Workplace Flexibility Definition, Skills, and Examples
Flexibility is an important trait for employees. Flexibility on the job includes the willingness and ability to respond to changing circumstances and expectations readily. By definition, the term "flexibility" means the ability to bend or adapt to changing forces. Being flexible when it comes to work is worth a lot. Employees who approach their job with a flexible mindset are typically more highly valued by employers.
Why Employers Value Flexible Employees
Essentially, flexible employees are more valuable. Workers with an orientation towards flexibility never say, "It’s not my job" or "Do I have to?" when they are asked to take on a new assignment. Flexible employees modify their approach to tasks based on the preferences of stakeholders and the unique demands of each situation.
Having employees willing to step outside their job description means employers can get more accomplished. Flexible workers who can take on more responsibilities, do different tasks, and do more at work have more to offer their employer than employees who can only do one or two tasks. Having flexible employees means not having to find others to take on more work. Flexible employees are willing to do whatever is necessary to get the task accomplished.
Why Employees Value Flexible Managers
Flexibility works both ways, and employees appreciate having managers who are flexible. Flexibility skills are also relevant to the approach management takes to handling employees. Flexible managers treat employees as individuals and make an effort to accommodate personal styles and needs.
Managers who are flexible provide workers with greater latitude about the way they accomplish goals. They assess the needs of employees and provide feedback, guidance, and recognition individually to optimize performance. Being flexible is good for everyone.
Share Examples During Job Interviews
Flexibility is a trait most employers look for in an employee. Regardless of what type of job you are applying for, it will benefit your candidacy if you can show the interviewer examples of how you are flexible and willing to change course.
Take some time to write down different times you believe you were flexible at previous jobs (and be proud of yourself if it’s a long list).
Examples of Workplace Flexibility Skills
Sometimes employers will allow employees to work from home when feasible to help balance work with family responsibilities. A workplace policy of flexible schedules may allow varying arrival and departure times—as long as employees work the prescribed number of hours. Flexibility on the part of a worker could be to adjust the hours they work—coming in early, staying late, or working on an off day—to accommodate the needs of the company.
Managers will often need to adjust schedules and delegate routine tasks as they focus on reaching the company's priorities. They will have to adjust their management style to suit the individual. One employee may require more structure in their job duties and another may function better working independently.
This ability to adapt quickly is also important as you interact with coworkers and customers. Everyone is different and one approach seldom works well across the board. When a client enters the store you will need to shift attention to them, even though you are immersed in a detailed task. Your sales pitch must match the unique needs of the customer.
Flexibility allows you to talk on the phone while you file paperwork or handle dictating a letter as you wait to meet with your next client.
Finally, emergencies can and will crop up during business hours. Emergencies can be everything from a customer needing to cancel or expedite an order to an employee having an accidental fall and needing to go home. A flexible work attitude will allow emergencies to be less disruptive to the flow of the business.
More Workplace Flexibility Skills
Review more examples of flexibility, and tailor your interview responses to show examples of how you’ve been flexible at work.
A - L
- Admitting an oversight with accounting for expenses and suggesting alternative ways to avoid similar mistakes
- Allowing employees to work from home when feasible to help balance work with family responsibilities
- Analyzing the style and preferences of individual subordinates
- Assessing the needs and preferences of individual customers
- Customizing cover letters to emphasize skills which correspond to the unique requirements of target jobs
- Delegating routine tasks in order to focus on priorities
- Enabling non-essential employees to work from home on snow days
- Enabling workers to vary arrival and departure times as long as they work the prescribed number of hours
- Initiating an evaluation of alternative processes for processing loan applications
- Learning complex, new software that will increase efficiency
- Listening carefully to constructive criticism as part of a performance review
O - Z
- Offering to cover the responsibilities of a colleague while she is on vacation
- Offering to work extra hours during a year-end crunch
- Praising the work of a productive employee more frequently because she craves feedback
- Providing release time for parents to attend school programs
- Pushing aside the work planned for the day to respond to an emerging problem
- Rewarding subordinates who make impactful suggestions
- Shifting attention to a customer entering the facility even though immersed in detailed task
- Substituting social media for some traditional communications as a way to engage prospective students
- Surveying clients about their experience with the company and modifying service delivery based on the findings
- Tailoring a sales pitch to the unique needs of a customer
- Volunteering to change your schedule to accomodate another employee's needs
- Volunteering to take the lead for a key presentation when a colleague comes down with an illness
- Working overtime to help a colleague meet a deadline for a funding proposal