The days of reporting for duty on a strict schedule of 9-to-5 may be behind us. As more companies embrace the benefits of flexible working, a seismic shift is happening in the way we think about and participate in “work.”

What is flexible working, exactly? And why should your company consider embracing a more flexible mindset in the way you cultivate talent? Read on for more insight into why many of today’s top companies are ditching the 9-to-5 for flexible working arrangements.

What is Flexible Working?

“Flexible working” means different things to different companies. To some, it’s allowing traditional employees the freedom to choose any or all of the following options:

  • Fully-remote or partially-remote telecommuting
  • “Flex schedules,” through which in-office hours are arranged to suit an individual’s needs (e.g. working four 10-hour shifts, rather than five eight-hour days)
  • Alternate daily schedules (e.g. working from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, rather than 9:00 am to 5:00 pm)
  • Part-time schedules consisting of fewer than 40 hours per week
  • “Job sharing” teams of two employees performing one job
  • “Results Only Work Environments” (ROWE) that prioritize results over hours worked
  • Unlimited vacation time packages

For other companies, flexible working isn’t just about work hours and locations. It’s about the ability to leverage a wider pool of worldwide talent by working with freelancers, agencies and other independent contractors.

WHY TOP COMPANIES ARE MAKING THE MOVE

New technology that makes it easy for people to communicate whether they’re in-person or remote has certainly played a role in the rise of flexible working arrangements. But the full picture of why companies are embracing work alternatives is much bigger.

Employee Morale

Anyone who’s ever felt chained to the desk for an arbitrarily set period of work will intuitively understand the impact of flexible work arrangements on employee morale. It turns out, there’s plenty of data to back it up. According to one study by PGi:

  • 82% of telecommuters reported lower stress levels
  • 80% of employees reported higher morale when working from home
  • 69% reported lower absenteeism

These findings have been confirmed over and over again by data from Gallup, Stanford University, SurePayroll, and ConnectSolutions, among others. Also worth noting is the advantage workplace flexibility offers when it comes to attracting and retaining Millennial talent.

Data from AfterCollege suggests that 68% of Millennial job seekers report that an option to work remotely would greatly increase their interest in specific employers. The Millennial Branding report found that 45% of Millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay.

Given these trends, it should come as no surprise that, according to the most recent “Freelancing in America” study, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers within a decade (by 2027). Forward-thinking companies should consider these trends to stay relevant and desirable for future talent.

Logistics Considerations

Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel suggests that embracing flexible teams can help companies execute their work more effectively. “Businesses are scrambling to adapt and keep up with the rapid pace of change in our world,” he says. “Traditional models of hiring no longer provide the agility businesses must have to access in-demand skills when and where they’re needed.”

In many ways, flexible working arrangements aren’t so much a perk as they are a necessity for global companies facing a growing need to connect with talent around the world. Companies embracing flexible work see the following benefits:

  • The ability to find top talent, regardless of location
  • The flexibility to engage specific talent for short- and longer-term projects
  • The capability to shift capital from team to team or project to project, as-needed

Embracing flexible work doesn’t just result in happier workers. It improves companies’ responsiveness and nimbleness — and, ultimately, their profitability.

Flexible Work in the Real World

In theory, flexible work makes sense. But what does it look like in practice? Let the following six examples give you a glimpse into the possibilities offered by flexible work arrangements:

Mid-Market Companies

  • FormAssembly sees remote work as facilitating a competitive advantage. “We’re results-oriented, more independent, and adaptable because we have no other choice if we want to stand a chance in the highly competitive job market and rapidly changing times.”
  • Flexible work arrangements are regularly cited as a perk in Medallia’s GlassDoor reviews, with one former employee praising the company’s “Very flexible work schedules (especially for parents who want to pick up their children after work).”

Large Employers

  • Over 20 percent of UnitedHealth Group‘s employees make use of the company’s telecommuting option, including nurses, auditors, analysts, and more.
  • ADP encourages remote work and telecommuting; its Careers Page even offers the option to filter for only those jobs that can be done from a home office.

Top Enterprise Companies

  • Apple hires At Home Advisors to assist with customer support, touting the benefits of its positions with the following description: “Comfort, convenience, and a no-hassle commute are all reasons people like to work from home.”
  • Dell’s “Connected Workplace” initiative offers employees a number of flexible work options including remote work, flextime, job sharing, part-time work, and compressed work weeks.

Transitioning to more flexible working arrangements isn’t without its challenges. However, as the companies cited above — and countless others like them — have discovered, any costs incurred are well worth the employee morale and logistics benefits flexible work offers.