Many of us have personally experienced working over weekends or holidays, or have pulled all-nighters to complete a project on time. For better or for worse, technology allows us to work at any time for longer hours in almost any location. With technology enabling us to stay connected 24/7, it is no surprise that employees desire more time off and are seeking out more flexible and personalized work arrangements. Time has never been more in demand.
Time Out: What Employees Really Want
In our Mercer 2017 Global Talent Trends study, we asked employees what would make them move from one company to another. From a list of many options, the top six answers were all related to more time-off or greater work flexibility – that’s a very strong trend. Clearly, companies and managers are being challenged by rising expectations from employees to “Make work work for me”, and many are getting creative in how to make balancing life and work easier.
Employees say they are keen on time-off benefits, such as reducing the normal working week down to 4 days, additional paid holidays, shortened 9-to-5 work days, half-days off during festivities, monthly half-day Fridays, or summer Fridays. My personal favorite is a 5-year plan at 80% pay: four years working full-time with the fifth year off. This emerging pattern goes across generations, applying also to Baby Boomers and Generation X, not just millennials. In April, Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) announced that it is offering 3 days of leave to all new grandparents. One of its directors said: “Our ethos is that LIFE takes priority over work, which is why we uphold ‘LIFE-work priority’ rather than work-life balance”. This is a great example of how organizations are stepping outside the traditional confines and offering benefits that really speak to their people. It also acknowledges that more are staying in the workforce longer, in full- or part-time roles, and are no longer traditional retiree grandparents.
My personal favorite is a 5-year plan at 80% pay: four years working full-time with the fifth year off.
The trend to offer more time off gained momentum last year with some high-profile employers offering global parental leave. Companies like Vodafone and AXA have stepped out from the crowd by offering parental leave at a global level – regardless of the national norms – and we’re seeing more companies move away from using national laws or industry benchmarks to set their strategies. Family care leave, paid or unpaid, is time off for employees to care for their loved ones, be they children, spouses, parents, parents-in-law, siblings, or grandchildren. As per Mercer’s 2016 Global Parental Leave report, two-thirds of companies worldwide provide family care leave to their employees. More progressive companies are acknowledging that eldercare is just as important as childcare, as the population ages and more working people need to devote time to others in their life, this will be a differentiator.
Time Well-Spent: What Individual Managers Can Do
- Have a conversation with those you manage about what would make their work situation better for them (most of the time people don’t know what is available).
- Be honest about what flexibility makes sense in their particular job. Is there a need for working with others, learning and/or the need to offer support to junior people – how can they ensure these activities happen with the arrangement they are proposing?
- Create a culture where it’s not just women or senior people that work from home or secure flexible work options. While working from home may not be the right type of flexibility for everyone, having the opportunity to work in a variety of ways seems to be hitting the right note for many.
Employees know when their company is listening to and caring for them as individuals. Check out Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends study to find out more about how employees’ desire for personalization and flexibility are shaping the way we work.