Today’s employee wants to be free, independent and unique. Companies therefore need to revise their approach. The good news for them: The Holy Grail of the employment market exists.
The declining birth rate, which is also reflected in the age structure of companies, is leading to stagnating numbers of young skilled workers and thus to a greater urgency to address measures to recruit and retain employees. With the increasing shift away from an employer market to an employee market, it is more important than ever to meet the needs of (potential) employees. After all, these are considered the major key success factor of a company.
How needs are changing due to digitalization, globalization and social transformation
Even before the Covid pandemic, it was becoming increasingly clear that topics such as freedom, independence and uniqueness are gaining in importance for employees. This desire is being fueled by advancing digitalization, globalization and the transformation of society. For example, the number of single parents, working women and people who have to care for children and senior citizens at home is growing constantly. The pandemic and the resulting lockdowns and shutdowns are serving as a catalyst that is once again considerably accelerating the development toward the greatest possible flexibility.
The working world has been undergoing a transformation for quite some time. A transformation that not only affects the way we work, but also impacts individual lifestyles, corporate cultures and society as a whole.
What is important to employees today?
The demand for flexibility is increasing in all areas of life – but especially in the work environment. Employees no longer want to find themselves in an employment relationship with rigid structures. They prefer a corporate culture which allows them to work autonomously and have an impact through their activities. Companies with the flattest possible hierarchies that promote independent and proactive work are therefore currently in high demand. In addition, there is a clear shift from fixed framework conditions with regulated working hours and jobs to flexible models. 9-to-5 jobs are increasingly a thing of the past. Today, employees no longer adapt to the employer's fixed structures. The employer rather adjusts to the individual needs of its employees. Part-time work, annual working hours and working from home are just a few of the buzzwords currently discussed in this context. Some companies are now even prepared to offer their employees the option of working completely from home in the future. Block-time and flextime arrangements gradually disappear.
Working from home – a curse for some, a blessing for others
Recent studies that already include the Covid-19 period show that working from home can have both positive and negative effects on employees' work-life balance (1). For some people, for example, working from home can improve the quality of their relationship with their family. Remote work offers them flexibility in how they use their time, which in turn allows them to balance their paid work responsibilities with their personal life responsibilities. In addition, the time spent commuting to work is completely freed up. On the other hand, working from home can also blur the boundaries between work and family and make it more difficult to separate time for work and time for the family (2). On top of that, communication with colleagues, especially spontaneous exchanges, is made much more difficult.
The Holy Grail of the employment market
Research on work satisfaction shows that people who have more autonomy in deciding how to do their jobs have a higher level of personal well-being (3). So the solution should be to allow for the highest possible flexibility. It is important to trust your own employees to identify the most efficient way of working for themselves, and to offer them the opportunity to decide individually when and where they want to work. In order for independent and proactive work to be successful in the context of the new working models, companies must provide the structures and platforms that enable their employees to move freely and exchange information digitally within the corporate environment. A functioning hardware and software infrastructure lays the foundation for the success of these new forms of work. It is also essential that the employer provides physical premises that are primarily designed for communication and thus empower the new forms of collaboration.
Hybrid forms that still allow for a healthy and individual work-life balance and ensure both compatibility and the separation of work and private life provide an ideal solution. Companies that let their employees freely choose when they want to work from home and when they want to work in the office have thus found the Holy Grail.
Ideal work-life balance as an economic driver
By the way: Optimizing the work-life balance cannot only improve employees' loyalty to their company, but also stimulate entire industries. A German study estimates that the implementation of work-life balance measures will lead to the creation of approx. 221’000 additional jobs and a 1.6% increase in productivity per hour worked within 15 years.
Employers who today still focus on control instead of trust and flexibility are likely to be the losers of tomorrow.