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The impact of workplace flexibility on productivity, engagement and diversity

The work environment is changing. Advances in technology, a shift in generation and changes in the way companies do business has driven the need and demand for a new kind of workplace. These factors have led to the rise of the “smart workplace”.

A whitepaper from Robert Walters, Greater China revealed the impact of workplace flexibility on productivity, engagement and diversity. The key findings were:

Employees agree/strongly agree that flexible working could help them achieve:

  • 83% higher motivation
  • 80% better work-life balance
  • 70% more focused and productive
  • 69% higher quality work

The biggest barrier to implementing flexible working arrangements – cited by 60% of employers – are concerns about possible abuse of the policy. For employees, the top concern about introducing flexible work arrangements is fewer opportunities to communicate with colleagues (35%).

With options such as working from home and flexitime, 27% of employees are concerned that there is no clear delineation between work and home, whilst 45% employers find it difficult to supervise their staff if they cannot monitor them visually.

Top tips to overcome concerns with flexibility


1. Change from ‘behaviour-based’ to ‘outcome-based' assessment

Instead of solely assessing performance according to what an employee is seen to be doing, managers should take their output or other deliverables into account and establish an environment of mutual trust.

2. Devise innovative alternatives to face-to-face communication

Apart from specifying a set time of the week when the team can get together, use alternative tools such as instant messaging and virtual meetings to foster communication.

3. Create an open culture of flexibility

Companies should also create a culture where employees do not feel they will be disadvantaged by flexible working arrangements.

4. Beware of ‘burn-out’

Look out for a reduction in productivity/output, uncharacteristic detachment and increased cynicism or complaining.

Diversity and flexibility

Organisations are advised to recognise that to support gender diversity and close the gender gap in the workplace, flexible working arrangements should be available for both men and women.

With increasing numbers of women returning to the workplace after taking maternity leave, family and childcare responsibilities are becoming more equally shared between both genders. Managers are encouraged to discuss flexible working arrangements with all team members to ensure that everyone is treated equally.

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