Why offering flexible work is no longer optional: Survey

The ability to work flexibly is often what makes or breaks a job offer.

According to a new survey by professional services company Regus, no less than 59% of those surveyed say they would have stuck around longer in their previous job if flexible work had been an option.

The survey, of 2000 senior executives and business owners across 95 countries, found 60% of Australians surveyed said they would rule out a job if they couldn’t work flexibly. Australia’s results were broadly comparable with those in the rest of the world, suggesting this is a global phenomenon.

It didn’t really make much difference whether the respondents worked in a small or large business. In fact, those in smaller businesses were even more likely to put flexibility as a priority than those who worked in larger businesses.

Regus conducts the surveys regularly, and recent years has seen respondents place a growing importance on the ability to work flexibly, Regus Australia and New Zealand chief Paul Migliorini tells SmartCompany.

“There are some overarching drivers of that, like mobility and cloud tools, which are being adopted more and more,” he says.

“But there are also historical drivers, such as working mums wanting to keep working, and people dealing with places like Sydney, where people waste a lot of time because of the traffic.

“A growing and significant percentage of people see flexible work as a critical factor in a job. It’s become a very important consideration.”

Working flexibly is a key part of reducing staff turnover, because it allows people to keep the same job as their life circumstances change. Employee turnover is expensive, especially for smaller businesses, where, Migliorini says, the impact of a bad hire or the loss of a critical person is huge.

There’s another reason he says employers have to do their best to offer flexible work options to their employees.

“It’s not just about retaining people. Think about how it helps the quality of your recruitment.”

If 59% of respondents say they would turn down a job if it didn’t allow them some measure of working flexibly, that significantly shrinks the pool of applicants rigid businesses can hope to recruit.

“In Australia, with our labour costs and our productivity agenda, that’s a really big issue,” Migliorini says.

“Think of all the people who are great quality workers but can’t find the type of job that would fit in with their needs. If you’re one of the businesses that can access the far broader pool of potential employees, that’ll be really critical to your success.”

Myriam Robin

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Myriam Robin is a reporter for SmartCompany and its sister site LeadingCompany. She has degrees in economics, international studies and journalism. She likes writing about businesses taking risks and doing new things.
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