Why Flexibility is Key to Employee Connection

  • Author: Meghan Stewart

Flexibility in where, when, and how they work empowers employees to find the structure and schedule that helps them be productive and engaged. And as we found in our latest research study, flexibility is essential for helping employees feel more connected at work.

5 Ways Flexibility Goes Hand-in-Hand With Employee Connection

Flexibility makes it easier for employees to manage the day-to-day challenges of work and life. It helps them manage caregiving responsibilities, a long work commute, and the time they dedicate to work and non-work activities. In addition to supporting work-life balance, work flexibility also helps employees feel trusted, valued, and free to develop a closer bond with their manager, team, and organization.

Here’s what our research uncovered about the role of flexibility in driving employee connections:

1. Flexibility fulfills the employee desire for connection

Our study revealed that the need to connect at work is pretty universal and not determined by factors such as job function, tenure, age, ethnicity, or other demographics. Whether or not they felt connected at work, most employees we surveyed said they wanted to feel connected. When we asked what actions their organization could take to promote employee connections, employees put “encourage work-life balance” and “provide flexible work hours” at the top of the list.

2. Employees may leave over a lack of flexibility

For better employee connection and retention, flexibility must be part of the employee experience. In fact, flexibility and work-life balance have become critical enough to determine whether employees leave the organization or stay. The Disconnected Employees in our study said a lack of work-life balance was one of the top reasons they’d want to leave. Conversely, Connected Employees said work-life balance was the number one factor that would make them want to stay.

3. Flexibility is a highly valued element of total rewards

Recent studies have found that many employees are willing to forego some of their pay in exchange for expanded benefits and flexibility. Our research reinforces this sentiment. Survey respondents in our 2022 Employee Connections Study said total rewards was one of the top three most important factors helping them feel connected at work. In this year’s study, the majority of employees ranked remote work (59%) and a flexible schedule (51%) highly on the list of the total rewards they valued most. These benefits ranked higher than some cash and non-cash rewards, including bonuses, long-term incentive pay, and health benefits such as dental and vision insurance.

4. Providing work flexibility promotes trust

Offering employees more flexibility in where and when they work implies a level of trust in employees. For example, when employees work at home or on a hybrid schedule, the organization trusts them to stay productive and use their flexible benefits responsibly. This is critical, given that trust is one of the hallmarks of a connected workforce. Just as employees need to trust their manager and the organization to do the right thing, it’s critical to trust employees to perform their roles no matter where or when they work.

5. Manager flexibility encourages deeper employee connections

Workplace flexibility isn’t just a matter of offering employees remote work and flexible hours. It’s also a critical component of effective leadership. Managers in our survey listed flexibility as one of most important skills helping them facilitate connection between their direct reports and the organization. When managers empathize with employee challenges and need for flexibility, they can be more effective in the day-to-day management of their team, whether it’s by holding meetings at optimal times for remote and hybrid employees or creating a team culture that prioritizes work-life balance.

Build a More Connected Workforce With Increased Flexibility

Workplace flexibility has rapidly progressed from a nice-to-have element of the employee experience to a must-have for employees across all levels and job functions. However, as we discuss in our latest research report, The Imbalanced State of Employee Connections at Work, offering employees more flexibility at work is just one of the many actions you can take to cultivate a connected and engaged workforce.

To learn more, check out the full employee connection report and follow us on LinkedIn.

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