Innovative leaders always ask themselves: How can we improve?, What can we do to remain creative and inspired at work? how can we assist the people we lead to also be?

To attract and retain innovative talent must be one of our priorities and as a result, we need to provide inspiring work environments. Labor flexibility is one of the main tools we are looking forward to achieving.

Innovative talent needs to be developed in an environment that promotes creativity and well-being. Labor flexibility is an ideal tool to achieve such an environment. Regulating it is important so that people’s needs and businesses are well protected.

According to a study conducted by Werk in the United States, more than 96% of the 1500 workers interviewed said they would be willing to change their current job for a different one offering a greater flexibilityAnother study, conducted by Gensler, indicates a direct relationship between innovation and labor flexibility. In the same way, this research indicates that workers who can decide when and where to work show greater performance and satisfaction at work.

Although several studies prove the need to invest in labor flexibility to attract and retain innovative talent, the concept seems not to end in the national businesses. About 80% of Spanish workers do not have the right to choose their working days as shown in the graph below.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we do not have examples of national brave and innovative companies. In 2007, Iberdrola decided to implement the continuous working days for 9.000 workers in Spain. Workers of the Electric Company operates from Monday to Thursday starting from 7:15 am to 4:36 pm, being able to decide their entry and exit time in a one hour 45 minutes margin. In addition, they can end on Fridays at 2:00 pm. As Iberdrola elaborated on its website, and according to a study conducted by the University of Zaragoza, the company believes that labor flexibility increases productivity by 6%.

Why is it that companies and employees still don’t believe in the importance of labor flexibility?

Probably due to the lack of clear rules of the game that regulates labor flexibility. Workers think it can be a trick for them to do more work, whereas to employers, flexibility can lead people to do less work. Given this scenario, the best we can do is to know the flexibility options we have, the needs of our team and to build a framework of labor flexibility to attract and retain innovative talent. This framework should be adapted to the needs of companies and individuals.

From the meta-analysis conducted by Google on the research work currently available on labor flexibility, there are six (6) types of existing flexibilities that can be offered by companies to their employees.

Their description is as follows.

The six different flexibility options to offer our talent

As Google’s analysis concluded, by implementing labor flexibility to attract and retain innovative talent in our organization, we have these six (6) existing fundamental options below;

  • Remote work: Here, regular working hours are maintained, but workers do not need to be in the office in order to do their job.
  • Partial remote work: This model permits workers to work a few days in a week from wherever they choose. It is possible to define an hourly % per week that the worker must be present in person.
  • Minimum travel: A possibility is established for the worker to choose this model in which there is a maximum percentage of trips to be made in a month or year. It is possible to set rules such as “this person can make a maximum of one trip in a week or a day in every two weeks.”
  • Flexible schedule: In this case, workers can decide on the timetable on how to run their day. Basically, the worker can decide if his day starts at 11 am or 7 pm. He must work during the same hours, but on a different schedule than the traditional one.
  • Micro-adjustments to the day: This model gives the worker the possibility of being absent between 1 and 3 working hours to attend to unexpected matters. This, for example, is a good tool for mothers and fathers with little children to carry out activities such as picking up their children from school when they are sick.
  • Part-time working (reduced hours): This is a good model for senior role workers who do not want to completely dissociate themselves from working life, or for mothers or parents who want to spend more time with their children.

Now that we already know the labor flexibility options. What next?

The next step is to find out what our workers need. Google and other companies carry out this research by asking their employees, although not directly. They carry out questionnaires on topics such as:

  • How far do the office workers live?
  • If they have family situations that require them to reconcile such as little children or dependent family members.
  • In which time zones are workers considered more efficient.
  • To what extent do workers consider that traveling affects their personal lives
  • How many days away from home are acceptable in the worker’s personal life, etc.

The goal is to find out which flexibility programs can be more beneficial to people.Of course, work also has to be done in the opposite direction.

What does the company need?

  • Do we have clients in different countries that requires attention at unconventional times or weekends?
  • Do we have strict SLAs or ANSs with customers always needing someone to assist them?
  • Are all our customers in our city or scattered around the country making us travel?
  • What periods of the year are critical by volume or workload? Etc.

As in all human relationships, we need to agree. Understand each other’s needs so as to decide how to improve, how we can have a win-win relationship.

Once we understand the needs of the parties, the next step will be to regulate the labor flexibility programs we offer our team. For example, in the month of August, due to vacation, staff absences, flexible schedule programs may not start after 9:30 am or remote work, becomes partial remote work. Another example would be, in the partial remote work programs, in any case, the worker could spend more than 5 working days without attending the office. Or, weekly, workers in the flexible schedule program, should report on the day they will have in the next coming week.

Innovative talent needs to be developed in an environment that promotes creativity and well-being. Labor flexibility is an ideal tool to achieve such an environment. Regulating it is important so that people’s needs and businesses are well protected.

A self-reflection question for innovative leaders: Is our company putting all possible means to achieve a working environment full of happiness, productivity, and creativity?


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