Remote and Flexible?

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed herein are my own and no reflection of LibLime or its affiliates.

We all know times have changed. The past few years have been crazy for everyone.

The fallout from all the changes since 2019 has been remarkable and is still surprising us daily.

One of the largest changes has been the demand by employees to remain remote for work. In 2020 everyone went home except for essential workers, with the goal of stopping the virus in its tracks by everyone being in quarantining for 2 weeks. Then return to the offices, unscathed, uninfected (hopefully), and everything back to normal. We were all there, so I won’t bore you with recalling all that too much. The fact remains that the weeks turned into months, and for many, years of staying home. Even with the rollout of vaccines, many people still wanted to remain remote. Not necessarily due to covid fears, but because there were so many benefits to not commuting daily.

I’ll use myself as an example. There’d been several emails earlier in February 2020 about this strange virus and how it was being monitored, studied, etc. At the end of March, I was about to complete maternity leave. The company was going to make the best possible decision for its employees and would keep us all informed. I wasn’t sure if I was going back to the office or not, and as a new mom, I didn’t want to bring the virus home to my baby.  Mid March the announcement came out that everyone was going home for two weeks. I was glad to stay home with my baby but was not glad for a pandemic.

As time went on, going back to the office was not going to happen for a while. Fast forward to the present day, and most people with computer-based jobs are remaining remote. Per an article in Business News Daily, “Researchers polled 1,004 full-time employees throughout the U.S. about their productivity, their commutes and other facets of their lives. Among that group were 505 people who worked remotely. The study found that working from home not only benefits employees by eliminating their daily commutes, it also increases productivity and leads to healthier lifestyles. It’s a win-win situation that workers relish for its flexibility.” Having experienced this, it’s very true. Remote work is more flexible especially if you’ve got young children at home. However, balancing care-giving with meetings and deadlines is not easy. This is one of the major reasons that so many people left their jobs in 2021 according to an article by Forbes. The article also talked about a study by Skynova and the results found:

  • Of the remote employees surveyed, 65.4% had a flexible work schedule.
  • Nearly half of employees said a flexible schedule was more important than their salary.
  • Almost four out of five remote workers with inflexible schedules were looking to leave their current job.
  • Over 36% valued their flexible schedule more than PTO, and nearly half said having a flexible schedule is more important than their salary.
  • Employees with flexible schedules wake up between six and seven a.m.—those without wake up between five and six am.
  • With most people starting work between eight and 10 a.m., those with flexible work hours have more time in the mornings for themselves.
  • Employees with flexible schedules say they work fewer hours overall and think less about leaving.

The article also discusses a Topia study. Their website refers to them as “the leader in Global Talent Mobility.” In their press release from March 11, 2022, they state, “94% of employees agree that they should be able to work from anywhere, so long as they get their work done. Failure to provide that flexibility makes hiring and retention more difficult.” Realistically, it does make sense for many jobs, even ones that involve the SCRUM process could work this way too. As long as the work gets done on time, why should it matter what time of day work is happening? Meetings are the obvious exception, but even then, how many meetings could be reduced to a well-written email? Avoiding the traps of old-school workplace practices by revamping jobs to complement the modern era would ensure employee retention due to the natural schedule flexibility which would result. The demands of an old-school workplace would say you get a 30-60 minute lunch and two 15-minute breaks, but in reality for many workers that simply doesn’t work anymore.

The world of employment and all of its facets will continue to evolve. The changes may not come easily, but they are certainly necessary. People are more empowered than ever before to make change happen, so this is likely just the beginning.

By Gretchen Hendrick Gardella, MLIS

Gretchen Hendrick Gardella is a Librarian with administrative, research, and vast technical skills. Ms. Gardella brings over 16 years of experience working in academic and public libraries to the discussion.