The flexibility an organization and position provides is often directly related to a positive workplace atmosphere and employee satisfaction.
My professional career has included work for several different organizations, while I also had experiences with internships and high school/college jobs. I’ve experienced stark contrasts, from a strictly scheduled business to a very flexible company.
At one job the door locked at 8 a.m., so you’d better get there early, and a buzzer signaled the beginning and end of each break time (no this wasn’t a factory, it was an office). In another place, you were required to use all your PTO for maternity leave, with no way to accrue more until the next year. Or another where you had to use vacation time when there was a death in the family as they hadn’t developed a bereavement policy.
On the other end of the spectrum, one employer encouraged you to volunteer with community organizations during work time. Another allowed you to come in ahead of the start time in order to leave early to attend a personal event. One offered the flexibility to work in a professional capacity part-time to balance the needs of a young, growing family.
Without hesitation, I can tell you I’ve been the happiest when and where I had the most flexibility. You may wonder if this is just a personal story, but there is research to back up the power of workplace flexibility.
When AgCareers.com surveyed employees in agriculture about which benefits they valued most, women said flexibility was second only to health insurance. When we examined benefits a little closer by age of the respondent, there was no significant difference between women’s age groups in their desire for flexible working hours, indicating all women regardless of age place this benefit towards the top of their list.
In the survey, men also placed a high value on flexible hours, behind only health insurance and 401k/retirement (AgCareers.com Gender Roles & Equality in Agribusiness Survey).
AgCareers.com also surveyed agricultural employees on what would motivate them to leave their current job for a new opportunity. Flexibility was in the top five, landing at #4 behind career growth, higher pay and better benefits. Women said increased flexibility was more likely to motivate them to leave their job compared to males (AgCareers.com Candidate Motivation & Behavior in the Agricultural Industry Survey Report).
How are agricultural employers meeting this demand? Nearly 40% of agricultural employers said they had adopted a flexible staffing approach, most commonly flexibility in schedule, a work from home option, or core hours with flexibility outside of those core hours (2016-2017 AgCareers.com Agribusiness HR Review).
Now, it is understood that certain types of businesses and some positions make it difficult to offer flexibility. If you provide around the clock care of animals or need to keep the combine going to finish harvest before it rains, options may be limited. Examine how you can alternate staff to offer flexibility while still ensuring coverage, or offer other benefits and perks to offset the limited flexibility.
For more information on offering workplace flexibility, contact [email protected].
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.