking is to maximize the use of available workspaces and increase collaboration and interaction among employees. By not having a designated desk, employees can be more flexible in terms of where and how they work, which can improve their productivity and overall job satisfaction. Hot-desking can also be more cost-effective for businesses, as it reduces the need for a dedicated desk and office space for each employee.
Here are three companies that are using hot-desking as a way to manage hybrid workplaces:
- Google: This tech giant is known for its innovative office designs and use of hot-desking in its Googleplex headquarters and other office locations.
- Meta: Meta’s hot-desking policies allow employees to choose from a variety of different workspaces, including private offices, shared desks, and collaborative spaces.
- Deloitte: The global professional services firm is known for its commitment to flexible working arrangements and use of hot-desking in its offices around the world.
Schedule flexibility is another type of workplace flexibility that is becoming increasingly popular. It grants employees more control over their working hours and allows them to better manage their personal and professional obligations. With schedule flexibility, employees can choose when they work and when they take breaks in order to create a schedule that works for them.
A condensed workweek means that an employee works fewer than five days per week. The most common of these is the four-day workweek, where an employee works four days per week instead of the traditional five. The workweek is typically spread out over four 10-hour days, or some other arrangement that results in an employee working fewer hours each week.
The goal of a 4-day workweek is to improve work-life balance, increase employee satisfaction and motivation, and increase productivity. By reducing the number of days they work each week, employees have more time for personal and family activities, which can lead to improved well-being and job satisfaction.
A 4-day workweek can also benefit employers by reducing absenteeism and turnover while increasing employee engagement and motivation. In some cases, it can also spark cost savings due to a decreased need for office space and other resources.
Here are three companies that have implemented condensed workweeks for their employees:
- Perpetual Guardian: This New Zealand-based estate planning company found that when it switched its employees to a 4-day workweek, they experienced an improvement in their work-life balance, as well as increased productivity and job satisfaction.
- Treehouse: This online education company offers its employees a 4-day workweek as a way to encourage work-life balance and reduce stress.
- Basecamp: This project management software company has offered a 4-day workweek to its employees for several years, with the aim of improving work-life balance and reducing burnout.
A nonlinear workday refers to a flexible schedule that allows employees to work outside of the traditional 9-5 workday hours. This can include working longer hours on some days, and shorter hours on others, or working outside of traditional work hours altogether. The goal of a nonlinear workday is to improve work-life balance and increase employee flexibility and autonomy.
Nonlinear workdays can be particularly beneficial for employees who have caregiving responsibilities, those who are pursuing additional education or personal interests, or those who are working from different time zones. By allowing employees to choose when and how they work, nonlinear workdays can help to improve job satisfaction, motivation, and overall well-being.
Here are three companies that offer nonlinear workdays:
- Best Buy: This electronics retailer offers its employees a variety of flexible scheduling options, including nonlinear workdays, to help them better balance their work and personal lives.
- HubSpot: The inbound marketing and sales platform company is known for its commitment to work-life balance and a flexible work environment, including the option of nonlinear workdays.
- Toggl: The time tracking and productivity tool company offers various flexible work options, including nonlinear workdays.
A “work whenever” policy refers to an arrangement that allows employees to work outside of traditional office hours and to set their own schedules. This policy is designed to give employees the autonomy to choose when and where they work, as long as they are meeting their job responsibilities and performance expectations.
A “work whenever” policy can be beneficial for employees who value flexibility and autonomy in their work schedules. By giving employees the ability to determine their own schedules, companies can help them achieve better work-life balance and maintain a healthy work-life boundary. However, it’s important for companies to set clear expectations and goals for their employees to ensure that the work gets done and the company’s needs are met.
Here are three companies that offer a “work whenever” policy:
- Zapier: This automation software company has a fully remote team and offers a “work whenever” policy, which allows employees to work at a time that suits them best.
- Automattic: This company, which provides web publishing software, also operates with a fully remote team and offers a “work whenever” policy.
- Buffer: This social media management company has a fully remote team and allows its employees to work whenever they choose, as long as they’re meeting their responsibilities and goals.
Job flexibility is another type of workplace flexibility that is gaining popularity. This type of flexibility allows employees to move between different positions within an organization. This can be beneficial for both employers and employees, as it allows employers to fill positions quickly and efficiently and allows employees to gain new skills and expand their knowledge base.
Job sharing is a work arrangement in which two or more employees split a full-time job and its responsibilities. This can be a good option for employees who want to reduce their hours for personal reasons or to pursue other interests, while still maintaining a connection to the workforce.
Here are three companies that offer job sharing as an option for employees:
- Patagonia: This outdoor clothing company is known for its progressive policies, including offering job sharing as a way for employees to balance their work and personal lives.
- Ernst & Young: This global professional services firm offers job sharing as a flexible work arrangement for its employees.
- Bank of America: The financial services company is known for its support of job sharing and other flexible work arrangements.
The Contingent Workforce and Gig Economy
The terms “contingent workforce” and “gig economy” are often used interchangeably, but they refer to slightly different concepts.
The contingent workforce refers to a category of workers who are not considered permanent employees of a company, such as temporary workers, independent contractors, freelancers, and consultants. The contingent workforce is usually brought in on an as-needed basis to fill specific skills or workforce gaps or to handle fluctuations in workload.
The gig economy, on the other hand, refers to a labor market that is characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs. In the gig economy, individuals typically work on a project-by-project basis, often through online platforms or marketplaces. The gig economy has seen rapid growth in recent years, fueled by advances in technology and changes in the way that people work and seek employment.
So, while the gig economy is one aspect of the broader contingent workforce, not all workers in the contingent workforce would be considered part of the gig economy. In short, the gig economy is a subcategory of the contingent workforce.
Companies have increasingly embraced the gig economy as part of their flexible work strategy. This allows companies to access a pool of talent with specific skills and expertise, while also giving workers the freedom and flexibility to choose their own projects and work schedules.
Companies that are helping other companies leverage flexible positions as part of their flexible work strategy are:
- Upwork: Upwork is a global freelancing platform that connects businesses with a network of freelancers for a variety of projects, from web design to data analysis. The platform allows businesses to access a pool of talent from around the world, and to work with freelancers on a project-by-project basis.
- Toptal: Toptal is a company that provides businesses with access to a network of top-tier freelance software engineers, designers, and finance experts.
- Gig and Take: This company helps manufacturing companies provide flexible, modular, and accessible schedules in their factories.
Flexible Paid Time Off, or PTO, is the newest type of workplace flexibility. It allows employees to take paid time off from work when they need it, giving them the flexibility to manage their personal and professional obligations. This type of flexibility benefits everyone involved: employers have more control over their staffing needs, and employees have more control over their work-life balance. Flexible PTO can help employers reduce costs by allowing them to offer employees more attractive compensation packages. It can also help reduce employee stress and burnout by allowing employees to take time off when they need it.
Unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) is a type of leave policy that allows employees to take time off from work without any restrictions or limitations on the number of days they can take.
Here are three companies known for offering flexible or unlimited PTO policies:
- Netflix: The streaming service encourages its employees to take as much time off as they need to recharge and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
- LinkedIn: The social networking platform gives unlimited days off to employees.
- Evernote: This productivity software company has a flexible PTO policy that allows employees to take time off as needed, without having to keep track of individual days.
A sabbatical is a structured break from one’s regular work granted by an employer, typically for the purpose of rest, renewal, and professional or personal growth.
A work sabbatical may last anywhere from a few weeks to several months and might be paid or unpaid, depending on the agreement between the employee and the employer. Sabbaticals allow individuals to reflect on their work, gain new experiences and knowledge, and return to work refreshed and reinvigorated.
Here are three companies that offer sabbaticals to employees:
- Airbnb: The popular home-sharing platform offers its employees a year-long sabbatical after four years of service.
- The Hartford: This insurance provider offers its employees a six-week sabbatical after ten years of service. The employee can use the sabbatical either for personal or professional development, perhaps pursuing a degree, volunteering, or taking a trip.
- Salesforce: This cloud-based software company offers its employees a paid sabbatical after every five years of service.
Enabling Workplace Flexibility
The rise of workplace flexibility is a response to the changing needs of today’s workforce and has become an essential part of a company’s competitive advantage.
By offering employees greater control over their work environment, companies are able to attract and retain top talent, improve employee satisfaction and engagement, and increase productivity. Additionally, workplace flexibility can help companies to reduce absenteeism and turnover and to improve work-life balance for employees, which can have a positive impact on overall well-being and job satisfaction.
Of course, implementing one or more of these types of policies is just the first step toward enabling a truly flexible workplace. Individual contributors, managers, and executives also need the skills to be able to work effectively in a flexible environment. Companies can demonstrate their commitment to sustainable change by investing in comprehensive training programs that develop these skills so that all employees are able to succeed.