Despite the talent scarcity, employers seem to have more stringent hiring expectations and workforce management, particularly in recent months when cost pressures are at an all time high. 

Most compellingly, research shows that today, companies favour relevant skills and hands-on experience besides purely traditional qualifications. A 2023 Coursera survey reveals that employers highly value industry micro-credentials, being 72% more likely to hire candidates who have one. Moreover, 77% of employers are actively using skills-based hiring.

Alongside employers’ shifting preferences, career decisions today are influenced by a myriad of increasingly diverse factors. According to our 2024 Workmonitor report, flexible work arrangements have now become a business imperative, coming close to salary as the top employee consideration in job searches. Professionals are also choosing employers who are committed to being diverse, sustainable and actively upskilling their workforce.

In this article, discover how employers are managing this dynamic relationship with a more independent and socially-aware workforce. Explore our insights on work flexibility strategies to engage with today’s top talent.

embrace diverse work styles
embrace diverse work styles

benefits of having a flexible, satisfied workforce

Toxic workplaces and disengaged employees have a direct impact on overall productivity. Companies are hence prioritising employee engagement and trust-building strategies, particularly in the era of hybrid work to not just engage with their employees, but also improve performance and productivity. 

Employers are invested in those who are passionate about their job and genuinely want to contribute. They want high-value, productive, and skilled employees who fit their company culture and who will foster a work environment that is built on trust and mutual respect. These individuals help bridge skills gaps and bring real value to uplift the entire workforce.

This means that employers will do more to drive engagement with their workforce, which could mean greater work flexibility. In the new normal, employers need to approach work flexibility with intentionality - this means treating employees as individuals and understanding their needs to offer a range of flexibility options that can help them become better and more engaged workers. 

Here are three core benefits to embracing flexibility as an integral part of workplace culture:

workforce flexibility business mandate
workforce flexibility business mandate

1. cost savings

Both employers and employees can benefit financially from flexible work. Employers save on overhead costs associated with maintaining large office spaces, while employees save money from commuting and fringe household expenses like help and childcare. 

Beyond the obvious cost benefits of flexible working, there is a larger, veiled cost: of unproductive manpower. In 2023, Gallup research estimated that that low engagement cost the global economy US$8.8 trillion, or 9% of global GDP. According to the same study, having a job you hate is worse than being unemployed.

Disengaged workers are not just unhappy employees affecting everyone’s mood in the office, but they are also less likely to produce the same quality or level of work as compared to another more engaged employee.

2. flexibility is now the status quo

Our Workmonitor research spotlights how flexibility is no longer seen as an employee benefit, but a business mandate. In fact, 1 in 2 Singaporeans (52%) would not accept a job if it prevented them from enjoying their lives. 49% of workers would even consider leaving their jobs if asked to spend more time at the office.

Although some workers do well in an office setting, they enjoy having the option to work flexibly too, especially when they have unavoidable errands to run, such as being at home for household maintenance. Enforcing strict office-centric work paradigms may clash with the growing need for work flexibility. 

That being said, the best choice is unique to each company depending on its workforce’s needs as flexibility will look different to each employee.

3. how flexibility drives productivity

Flexible work arrangements allow employees to better manage their personal and professional responsibilities. When employees have the freedom to choose their work environment and schedule, they can align their work with their peak productivity hours, leading to a more fulfilling work experience. Some label this approach - of aligning their work schedules with their natural energy levels - “chronoworking”.

During unproductive weeks or periods, managers should avoid attributing the lack of progress solely to remote work. It's important to consider other factors such as job dissatisfaction, team cohesion issues and workload problems that may be contributing to presenteeism and disengagement.

In order to accommodate their workforce’s evolving priorities, employers should prioritise flexibility with intention.

best practices for managing flexible work arrangements

Successfully integrating flexible work into an organisation requires careful planning and ongoing management. Setting clearly-defined expectations are the cornerstone of any successful work arrangement, as they help employees understand their responsibilities and how to achieve their objectives, regardless of where and when they work.

Establishing guidelines for communication, availability, and deliverables helps ensure clarity and accountability across the board. 

Here are some best practices for managing diverse working arrangements:

1. establish a strong communication system

Communication is the key to an engaged and productive workforce, no matter where and when they work. Employees have to learn how to give and receive clear, concise information both verbally and through emails and text messages. They also have to learn to align to one another’s communication styles to avoid any friction and miscommunication. 

While flexible work allows for varied schedules, having core hours where all team members are available can facilitate collaboration and decision-making is critical to helping your team. Proactively aligning on the team’s availability can help employees reach a mutual understanding about respecting each other’s time.

2. foster an inclusive and equitable environment

Despite the global shift towards skills-based hiring, employers continue to prioritise candidates with bachelor’s degrees, with the assumption that degree-holders are more responsible and capable of working independently. A 2023 survey by talent assessment company TestGorilla showed that 2 in 5 employees (42%) felt like they were filtered out of the hiring process due to their lack of formal qualifications or experience, rather than their lack of skills. 

However, a person’s qualification does not determine or give any indication on whether the individual is able to work remotely. Furthermore, some employers may also avoid hiring caregivers, mothers or people with disabilities based on an assumption that they are distracted or need to work from home more.

One of the most vital aspects of accommodating diverse working styles is by inculcating an innately inclusive work culture. Ensure that remote and in-office employees have equal access to career development opportunities, such as training programmes, mentorship, and promotions. Policies and processes can be created to ensure that employees are nominated and evaluated based on their skills and growth potential.

Ensuring that all employees, regardless of their work arrangements or educational qualifications, have equal access to opportunities is crucial.

write your own diverse and equitable workplace playbook.

The transition from cubicles to couches represents a significant shift in the world of work, bringing with it a wealth of opportunities for innovation and growth. By understanding the various modes of flexible work, their benefits, and the challenges they pose, HR professionals and organisations can better prepare to manage a diverse and thriving workforce.

The future of work is flexible, and by embracing this diversity in work styles, businesses can look forward to a more inclusive, productive, and fulfilling professional landscape. As employers navigate this transformation, understanding talent expectations and how to balance them in an increasingly complex business landscape is key to achieving greater business success.

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