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Flexibility In The Workplace – How Does It Motivate Employees?

by Tony Boatman, on Mar 18, 2016 12:00:00 AM

What do you think are the best employee motivators in your company? Pay-rises, bonuses, extra holiday, business trips... What is it that motivates you personally?

Your answer might be very different to the person sat next to you, or downstairs from you, or upstairs from you – there seem to be many different answers to the question.

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The different answers also seem to depend on the different circumstances you might find in a company, from age generation to job type to current salary and progression opportunities. Think about it, offering someone in a junior position who never leaves the office the opportunity of a business trip might be exactly what they need to motivate them to work hard. However, try offering the same business trip as a reward to a sales person who spends a lot of their time on the road, it might not motivate them in the same way. An extra day off or a pay rise on the other hand might be exactly the motivator they need.  

A particularly interesting motivator is work-life-balance and flexibility. Work-life-balance isn’t a new concept but seems to have become more important in the last decade.

For example, recent research has suggested that a quarter of UK workers would be willing to take a pay cut to work less hours. In the past, this might have been seen as an absurd thing to do but as the workplace changes, flexibility in how we work and when we work has become a crucial part of the job.

A work-life-balance can be defined as a state of equilibrium achieved between working priorities and private/personal lifestyle.

In effect, workers should be able to enjoy their personal time outside of the business environment without guilt or worry about work all the time. 

Whilst money rewards still exist as a motivator, there is more call for a work/life balance and flexible hours from millennials. In some cases, they would rather take a slightly lower salary but have a good work-life-balance and have flexibility in how they work.

Flexibility and work-life-balance is important because life outside of work is important. What flexibility allows is that when you do want to leave slightly early and go for dinner or when you want to take a class after work, you know you can.

Now of course flexibility is a give and take process. You can’t suddenly work a 25-hour week without giving something back. That means you might be expected to go in early one day or leave late because at the end of the day, afterall the work still needs doing.

Flexibility might even be considered a reward. You’ve been working extra hard on a project and you’ve worked until 10pm every night for two weeks to get the work finished and as a reward, you can take an extra day off next week.

There has even been research in recent years as to whether a 4-day working week would work for some companies. The idea being you work longer hours for four days and then get an extra day off each week that you can claim as your own.

This might even help to satisfy the flexible working and work-life-balance factor that more and more employees are asking for.

There is definitely an argument for flexible working and it’s based on the idea that happy workers are hard workers and if letting someone go home at 3pm on a Friday means they’ll be more motivated on Monday, maybe it’s exactly what you need to motivate employees.

Flexible working won’t be a motivator for everyone, and to some, having to work longer days to get a bit of time off every now and then isn’t something they want to do. But it is certainly becoming a consideration for many companies, especially as more workers are arguing that non-flexible working could be a deal-breaker.

Flexible working goes beyond just time. With technology becoming more powerful and mobile all the time, part of flexible working might be working from home on a Friday instead of facing the commute.

If happy workers really are hard workers, maybe flexible working is something you should consider in your company to motivate your employees. 

You may also want to consider how you can improve employee engagement in the workplace:


Topics:Engagement & Productivity