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Increase flexibility in positions and the work environment

People in the U.S. who are employed full time spend an average of 8.8 hours a day at work. Time spent at work is more than the average person spends sleeping (about seven hours), participating in leisure activities (three hours), and caring for or helping family and friends (one hour).2 Employers that want to keep employees satisfied and recruit top talent need to encourage and support a healthy life-work blend among workers. Now more than ever, workers are seeking positions that offer flexibility and allow workers to integrate personal obligations into professional responsibilities for a fluid life-work experience.

When organizations think about flexibility, they often think about flexible work arrangements, like different schedules or remote work. But there’s more to flexibility than when and where employees work; it is also how they work. Here are four ways employers can grant employees flexibility within their positions and work environment:

Research on “employee empowerment” as a tool for engagement dates back to the 1990s, when the term became a buzzword for organizations across the United States. Empowerment through flexibility is more important than ever for employees and people managers. Consider how flexibility can work for your organization, and you might experience a decrease in burnout and chronic stress.

Different management styles influence the degree to which employees play a decision-making role, how information is exchanged between management and employees, and how employees receive support from management. Management styles impact how employees perceive themselves and their workplaces, and these perceptions impact their behaviors. Micromanaging employees (spending excessive time controlling details and processes) can cause adverse effects, such as increasing stress and lowering productivity. Not managing employees at all can make them feel aimless and checked out. Managers should strive for a middle ground by setting goals and offering resources to help employees accomplish tasks without prescribing exact ways.

Employees who participate in decision-making are more engaged, motivated, and productive. Employees feel a sense of inclusion and self-efficacy when they have some influence on their workplace outputs, policies, and practices. Employers should consider implementing a shared decision-making process annually, in which supervisors and their direct reports clearly define and negotiate their roles, responsibilities, and support needs in writing. Employees should be able to provide feedback on their managers and how they were supported by them in the past year. This varies from traditional performance assessment tools – where managers only provide feedback to direct reports – and allows for more employee engagement and helps leadership understand what flexibility means to their workers.

Mental Health America research shows that flexible work arrangements were associated with the healthiest workplaces across all industries. Flexible work arrangements may include earlier or later start/end times, schedules with availability on certain days (e.g., 10 hours a day Monday to Thursday instead of eight hours a day Monday to Friday), or the ability to work remotely for some or all of the employee’s work week. Remote work is any work that is done off the main site. Flexible work allows employees to determine a work schedule that works best for them, which helps workplaces retain a productive, engaged, and confident workforce.

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