For me personally, I ventured into Flexible Working as a solution for making it work between my family and my career. But we need to get out of the misconception of linking work flexibility with working parents. In today’s world, flexible working is for everyone and it benefits everyone.
Flexibility has become increasingly important to various groups due to a combinations of factors such as psycho-graphics (thinking outside the box, measuring results over face time), demographics (global economy), technology (ensuring productivity anywhere and anytime) and the state of the labor market (challenging economy with focus on cost reduction).
So who are these groups….
I’m going to look at this more from a perspective of my country, but can guarantee the story is the same globally.
Parents caring for young kids: In Sri Lanka women are entitled to 84 days of paid maternity leave, which is quite remarkable. However children require constant attention from parents at least until they are about 10 years old. Flexible working arrangements such as flexi-hours, part-time work and remote working would be hugely beneficial for parents such that they can be there for the children as needed.
People caring for aging elders: In Sri Lanka we thrive on a family centered culture; as such caring for elderly parents is a given. With both men and women being part of the labor market today, this is increasingly becoming a challenge in many households. Thus it is imperative to have flexible working arrangements such as flexi-time and teleworking to support employees with their family duties.
People located in rural areas: The working population is usually centered around the main cities in any country. However it is unfair and impractical to expect all suitable resources to move to the cities to find work. Instead a better approach is to allow people to remain in their localities but provide opportunities for them to work flexibly. In Sri Lanka, the corporate world is centered around Colombo. But there is a lot of valuable untapped talent in other parts of the country (such as the north and south). Remote working and virtual working will go a long way in ensuring the full talent pool of the country is well utilized while paving the way for development throughout the country. Another point of view is that flexible working will enable all those talented Sri Lankan resources working in other countries to come back to their home country to experience the best of both worlds.
People looking to retire: It is said that by 2020, one billion people around the world will be aged 60 or over. This demographic shift is having a huge impact on the global labor market. The same is true for Sri Lanka which is also rapidly turning into an aged population. Even though the defined retirement age is set to 55, more and more mature workers want to continue working beyond this set retirement age. These mature workers are demanding flexible working arrangements. This is good news for organizations as they get to continue to tap into this talented segment which is the most experienced from the available labor market today.
Those who want to go back to school: Sri Lanka has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. As such education has been built into our culture. Even in the corporate world there is a high % of employees longing to continue their further studies. However working full-time and studying full-time is no easy feat and only a very handful are up for the challenge. Organizations can help improve this situation by providing flexible arrangements for employees seeking to go back to school.
The millennial employee: It is said that millennials are 3 times as likely to quit a job due to lack of flexibility than the previous generations. Considering that millennials will be the force behind the labor markets in the coming decades, organizations would do well by venturing into flexible working options without further delay. As Sri Lanka aims to focus on a knowledge economy, it is imperative for organizations to start looking at novel work arrangements as aspired by young job seekers.
So as you can see Flexible Working is for anyone and everyone. Each one of you, depending on your need can Make It Work with flexibility.