What is a flexible workforce, and why is it the future of work?

flexible workforce

The workplace has undergone some major changes over the last few years – and continues to do so. Office layouts have changed and, as a result of technological innovations, the way we get work done, how we get work done, and where we get it done have also evolved tremendously. We’re connected digitally and, as a result, are able to work effectively with more distance between one another than ever before.

This changing face of business has many organizations asking what the future of work will look like. Many will agree that much of it hinges on flexibility. In fact, we’re already seeing that this is one of the most in-demand perks that employees want today.

To begin with, what exactly is a flexible workforce?

Quite simply, a flexible workforce comprises workers who aren’t bound by a strict nine-to-five routine, five days a week. Employees who form part of a flexible workforce might work from your office with the freedom to choose their hours, they may work remotely some days, or they may work remotely all of the time. In fact, an organization’s entire workforce may be dotted across a city or the globe without any physical office space. A flexible workforce could also include freelancers or contractors.

Remote work is becoming the new normal (especially among younger generations)

In a press release detailing the results of the 2019 Future Workforce Report by Upwork, we see that younger gen managers in particular support remote teams as the new norm:

  • 69% of younger gen managers have team members who are allowed to work remotely.
  • Among those that approve remote work options, 74% reported having team members who spend a significant portion of their time conducting their jobs remotely, whereas only 58% of Baby Boomers have workers who work a significant portion of their time remotely.
  • Younger gen managers are 28% more likely to utilize remote workers than Baby Boomers and believe that two out of five full-time employees will work remotely within the next three years.
  • By 2028, the study projects that 73% of all teams will have remote workers.
flexible workforce
Source: Future Workspace Report 2019

“As younger generations ascend in the workforce and become the majority of managers in corporate America they’ll reshape work as we know it,” said Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork. We know already that the most in-demand professionals place high value on flexibility.”

Is the flexible workforce really here to stay?

We’ll get to the point quickly by sharing a quote from a recent Forbes article, by Gill Stewart, Managing Director of Capability Jane. It hit the nail on the head:

“I believe we will genuinely stop talking about it; flexible working will just be normal. There will be a home-working space in every home. Co-working, which is already on the rise, will be the norm as big firms as well as small make use of these scalable spaces – and this will not only benefit employees but also allow organizations to keep a cap on real-estate expenditure. The environmental impact will also be front of mind as travel by cars and planes will be frowned upon. When our kids grow up to be future leaders, it will not even cross their minds about when, where, and how they work.”

And, here are a few reasons why it’s a great thing that the flexible workforce is not going anywhere any time soon:

  • Establishing a flexible workforce is a great way to attract and retain talent as it offers organizations a competitive edge by promoting autonomy.
  • It allows employees to work in a way that allows them to be most productive, as they can choose the hours and/or location that promotes concentration, creativity, and innovation.
  • When employees aren’t required to travel into an office, or are able to skip peak traffic, it saves a huge amount of time.
  • It gives organizations the opportunity to hire employees without geographical limitations, allowing them to bring the best possible talent onto their team.
  • Similar to the above point, a flexible workforce allows organizations to conduct business across different time zones more easily.
  • It’s a great way to promote wellness in the workplace, by making room for work-life balance, which in turn also boosts productivity and retention.

Support a flexible workforce at your organization

Since flexible work is clearly the way of the future, organizations need to adapt their talent management strategies to be more flexible too. After all, agility is an essential characteristic that organizations need to take on if they aim to maintain a competitive edge and retain their employees.

Enabling and supporting a modern, flexible workforce will mean introducing the right tools for a cutting-edge approach to HR. As we discussed recently, this is imperative for keeping employees engaged and connected, regardless of their locations. The right HR tools will allow for the following benefits:

  • Keeping everyone on the same page, working collaboratively
  • Ensuring that communication channels remain open
  • Allowing remote workers the space to be autonomous
  • Ensuring that your company culture is inclusive towards remote workers (keeping morale high!)

LEARN MORE: Why your remote workers need better HR tools

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