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Workplaces of the future: Creating an elastic workplace

The workplace flexibility movement began years ago when many organizations launched talent initiatives to accommodate working mothers. Over time, flexibility options mushroomed: from compressed workweeks to job sharing, telecommuting to adjustable schedules, career lattices to career re-entry. From its birth as an employee entitlement, workplace flexibility has grown to become a requirement for organizations that want to make the most of its people’s productivity. Consider these statistics: • Women without children would rather have more free time than make more money (68 percent)—even more than those with children (62 percent).1 • About 40 percent of professional men work more than 50 hours per week. Of these, 80 percent would like to work fewer hours.2 • One of every five employees cares for elderly parents, a number that could increase to almost half of the workforce over the next several years..3 • By 2025, Gen Y employees, now in their 20s, will grow to represent 75 percent of the workforce. For this emerging generation, work-life fit is valued more than compensation growth or skill development.4 Workplace flexibility has become table stakes for attracting and retaining employees. Now companies must align their flexibility strategy with their core strategy to realize the benefits. Workplace flexibility is vital for many employees and a welcome option for others. It can be just as beneficial to organizations—but only if they execute it well. That means seeing it from a business strategy perspective. Technology made today’s brand of flexibility possible, but companies can’t view workplace flexibility as a technology issue; it’s a management challenge. Of course, implementing an effective flexibility strategy is not easy. Demanding clients and customers want to be served at their convenience. Peak loads—and undesirable shifts—must be covered. Managers accustomed to face to-face supervision worry that homebound employees will fritter away work time. Remote team members fear they will miss a midnight email. And sometimes, employees who remain in the office believe they’re taking on heavier workloads while others take “flex time” — and they’ll resent it, whether or not it’s true. Management should be prepared to nurture and grow an effective flexible work environment over time—it can’t be left to chance.