Flexible work is a priority for today’s small business employees, survey finds

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Flexible hours and remote work options increasingly are priorities for today’s small business employees. These findings comes from a joint study of 314 U.S. small business employees and 47 small business owners conducted by Justworks, an all-in-one benefits, HR, and payments platform for small business, and SquareFoot, a marketplace for commercial real estate. Among the employees surveyed, 70% ranked flexible work hours as very important and 68% believe flexible hours have a positive impact on their teams. Similarly, 57% consider remote capabilities very important, while 60% believe enabling remote work has a positive impact on their teams.

The study also found that the ability to shape their own work schedule and workplace are growing considerations for employees when looking for a job. Almost half, 42%, of the employees surveyed indicated they would take a lower-paying job if it offered a greater degree of workplace flexibility.

Challenged to find talent (Manpower reports that one-third of employers globally are experiencing difficulty filling jobs.), many small business are responding to employees’ needs for flexible and remote work options. The Justworks and SquareFoot research found that 76% of the employers surveyed believe offering such options has a big impact on their ability to hire. Plantronics survey of a few years ago also found that offering flexible, mobile and remote work options assisted small business owners (64%) in hiring and retaining key employees. Of the employees surveyed by by Justworks and SquareFoot, 63% work at companies that offer flexible work hours and 59% work at companies with remote work capabilities.

Technology supports flexible and remote work

Today’s cloud computing and Unified Communications (UC) technology make it easy for small businesses to  support flexible and remote employees, enabling team members wherever they are to collaborate and communicate with each other and access company resources.

Cloud computing:  Remote cloud servers, which can be public, private or a hybrid configuration that includes both, run applications and store company documents. Employees simply log into a web-based service to access all the applications and data they need. A recent report from Intuit found that 62% of small businesses are operating in the cloud today, up 37% from just two years ago

Unified Communications: UC consolidates all of the different types of communication devices – desk phones, PCs, smartphones and tablets – into one integrated data and voice network so they can talk to each other digitally. With UC, employees can take and place calls and collaborate with each other and customers via e-mail, instant messaging (IM), web and video conferencing and fax through the convenience of one interface. Whether calling or conferencing, noise-canceling headsets ensure that employees can hear and be heard wherever they are

Research conducted last year by IDG Enterprise found that 56% of enterprises and 66% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) had plans to implement or upgrade Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) solutions in 2016.  Extending UC capabilities to remote users can help boost their productivity, ensuring a more efficient use of their time.

Get started with flexible work options

For small businesses that haven’t already implemented a flexible work program, Chad Brooks recommends several steps to take in “5 Ways to Make Your Workplace More Flexible” for Business News Daily. Among them:

  • Plan a flex strategy: Decide which departments and individuals will be eligible for flexibility, what kinds of flex options you want to offer and who has the final say on flex work arrangements. Also determine metrics for tracking productivity.
  • Devise a trial run: A trial run with one department or a small group from different departments provides time needed to work out kinks and gather data. The trial could last for a month and once it’s complete, adjustments can be made before launching the program for everyone.
  • Train managers:  Train managers to make sure the flex policy is working. They should learn how to ask questions to ascertain things are working and be available through a variety of communication methods, including phone, email, instant messaging, etc.  They also should schedule regular one-on-one phone or periodic face-to-face meetings.

Aided by new technology, flexible and remote work is changing traditional ideas about when and where work gets done. It also opens the door to a wider pool of talent.

About Judi Hembrough

Judi leads Americas Marketing strategy and go-to-market programs for the Small and Medium Business (SMB) customer segment at Plantronics. Judi has been a marketing director at Plantronics for 10 years in various roles focused on Strategic Alliances Marketing, SMB and Home & Home Office solutions. Prior to Plantronics, Judi was President of William-Christie Associates, Inc. -- a management consulting practice, for 10 years where she guided numerous companies such as Palm, Intuit, CBS MarketWatch and HID, in driving new initiatives.