4 ways to make work more flexible for (and appealing to) employees

Adding flexibility to your workplace is a powerful incentive for job candidates and can ultimately help with retention efforts.

Company cultures that enable employees to pursue a passion like volunteering instantly stand out from the competition.

Historically low unemployment puts talent in the driver’s seat. To attract and retain the people you need to grow your business, start with an open mind and ask yourself: how can we give workers more flexibility? Adding flexibility to your workplace is a powerful incentive for job candidates and can ultimately help with retention efforts.

1. Work arrangements

Can your organization offer flexibility in when, how and where work can be completed? Many companies struggle crossing into the territory of remote work or ‘work from home’ culture, fearing a loss of control or productivity. While there will always be jobs that require a fixed schedule or workplace, many jobs can offer flexibility, especially when enabled by today’s collaborative toolset.

Start by trying flexible work arrangements, such as work from home, 4x10s (four 10-hour workdays) or summer hours. Engage employees to help HR codify best practices. Give employees an opportunity to co-create the standards and expectations and they’ll feel a sense of ownership.

2. Paid volunteering

Employees want to make a difference not just on the job, but also in their communities. Consider offering paid time off for volunteering during the workday. Company cultures that enable employees to pursue a passion like volunteering instantly stand out from the competition. It can be as simple as a single corporate give-back day with all-hands on deck. It can informal, like a half-day for intact work teams who volunteer together at a charitable organization, like a food pantry or disaster relief organization.

Paid volunteering is a win/win for employers because your teams will bond over their common experience and carry that with them into the workplace. You might also look into empowering employee-led groups that sponsor events like a school supply drive or a raffle to raise funds for charity.

3. Debt counseling

Many employees struggle with student loan repayment. Employers who offer financial assistance or provide financial counseling stand out from the crowd by providing the flexibility that comes from peace of mind. Employees may not be aware of debt consolidation or refinancing options. Retirement account providers often offer counseling services free with their 401(k) plans. Paid advisory services like Vault offer a benefit that stands out and meets employees where they are.

Abbott Laboratories recently tested the idea of a 401(k) match of five percent to employees that pay at least two percent of compensation toward student loans. Other companies are considering contributing to 401(k) plans without an employee contribution for those employees who are paying down student loan debts. These innovative approaches are bringing new flexibility to traditional financial benefits.

4. PTO and leaves

Finally, paid time off (PTO) and leave policies provide another avenue for flexibility. Employers often constrain these policies with wait times to accrue PTO, advanced notice for PTO and inflexible leave practices. In an era where employees are willing to leave and take a chance on the job market, it’s easier and less expensive to provide the desired flexibility than replace a talented performer. For example, allowing a two-week unpaid leave for the trip-of-a-lifetime might be the right choice for an employee who has exhausted vacation and has more to contribute. Additionally, providing paid parental or family leave acknowledges the whole person—the parent, the caretaker and employee.

To be a top employer in today’s labor market, it’s important to start from a place of flexibility. Start with yes or at least ask, “what can we do?” Demonstrating a willingness and openness to new approaches shows flexibility—even if it does not result in immediate and dramatic policy change.

Karen Crone is CHRO at Paycor.


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