Is workplace flexibility the new search trend for job seekers?
As the world has entered the digital age, ‘anytime-anywhere’ has become the catchword for most of what we now do in life. Today, we can do our banking on an anytime-anywhere basis, we can learn online without ever setting eyes on a classroom, (as we sit in the comfort of our homes and at any time we please), we can get medical advice remotely from doctors who are not close to where we are, and yes, we can even work, from anywhere, at any time, owing to the ‘all-connected’ Digital environment.
The last point is of special relevance as ‘anytime-anywhere flexibility’ is transforming the very nature of the world of work. It is altering the manner in which people leverage the modern workplace and contribute to organizations without being actually physically present in a formal office set up.
In fact, thanks to the pervasive Digital technologies, 21st-century job seekers are enjoying tremendous freedom. They can choose to be stay-at-home workers, who remain efficient and productive, even while they remain in their comfort zones, either in one place, or when on-the-move. A variety of collaborative and personal productivity tools and falling bandwidth costs have helped in this transition. Also, the decisive shift from paper-based work to e-work, and the rise of service industry roles have accelerated this trend.
Workplace flexibility is a new reality and increasingly, both men and women, with specific requirements are opting to take this path to better manage their time, work only at the times they want, achieve work-life balance and enjoy a sense of freedom and empowerment.
While earlier, it was mostly ‘new and older moms’, who had to drop out of the traditional office environment due to their responsibilities at home, the landscape began to change as the number of women in the workforce went up and innovative HR methods were needed to hold on to this growing, yet extremely valuable group of workers.
The concept of workplace flexibility was born and became the new success mantra for job seekers, particularly women. Today, however, people hunting for flexible jobs are not just women. Men with a high employability quotient and expertise that goes for a premium are also seeking companies that allow them flexible working hours and the opportunity to be a part of a mobile, online workforce.
Take for instance people with disabilities (PwD) and special needs, who often have the necessary educational background and skills to be industry-and-job ready, but are constrained by physical problems such as traveling to offices and beyond. They could also benefit from technology advances and workplace flexibility practices.
A growing number of millennials, especially those who reside in tier 2 and 3 cities and townships, who are tech-savvy, also number among the job seekers who are taking the workplace flexibility path. Many are doing so to realize their dream of working in mega-corps that are open to these arrangements, which are in metro cities, the action hubs for career building. While earlier, they had to relocate to these places to be close to the workplace and had to spend on residential accommodation, commuting, and day-to-day living expenses, they can now remain in their own smaller locations and yet be part of the mainstream.
This is, of course, a trend that showcases the emergence of the gig economy—a term being used to describe a situation where more and more people are even entering into short term contracts and freelance work, instead of applying for permanent jobs. In this way, several are working for more than one company!
For the HR of new-age companies, flexible workplaces and the gig economy are proving to be a significant advantage and also a perfect way of leveraging Digital. Owing to a gig and Digital, organizations, especially start-ups and small and medium ventures, that have problems finding affordable talent in tier 1 cities, are reaching the skills they badly require without having to set up shop in the places where they can find them. Whether it is overseas, or some small hamlet or town in India, companies are harnessing the skills of people stationed there at lower costs and while achieving greater efficiency and productivity.
As both organizations and people flex their flexibility muscle, a win-win scenario is emerging where human resources are easily and conveniently connecting with companies that need them, though not necessarily on their turfs.
Workplace flexibility may well become the new normal in the future and the way to go for job seekers.