What Is Workplace Flexibility?

Definition and Examples of Workplace Flexibility

Employee talking on the phone and working on a computer
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Workplace flexibility is a strategy of responding to changing circumstances and expectations. Employees who approach their job with a flexible mindset are typically more highly valued by employers.​ Similarly, employers who cultivate a flexible work environment are attractive to employees.

Learn more about workplace flexibility, its benefits, and the skills workers and employers use to stay flexible.

What Is Workplace Flexibility?

Workplace flexibility emphasizes the willingness and ability to adapt to change, particularly regarding how and when work gets done.

In a flexible workplace, the needs of both employee and employer are met. Workplace flexibility is often used as a tool for retaining and engaging employees. It can also help an organization reach its goals thanks to improved productivity.

  • Alternate names: Flexible work arrangement, work-life balance

How Does Workplace Flexibility Work?

There are a variety of ways that workplace flexibility can be implemented by workers and employers.

Flexible Employees

Workers with an orientation towards flexibility don't say, "It’s not my job" or "Do I have to?" when they are asked to take on a new assignment. Instead, flexible employees modify their approach to tasks based on the preferences of stakeholders and the unique demands of each situation. 

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.

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.

Here are some examples of the ways workers can demonstrate flexibility.

  • Learning complex new software that will increase efficiency
  • Listening carefully to constructive criticism as part of a performance review
  • Offering to cover the responsibilities of a colleague while they are ill or on vacation
  • Offering to work extra hours during a year-end crunch
  • Pushing aside the work planned for the day to respond to an emerging problem
  • Working overtime to help a colleague meet a deadline

Employees with a flexible attitude keep the company's objectives in mind and work to achieve them, tailoring their efforts to the mission at hand.

Flexible Employers

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.

For example, one employee may require more structure in their job duties and another may function better working independently. Managers will often need to adjust schedules and delegate routine tasks as they focus on reaching the company's priorities.

Some examples of workplace flexibility on the part of a manager include:

  • Analyzing the style and preferences of individual subordinates 
  • Praising the work of a productive employee more frequently because she craves feedback 
  • Providing release time for parents to attend school programs
  • Rewarding subordinates who make impactful suggestions

Flexible Schedules

Workplace flexibility can also refer specifically to regular work arrangements that promote work-life balance, as opposed to one-off accommodations for special circumstances. These work arrangements typically include flexible schedules outside of the traditional 9-to-5.

Flextime: Employers with a flextime policy allow their workers to stagger arrival and departure times as necessary.

Telecommuting: Not every employee needs (or wants) to work in an office; telecommuting lets them work from elsewhere, such as a home office or coworking space. They may telecommute during special conditions, such as inclement weather, or on a daily basis.

Condensed schedules: Rather than a five-day workweek, a condensed schedule fits the same amount of work over a shorter amount of time, such as three or four days, giving the employee an additional day or two off during the week.

Benefits of Workplace Flexibility

A flexible work environment has many benefits. It helps workers achieve greater work-life balance, leading to increased employee satisfaction and improved morale. That in turn means employee turnover is reduced, as is the cost to recruit and train new hires.

Loyalty, engagement, and retention is improved, which helps a company's productivity and its bottom line.

Employers that permit telecommuting, or working from home, can reduce overhead with less need for office space; working from home can also have a beneficial environmental impact by eliminating lengthy commutes.

Flexible employees, for their part, are willing to do whatever is necessary to get the task accomplished, whether that means taking on more responsibilities, doing different tasks, or doing more at work. Thus, they have more to offer their employer than employees who can only do one or two tasks. Having employees who are willing to step outside their job description means employers don't need to find others to take on more work.

Key Takeaways

  • Workplace flexibility is a strategy that emphasizes being able and willing to adapt to changing circumstances when it comes to how work gets done.
  • Workplace flexibility meets the needs of both the business and its workers.
  • Workplace flexibility can enhance work-life balance for employees, leading to greater satisfaction and retention.