Flexible Work Policies: Good for Companies and Employees
A successful business requires not only a great product or service, but also a culture where employees can thrive. Here at InspiringApps, we believe one way to help build a vibrant and diverse team is through flexible work policies.
We are not alone in believing in the value of flexible work environments – a large portion of the American workforce desires more control over when, where, and how they work. According to Gallup’s most recent State of the American Workplace report, “More than half of employees (53%) say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance is “very important” to them when considering whether to take a new job. Similar numbers of employees (51%) say they would change jobs for one that offered them flextime, and 37% would do the same for a job that offered them the ability to work where they want at least part of the time.”
While flexible work policies can make employees healthier, happier, and more productive, it’s important to note that businesses also reap significant additional benefits. In this post, we’ll discuss what constitutes flexible work policies, and explore how to leverage the advantages they offer. We’ll also comment on some potential challenges and how to address them for the benefit of the company and the employees.
Telecommuting is typically top of mind when people think of flexible work policies. While working remotely from a company’s office is undoubtedly a highly sought after situation within flexible arrangements, there are many other possibilities. Reduced hours, flex hours (where employees set some or all of their schedule), job-sharing, compressed workweeks, and even extended sabbaticals are all flexible options a company might offer.
Many companies implement some combination of the above list. For example, at InspiringApps, we encourage employees to work out of the office two days a week. We also are willing to employ people on a part-time basis, and give employees a high degree of flexibility around their daily schedules. This works great for us but is far from the only way to do it. There are an incredible number of combinations possible and it’s worth considering what scenarios could be successful for your team, beyond the typical “8 to 5” in the office.
Office work environments did not come into being by chance – they often provide an excellent environment for employees to collaborate and can accelerate innovation, creativity, and productivity. So, why then, are so many individuals expressing a desire to work outside an office? There are a range of benefits that employees often experience:
Improved Work Quality & Effectiveness: Flexible hours enable people to work when they are their freshest and most productive, whether that be early in the morning or late at night. Likewise, workers can take a break when they need it, rather than pushing harder than they should, causing burn-out in times of stress or difficulty.
Greater Ability to Meet Family & Personal Needs: Rather than taking time off for everything from going to the doctor to managing home repairs to watching a kids’ sporting event, workers with flexible schedules have the freedom to do those things and then work at a different time of day. Childcare costs can also be drastically reduced if a couple both have flex schedules, enabling one to handle morning duties and the other after school.
Less Stress & Time in Commuting: Obviously those who are working entirely from home skip out on a commute entirely – often adding an easy two hours of time back to their day for work or play. But even those who still commute benefit from flexible work hours because they can travel at non-peak times.
Improved Health: A study from University of Minnesota reported that flexible schedules enabled employees to get more sleep and improved quality of sleep, leading to higher energy levels and reduced emotional exhaustion. In addition, workers were more likely to seek medical help when ill, returning to work more quickly as a result. In a similar vein, a paper published in the American Sociological Review reported that employees who were given full reign over their schedules and evaluated on results, not hours worked, were happier, healthier, and less stressed. The positive effects even cascaded down to employees’ children.
For flexible work policies to really be successful, they must be a win for both the employees and the company. Thankfully, evidence shows that both parties really do benefit. Some significant wins for the company include:
Broader Talent Pool: The tech industry is often especially challenged to find and recruit talent, given the high demand for certain job skills. By offering flexibility, businesses can widen their applicant pool to candidates in other parts of the country, or even the world. Flexible work policies open the door to hiring military spouses, people who want to travel, freelancers, and those who live in rural or economically depressed areas, among others. Millennials also highly value flexibility as a benefit.
Lower Expenses & Environmental Impact: Depending on the specific policies you have in place, flexible workplaces often help companies reduce costs for office space and other overhead expenses. With approximately 25% of its workforce currently working from home from 2-5 days per week, Dell now saves roughly $12M a year in real estate costs. They estimate that they also emit 35,000 fewer metric tons of greenhouse gas as a result of fewer employees commuting on a daily basis.
Greater Employee Productivity: One commonly stated concern about remote work is that employees are slacking off – a fear that “if I can’t see you, you’re not really working.” In reality, the opposite is almost always true. CNN Money cites several reports showing that the combination of office distractions (e.g. ambient noise, other conversations, ringing phones) and regular interruptions by co-workers lead to a loss of focus, and thus productivity, as the employee needs to re-orient to their work after each interruption.
Further, Gallup reports that employee engagement actually climbs when employees spend some time working remotely.
As noted above, employees are often less stressed when given flexible work arrangements. This positively impacts productivity for the company as well, for it’s easier to generate great work when you’re not exhausted and anxious. Likewise, because employees often shift work hours to accommodate appointments or events, rather than taking time off, the company benefits from their time.
Increased Company Loyalty: With so many Americans desiring flexible policies for the reasons above, the likelihood of retaining top professionals increases when you offer flexibility. Losing talented employees can be a significant setback for a company because of the loss of expertise, as well as the additional cost incurred in finding a suitable replacement. Recruiting requires considerable time and money, not only to find and hire a new employee but also to on-board them.
While there are definite benefits to flexible work policies, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t potential pitfalls. Here are some areas that are important to consciously navigate.
Formal Policies: The best options are spelled out for the company at large, not just granted at the discretion of a particular manager. Not only does the latter lead to inconsistency in interpretation and execution, but the benefits could also disappear when leadership changes. Further, without a formal policy, there is greater risk for employees that they will be dinged in promotions or pay. On the company side, a lack of written expectations makes it harder to address problematic behavior or performance associated with flexible arrangements.
The Bottom Line: While work/life balance does lead to healthier employees, it’s important to ensure that the policies put in place also support business goals. For example, Inc. Magazine reports that people performing rote tasks often are less productive while working remotely, while those doing creative tasks can be 11% to 20% more productive. So, if the tasks you need to accomplish fall into the former category, you may need to put in place more detailed expectations to ensure productivity isn’t lost.
Team Cohesion: It’s possible to have a cohesive, collaborative, and effective team, even if employees are working in different locations or on different time schedules. However, this will not just happen by chance! Managers need to be trained on how to build connection and trust between employees, especially when they are not co-located. Consistent – but not necessarily daily – connection through phone calls, texts, emails, or video conferencing is important. Likewise, encouraging the full team to be physically present for strategic meetings, events, or noteworthy celebrations helps to cultivate relationships.
While not without its challenges, InspiringApps has benefitted greatly by implementing flexible work policies for our company. If you’re interested in learning more, we invite you to attend our panel discussion at this year’s Boulder Startup Week. Sign up here to join us for what promises to be a great event.
Our culture is one of our most valuable assets. Fourteen years ago, we set out to create a safe, open environment for employees to grow and thrive. We committed to hiring a diverse staff that represented and embraced our core values, and we listened to them. This year, our work paid off with an official Great Places to Work ® Certification™ validated by our fabulous team. Strong company culture can give your company an advantage by fostering loyalty, creativity, and motivation. But what are the ingredients of positive company culture? In the past 14 years in business, InspiringApps has matured from a flat organization to one with an outstanding leadership team. In InspiringApps’ infancy, our culture was driven by the personalities of the relatively few people involved. But as the company grew, we were careful to emphasize the characteristics that fostered a positive work environment and eliminated any contrary to the things we’ve come to value— empathy, inclusion, and personal growth for our employees. It is much more challenging to make cultural changes with an existing team. So we aim to hire people who share those values from the start. What is Company Culture? Every company has a culture. While it may form organically, greater success will come from consistent cultivation. Intentional company culture combines organizational values and mission with the rewards of employment that come in four main categories: Loyalty-based, performance-based, opportunity-passed, and lifestyle-based. No style is better than the other; it’s dependent on the company and the employees hired. For instance, if your staff prefers lifestyle-based culture—flexible work or other perks—over performance-based culture, including raises and promotions for a job well done, the employees may stay dissatisfied and leave to find a company culture that suits their preference. The best cultures dovetail perfectly: employees and leaders focus on the same mission and encourage rewards. Discovering the perfect combination, however, doesn’t happen overnight. Why Do Your Employees Need an Intentional Company Culture? The job market is booming, with qualified candidates searching for a better way to spend their work hours. A recent survey found that 79% of employees who left their jobs did so because of a lack of appreciation, and 50% said they were more motivated by appreciation than money. This sounds like a job for company culture! In an ideal world, company culture and performance should work in tandem. Employees who are happy with their jobs have higher satisfaction rates. However, lousy work culture can hurt employees, bringing high turnover rates, burnout, and subpar work. Consistency and time are part of the formula for creating an intentional company culture. There’s no shortcut. Influential leaders seek to understand what employees appreciate, what causes them pain, hear their suggestions for improvement, follow through with promised changes, and repeat that process frequently. Intentional company culture benefits from open minds and a commitment from everyone, especially the leadership team. InspiringApps understands this fundamental truth and implements practices that demonstrate that. An InspiringApps employee explains it best: “I've never been part of a company or even heard of one that not only prioritizes production and quality for the client(s) but also functionality and comfortability of the work environment. InspiringApps has mastered the balance between keeping the clients happy and keeping the employees happy. For me personally, hours are flexible because of my schedule, and the entire team is always open to communication when I need assistance or have a question. My bosses check in on me to ensure I'm doing okay with my work even when I have not reached out for help. Every other employee and my bosses are truly excited to have me on the team, and make that clear to me everyday, which is why I feel so comfortable and open to expressing my thoughts and ideas on projects.” How to Develop and Maintain a Good Company Culture Engaged employees are critical for business success. Experience is the best teacher, and we’ve learned plenty of lessons regarding things that keep our employees a happy part of the team. We built our culture slowly and methodically over the past 14 years, and these are some of the most successful initiatives that have inspired more than 40% of our staff to stay with us for more than five years. Promote from Within Today’s employees are looking for a company with opportunities for career advancement and appreciate roles with a clear path to growth and promotions, as they give them personal goals to work towards. Along the employee journey, InspiringApps offers professional development opportunities that help our team stay on top of their skills, expand their capabilities and incorporate new and developing interests. By doing so, our employees are able to have long tenures at InspiringApps, while still remaining competitive. At the same time, we’re able to hire the best candidates for our growing positions, right from our own team. “I’ve been able to get help in building new skills, speak at conferences, and grow within the company throughout my time at InspiringApps,” said an InspiringApps employee. As the InspiringApps client roster scaled, so did our team. We promoted long-time employees into our development team lead roles, recognizing their wisdom and honoring their commitment to our team over their tenure. Offer Excellent Benefits Many start-ups, including InspiringApps, may be resource-constrained in the early days. Health and retirement benefits are expensive, so we focused first on benefits that didn’t require a direct cash outlay. Establishing a two-day-per-week remote work policy over a decade ago, accommodating part-time employees, and offering flexible work hours were all low-cost ways to treat our team with respect. “We’ve had a hybrid remote-work model for many years. Pre-pandemic, this was something that very few companies offered,” said an InspiringApps employee. “It was one of the reasons I chose this company.” As InspiringApps matured, we also added more traditional benefits. In addition to a 401k with match, profit sharing, and a generous and flexible PTO policy, we recently increased the company’s health premium contribution from 50% to 100% and added company-paid vision, dental, disability, and employee assistance (EAP). Be Inclusive Inclusivity is a mandate kept top-of-mind in the projects and clients we take on and the staff we hire and promote. In a historically homogenous industry like tech, inclusivity can be a challenge. Through intentional recruiting and a focus on providing opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups to join the field, InspiringApps is working to build a more diverse team that reflects the users we serve better. Promoting women in tech is one way we’ve made strides in our company. At InspiringApps, women make up 40% of our leadership team and more than a third of our employees—20% more than the U.S. average. Promoting diversity and inclusion provides various perspectives, which is essential for the challenges we’re addressing in our consumer apps. We consider it a competitive advantage as we continue to innovate for our clients. Additionally, we’ve made a concentrated effort over time to welcome new employees. Years ago that welcome included a team lunch on Pearl Street. Since our team has grown, that lunch is now digital – and the efforts to stay be inclusive extend much further than that. Communication and connection is ingrained into the way we set up projects, make progress on initiatives and more. Communicate Consistently Secrecy and unexplained decision-making from leaders lead to unengaged employees. Transparency is the name of the game. About 85% of employees are most motivated when they know what’s happening and why. “They place a great deal of trust in their employees,” said an InspiringApps employee. “Even to help make product decisions or suggestions to customers.” Open and frequent communication, including stand-ups and all-hands meetings, project or team demos, company newsletters, and social media, encourages employees to gain trust in leadership. Share company goals regularly so that your employees feel confident in knowing the direction they’re working. The more your employees see open communication from leaders and are encouraged to participate in decision making, the better communicators they’ll be with your clients, modeling the positive communication behaviors in everything they do. Technology is your friend when it comes to employee engagement—offering a Slack channel or other internal chat features, an employee app, or an intranet site where employees can share and talk directly to leaders can inspire a transparent culture. Conclusion We’re honored to be recognized as a Great Place to Work. But that recognition is only a small window into the little things that our team is doing every day to reinforce the culture we’ve been nurturing for years. It defines our expectations for the way we treat one another and anyone who interacts with InspiringApps. It certainly makes InspiringApps a pleasant place to work, but we think you’ll also see the results when you work with us and in the apps we create. Building award-winning apps starts with a language that’s foreign to many of us: code. For more than 14 years, our development team has built easy-to-use iOS, Android, and web applications for more than 100 companies in a dozen industries. See our work.
25 days ago
With technology and a collaborative spirit, a meaningful new brand is born. BOULDER, CO -- After nearly a decade and a half of the same look and feel, InspiringApps is glowing up–and it only took pivot to remote work for inspiration to strike. The company, an industry-leading web and mobile app and software solutions group headquartered in Boulder, officially launched an innovative new brand and website encompassing its roots and plans for the future. A Collaborative Innovation While some companies struggled to work collaboratively and adjust to the new reality of remote teams, the InspiringApps team took on the massive challenge to become more cohesive than before. “Emerging from over a year of pandemic isolation and recognizing that InspiringApps had used the same branding for over a decade, it was the perfect time for a change. Our teams are doing amazing work for start-ups and huge enterprises alike. I welcomed a fresh perspective on our logo and color schemes,” Brad Weber, founder and president of InspiringApps shared. InspiringApps’ new logo reflects the company’s collaborative nature, combining efforts from our UI/UX and marketing teams. “We collaborated a lot remotely; we had Slack open, cameras on, and worked from shared Adobe XD artboards, moving elements around while we discussed them. It was a powerful way to leverage technology for a smoother, more collaborative process,” Becca Collins, UI/UX designer, explains. “Somehow, working remotely with shared screens produced even better results than we could have achieved if we were in the same office,” Aaron Lea, Art Director, noted. A Meaningful Brand The team started with a concept that encapsulated the InspiringApps foundation: the original location in Boulder, Colorado, the code that developers use to build web and mobile apps, and the core values the team holds at the center of everything they do. Designers visually translated these elements into three simplified shapes: a triangle to encompass the mountainous Flatirons of Boulder, and a semicolon and less-than symbol representing code. Designers merged the three symbols into an abstract I and A–the company’s abbreviated initials–for a unique and meaningful new logo. Although the company leads with intentional design with clients, rapid growth brought an increased demand for the services and little time for internal branding. For several years, the original design established the InspiringApps brand, but that logo had limitations. “The logo served us well initially, but it was hard to work with. It was time for a change,” Aaron said. A newly designed dynamic website accompanied the brand’s unveiling. On the new site, visitors can find valuable resources and downloads, case studies, and advice for companies considering a mobile or web app. The site also includes case studies from past clients to inspire new ideas. “Our goal is to provide a design and web experience that reflects our mission and core values. We’re committed to putting just as much care and intention into your project as we did with our own,” Brad shared.
1 month ago