Balancing Act: 2017 Looks Like It Will Be A Big Year For Workplace Flexibility

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
Miami Herald

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) With a tightening labor force and an increased desire for work-life balance, 2017 is poised to be the year when the most talked-about workplace trend gains traction…workplace flexibility

Miami Herald

Jessi Berrin spends most days away from her desk at Baptist Health South Florida’s corporate offices in Miami, driving to events, sending email from the road and making her own schedule. While her work arrangement might seem nontraditional, in a way she represents the flexible work style millennials expect.

Berrin, 32, sees 2017 as the year when her generation gets more of what they want in the workplace: “The traditional 9 to 5 is not at all appealing to millennials, especially with technology moving faster than anyone can grasp. We want to work for employers who meet us where we are.”

Workplace flexibility used to be a benefit afforded to working mothers who wanted reduced hours. These days, flexibility is more about leaving work early to get to a fitness class and finishing up at night or working from home in the morning to avoid rush hour.

With a tightening labor force and an increased desire for work-life balance, 2017 is poised to be the year when the most talked-about workplace trend gains traction.

FlexJobs, a Colorado-based online flexible jobs listing service with 55 career categories, predicts the number of companies that offer flexibility will continue in an upward spike.

Already, 80 percent of 375 U.S. companies offer some sort of work flexibility options to employees, according to a 2015 survey by FlexJobs and nonprofit HR organization WorldatWork.

The most prevalent flexibility programs offered are tele-work days on an ad-hoc basis, flex time and shortened workweeks.

However, new options for flexibility go beyond traditional formats to include work-from-anywhere jobs, independent contract work and result-oriented positions.

Already, technology has made a desk in an office optional and led to the rise in people who work elsewhere some of the time.

Berrin, director of government and community relations at Baptist, uses evolving technology to participate in virtual meetings or get an instant answer while working outside the office. “I don’t have to be physically present to be at table so I am able to be way more productive with my time,” Berrin says. She says it is trust that will make this trend toward flexibility stick.

She files weekly reports and uses an online calendar to keep her supervisors informed. “I think managers will see that millennials are largely entrepreneurial and don’t need to be micromanaged.”

Workplace experts see 2017 as the year when companies will put more structure around flexible work options, provide more manager training and find ways to measure flexibility’s effectiveness. Improvement to everyday tools such as videoconferencing, shared calendars, computer monitoring programs and instant messaging will help bosses track progress and focus on accomplishments rather than face time.

With the job market tightening, staffing firms such as Robert Half believe companies of all sizes will allow more flexibility when possible. “If you have an excellent candidate with a hot skill set, he or she may have three other job offers,” says Laura Campin, division director at Robert Half International in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area. “You can promise promotions but it is cheaper to offer flexibility to entice that candidate to accept your offer.”

For example, flexibility in financial positions might allow for shorter days at slower times with the expectation of longer days at busier times, she says. “Some small employers don’t have capacity to offer formal flexible work programs, but they will be looking at what they can offer.”

The momentum around flexibility comes as working parents express more interest in changing jobs.

Despite an ongoing national conversation about family-friendly workplaces, the 2016 Bright Horizon Modern Family Index survey of 530 men and women shows that both genders continue to worry about what happens to their careers after having children and that nearly 70 percent of new dads say that fatherhood will likely prompt a job change for them.

The majority of parents said they would give up salary for flexibility. “I expect to see more employers take this issue seriously and adopt better program around flexible work practices,” says David Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons of Watertown, Mass., which has 1,000 centers in 43 states.

In Florida, Bright Horizons has 922 employees and operates 34 childcare and early-education centers. “Working parents want to be successful and they are thinking carefully about the right place to be.”

An emerging and continually viable option for employees who don’t get support for flexibility at their workplaces are “agile” work arrangements, people working in a temporary, contract, consultant or freelance capacity.

By 2018, as much as 50 percent of the workforce will be comprised of “agile” workers, according to the Workplace 2025 Study by Randstad U.S., an Atlanta-based national staffing firm that polled 1,500 executives and 3,100 workers. “Agile workers believe they are able to make more money on their own terms,” says Braulio Pena, managing director of Randstad Professionals in Miami, who sees some workers trying out employers before they commit. “There is much more interest in work-life balance.”

Increasingly, employers, when possible, are working to embed flexibility into their culture. Law firms are on the forefront of this trend.

As Hilarie Bass, co-president of Greenberg Traurig in Miami, takes on the role of president-elect of the American Bar Association, she intends to work from wherever she sits, a plane, American Airlines’ Admirals Clubs, a client’s office, her home. “In our business, clients are most concerned about the quality of legal work and the quality of service and less concerned about where the work is being done,” she says. While that flexibility over where the work gets done will help lawyers better manage their lives, it doesn’t mean fewer work hours, she says. “The downside is everyone is expected to be reachable anytime by cell.”

Flextime: An employer requires workers to be in the workplace on certain days or available for a certain number of core hours each day. The employee has flexibility in setting his or her schedule.

Compressed work weeks: According to a survey on workplace flexibility by WorldatWork, the “4/10” workweek, where employees work four 10-hour days in the office, followed by three days off, is the most common alternative work schedule. Another popular option for achieving work-life balance is the “9/80” arrangement: Individuals work nine-hour days Monday through Thursday and get every other Friday off.

Telecommuting: Working from anywhere, at any time, is quickly becoming the norm at many companies, thanks to advances in technology such as cloud-based applications, online video and virtual meeting rooms. With this arrangement, employees work a portion or all of their normally scheduled work hours from a remote location.

Job sharing: A program in which two people share a position, each working part of the week.
Part-time work: A work schedule that is less than full-time but is at least half of the regularly scheduled full time.

Mortgage and real estate: Zillow, Homeward Residential and American Advisors Group have recently recruited for remote jobs in mortgage and real estate. Mortgage loan officer, underwriter and mortgage processor are some common remote job titles in this category.

Human resources and recruiting: Aon Hewitt, Xerox and IT Pros have recently recruited for remote jobs in HR and recruiting. Recruiter, human resources specialist and human resources manager are some common remote job titles in this category.

Accounting and finance: Wells Fargo, Citi, and Ally Financial have recently recruited for remote jobs in accounting & finance. Accountant, bookkeeper and auditor are some common remote job titles in this category.

Pharmaceutical: CVS Health, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Pharmaceutical Product Development have recently recruited for remote jobs in pharmaceutical. Pharmacist, clinical research associate and account manager are some common remote job titles in this category.

Education and training: K12, Kaplan and Connections Education have recently recruited for remote jobs in education & training. Online tutor, adjunct faculty and virtual teacher are some common remote job titles in this category.

Source: FlexJobs, the leading job service for telecommuting and other flexible jobs, analyzed more than 100,000 job listings from the past year to identify five of the top career categories where the number of remote job listings has increased significantly. FlexJobs also has highlighted 10 great flexible jobs hiring now in Miami.
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life.

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