Companies have started introducing schemes such as unlimited paid vacation; undictated maternity leave with employees self-devising plans for return to work and so far it is reported that this isn’t being abused or not upheld by employees. Why is this and why are companies introducing these schemes and others aren’t?
By 2025, Generation Y and its successors will comprise more than half the global population and 75 percent of the workforce, according to consulting firm A.T. Kearney. And 80 percent of them want to be able to work flexibly. How many, I wonder, will get what they want?
Although many companies these days are comfortable demanding constant attention from their employees with many employees working excessive overtime, few are at ease with the idea that this needs to be reciprocal. This then, in turn, becomes a talent and retention issue. Here's why:
1.Flexible working is Smart
Letting your employees out into the world to absorb information, notice other products, talk to a wide range of people about any number of subjects is how they stay in touch and alive. Cooping them up in offices and meeting rooms for hours or days on end makes them dull and boring.
2. Ideas arise in unexpected circumstances
There's plenty of evidence that people do their most imaginative work when looking away from a problem: driving home, in the shower, walking the dog. If you don't want your people to have ideas, keep them at the office.
3. Everyone has a family
A senior partner at a company once asked me why he couldn't just hire single people; that way, he hoped, he wouldn't have to consider child care pressures. I told him to remember that, while one can choose whether or not to have kids, no one can choose whether or not to have parents. Gen Y and subsequent generations will face a lot of demands from elderly parents who need time and attention. If you want to keep smart people, you have to work with that.
None of this means that offices are irrelevant or that there isn't immense value in bringing people together under the same roof at the same time. There is. This is part of how you get great work from people. But it isn't the only way. Companies are--not surprisingly--like people because they are made up of people. And just as individuals are more creative when allowed freedom, the same is true of businesses. It all depends on whether you trust them, or yourself, enough. That is reciprocal too. Food for thought.