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Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has a message for fellow business leaders: Your employees want flexible work arrangements.
Branson was introduced to flexible work in 2005 after the birth of his first child. “I found myself out of a job,” he writes in a recent blog post.” Not because I didn’t have the right skills, or experience, or commitment to my employer, but because I wanted to spend an extra day each week with my family.”
Like many others, the billionaire says that he was clueless about flexible work until he needed it himself. However, he has since become a staunch advocate for this type of work. In a previous interview on “In Depth with Graham Bensinger,” Branson revealed that he was able to spend ample time with his kids when they were young because he’s a “great believer in delegation and working from home.”
In fact, he worked from the Branson family’s houseboat at the beginning of his career instead of a remote office. “The kids would literally be crawling around the floor,” he said. “I might be changing a nappy [or] or having a meeting.” As a result, he says his family is extremely close.
But a flexible work policy is just as beneficial for businesses, Branson writes in his latest blog post. Though the list of advantages are endless, here are Branson’s top three reasons why employers should get behind the concept of flexible work:
Research shows that a majority, 87 percent, of the U.K.’s full-time workforce either works flexibly or wishes they could, writes Branson.
The stats are equally high for U.S. workers. A survey conducted by the career site FlexJobs found remote work to be the most sought-after perk, with 81 percent of employees selecting this as the type of work flexibility they want most.
Employees desire flexible work arrangements for many reasons but Branson writes that “having more control over work-life balance, finding it generally useful and cutting down on commuting time” are the most commonly cited ones.
If most workers are seeking jobs that offer remote work, then companies that offer this perk are already at a competitive advantage.
“So if you want to find, attract and keep the best employees, you need to build flexible working and flexible hiring into your talent strategy,” writes Branson. “This means making it clear in your job adverts that you are open to flexible working.”
Some major tech companies are already doing just that. In 2017, Amazon announced it would be hiring 5,000 remote workers by year’s end and Apple recently posted a job advertisement seeking employees for work-from-home positions.
Branson also notes that flexible work is not just for low-level employees but should also be offered for positions higher up in the pipeline so that “rising stars have flexible jobs to progress to.”
Contrary to popular belief, part-time employees and remote workers still have high productivity and engagement levels, writes Branson.
Peter Hirst, the associate dean of executive education at MIT Sloan School of Management, saw these results first hand after implementing a flexible work policy for his employees. He tells CNBC Make It, that this work redesign created motivated and fulfilled employees “who are passionate about what they’re doing.”
Flexible work also impacts overhead costs and saves companies money by reducing office space, say both Branson and Hirst, while also cutting a company’s carbon footprint.
The Virgin founder adds that the benefits of flexible work are endless and he’s optimistic about the future of this work style. “Whilst the pace of change may be slower than I’d like,” he writes, “the growth in the number of forward-looking employers means that the workplace is finally starting to catch up.”
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