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ATD Blog

Flex for Success: Understanding the Flexible Workplace

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Employers face significant challenges in the competitive marketplace for talent. Attracting and retaining skilled employees requires many considerations. One of these must be an openness to innovation. Examples include continued flexibility available through remote and hybrid work environments and introducing the four-day workweek. Such modern workplace benefits can significantly expand the talent pool, but for some organizations, these approaches feel unrealistic. Those organizations that can find a way to integrate flexibility into the workplace are increasingly finding they can do so without losing productivity while also gaining greater talent interest.

The pandemic played a pivotal role in accelerating the adoption of remote work. Companies that still embrace flexibility, including remote work and alternative schedules such as the four-day workweek, gain a significant advantage in attracting top talent. The benefits of the four-day workweek are becoming more widely acknowledged. For example, a 2023 study by 4 Day Week Global conducted in the US and Canada found that of the 41 companies that participated in a four-day workweek trial, 89 percent of respondents indicated they would be implementing or planning to continue the practice, with the remaining 11 percent leaning toward continuing the four-day workweek. Companies rated the impact on attracting new employees at an 87 percent increase. Similarly, productivity increased by 77 percent, indicating the positive outcomes associated with this alternative work arrangement.

As employers adjust to the demands of the modern professional, let’s explore how organizations can meet employee expectations for flexibility while prioritizing company objectives.

What Is Workplace Flexibility?

Workplace flexibility means two things: providing the conditions for employees to thrive, and embracing the idea that employees can be productive no matter when or where they perform their work. As organizations consider a four-day workweek, for example, many need to ask their employees what can be done differently to allow the same amount of work to get done in fewer days. This involves managers and human resource leaders working with employees to establish clear shared goals that can be accomplished in a shortened work week.

By shifting conversations from task-related discussions to asking questions about how to achieve organizational goals in less time, you can create flexible work environments that meet your team’s specific needs while motivating their engagement for a larger shared goal. Employees want to feel understood, so making room for the needs of current and potential employees is crucial.

Cultivate a Culture of Trust

Flexible work environments are most effective in high-trust cultures. In such environments, employees feel safe speaking up, knowing their leaders have confidence in their abilities to get their work done regardless of when and where they work. Research shows that people who work in high-trust companies experience 74 percent less stress, 50 percent higher productivity, 40 percent less burnout, and 76 percent more engagement, ultimately leading to higher employee retention rates. Leaders can cultivate trust within their organizations by adopting a coaching approach—asking questions about employee work preferences, initiating conversations, actively listening, and making changes to meet employees’ needs.


This approach centers on coaching knowledge and skills to promote cultural awareness and drive behavioral change. It serves as a cornerstone of a coaching culture known for nurturing trust. Employees are an organization’s most valuable asset. Building trust fosters higher employee satisfaction and cultivates a flexible work environment characterized by mutual certainty, laying the foundation for organizational success.

Adapt to Meet Employee Expectations

Another component for work environment success is adapting to meet employees’ expectations and needs. The US Chamber of Commerce reports there are only 71 workers available for every 100 jobs in the US, indicating a significant challenge across industries and business sizes in attracting and retaining talent.

To address that worker shortage, businesses must pivot their offerings to meet the changing requirements of young professionals, particularly Gen Z and millennials. Understanding their expectations is key. Gen Z values flexibility and entrepreneurship, making flexible work environments highly attractive for them. Millennials prioritize purposeful work, necessitating that team leaders ensure employees understand the meaning behind their tasks. Their leaders, however, may belong to a different generation with different orientations and needs.

Organizations must find ways to bridge the gap, offering flexibility without compromising the expectation for productivity or output. This may mean different forms of flexibility for different employees.


Address the Talent Shortage

As companies grapple with talent shortages, fostering a flexible work environment emerges as a strategic approach to mitigate the impacts of hiring challenges. The adoption of flexible work arrangements such as the four-day workweek presents an opportunity for organizations to offer the benefits the job pool values most. Through this flexibility, companies not only address the preferences of younger generations but also demonstrate their commitment to accommodating diverse work styles and needs.

Embracing a culture of flexibility enhances employee satisfaction and engagement and positions organizations as desirable employers in the eyes of prospective candidates. In navigating talent shortages, implementing flexible work policies can serve as a platform for building resilient and adaptable workplaces that thrive even in the face of evolving workforce dynamics.

The Future Is Flexible

As more organizations embrace flexibility, cultivate trust, and remain adaptable, they can attract top talent and create an environment where employees feel valued and empowered to contribute meaningfully, regardless of location or working hours. This proactive approach addresses the preferences of younger generations but also demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and adaptability, positioning companies as employers of choice in today’s competitive job market.

About the Author

With more than 30 years of business experience, 20 years of executive leadership practice, and give years being part of and leading the global board of the world’s largest professional coaching association (International Coaching Federation), Dave Wondra brings an extraordinary skill set to today’s C-suite executives who seek transformational change.

His client list includes executives from a wide range of organizations, including some of the world’s most prominent and well-respected companies. Dave was an early pioneer in the coaching field and continues to advance and support the profession throughout the world.

Dave also has a variety of interests that allow him to apply his learning-practice approach to other areas of life, including trumpet performance, prairie restoration, and global travel.

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