How a flexible work environment attracts and retains the best staff

  • Staff are more motivated by a positive work environment than financial reward
  • 30% of staff admit to breaking workplace rules if they are too restrictive
  • One in four UK employees are looking to leave their job
  • Bad management is cited as being a prime cause for job dissatisfaction
  • Take me to the stats!

A company is only as good as the people who work for it, therefore recruiting, and more importantly, retaining the right staff is paramount to the success of the business.

Increasingly, companies are finding that the answer to building a happy yet productive workforce is to take a more flexible approach, and create an environment that gives employees the freedom to accomplish tasks in a way that best suits their own personal way of working.

Why is flexibility in the workplace so important?

The simple answer is that employees want to be trusted to do their jobs, and creating a flexible working environment built on mutual respect is a huge source of motivation.

Giving staff the freedom to complete tasks in the way that they feel will achieve the best results will not only breed a happy workforce, it is also the best way to unleash the skills that they were employed for in the first place.

Flexible working doesn’t have to cause a huge shift in the day-to-day running of a company but it is one area where small changes can have incredibly positive results, namely staff motivation, retention and productivity.  There are many different ways of creating a more flexible working environment, including:

  • Hot desking
  • Flexible hours
  • Encouraged downtime
  • A trust-based approach to rules and restrictions
  • A veto on micro management

Six Steps to a flexible workplace

1.  Work out what motivates your staff

2.  Don’t lose good staff through poor management

3.  Give employees the freedom to work remotely

4.  Introduce hot desking

5.  Resist the urge to micro manage

6.  Encourage down time

1. Work out what motivates your staff

Many companies run on the assumption that staff are driven by financial reward, but whilst financial perks are welcomed by employees, a recent survey revealed that money is by no means the biggest motivator.  In fact:


Only 5% of employees are motivated by bonuses and rewards

62% of employees are motivated by appreciation and recognition


Therefore, trusting employees with the freedom required to achieve their goals, and then awarding sufficient attention to the outcome of the task will have a far more encouraging effect on job satisfaction, and ultimately the quality of output.

2. Don’t lose good staff through poor management

No one thrives in an environment that is stifled by rules and micro management. At least not for long. The biggest cause for employees to throw in the towel and jump ship is because of poor management.


The failure of managers to engage staff is the main reason why one in four workers are looking to leave their jobs[i]


Staff don’t usually quit their jobs, they quit their managers, as highlighted when we looked at some of the most common reasons why people leave their jobs:

  • Lack of leadership and direction
  • No opportunities for career progression
  • Boredom and lack of motivation
  • Lack of recognition
  • Management failing to honour commitments
  • Management hiring and promoting the wrong people
  • Bad relationship with immediate manager

All of these examples have one thing in common: bad management. It is apparent that investing in employee relationships and offering clear leadership whilst encouraging personal development is the key to maintaining a happy, fulfilled work force.

3. Give employees the freedom to work remotely

Different employees who offer different qualities are highly likely to have very different approaches to the work they do. This may mean that they are more productive at less conventional times of the day and aren’t particularly suited to the traditional 9-5 way of working.

Making the shift to integrate remote working into your company is easier than you may think, and this more relaxed approach can be extremely successful for a number of reasons.

9 Reasons Why Remote Working Benefits The Employer:

1. Employees can work at times when they are able to accomplish the most.

2. Zero time spent on commuting means more hours of potential productivity.

3. Tasks can be done at any point, which often means working longer hours.

4. Childcare benefits attract more experienced workers with family commitments.

5. Offering remote working can be a big attraction for digital workers and younger recruits in a competitive market.

6. Putting trust in employees (and removing micro-management) usually results in them rising to the challenge and subsequently over delivering.

7. Reduced office overheads.

8. Additional ‘cash in pocket’ as a result of no travel costs automatically makes the employee more expensive to headhunt.

9. Staff are able to achieve a better work/life balance, resulting in reduced stress levels.

4. Introduce hot desking

Flexible working doesn’t have to mean off site working. Hot desking gives employees the opportunity to set up camp anywhere in the office, in an area best suited to their daily task. Aside from offering employees a more refreshing way of working, hot desking also has many benefits for employers, not least reducing the amount of work stations needed, especially when employees work part time or spend a lot of time out of the office in meetings.

The best way to introduce hot desking is to invest in the right equipment, here are five of the best products for seamless hot desking:

5. Resist the urge to micro manage

There are many areas in the workplace where micromanagement breeds resentment. One surprisingly big niggle where the relationship between employers and staff is often tested is through personal mobile phone use.

Although it is usually only the minority of employees who use their phones excessively throughout the working day, it can still result in managers taking a zero tolerance approach and implementing a blanket ban on all personal phone use. This isn’t an ideal solution for the following reasons:

  • It questions the trust in the employer/employee relationship
  • It creates a ‘forbidden fruit’ syndrome
  • 66% of people suffer from Nomophobia, which can create more of a distraction than the phone itself

Taking these points into consideration, actively preventing staff from accessing their phones is likely to create resentment, to the point where employees are likely to find a way to bend the rules. To highlight this point, we carried out some independent research to discover exactly how employees would react if they were banned from using their personal phones during the working day:


67% weren’t happy that they couldn’t check their phones

30% admitted that they would check their phone in secret

Workers aged 18-24 were most likely to check their phones regardless of a ban

29% would happily wait to check their phone if they were given assigned phone breaks

18-24s were most open to being given specific phone breaks


Those who were least bothered about checking their phones were aged 55 and above, arguably a segment containing a high percentage of senior managers. This shows that there is a very different phone culture between older and younger workers, and moving with the times, or at least being mindful to the needs of the younger generation is essential. This is especially important, as these millennials who have been born into a socially connected world will soon become senior employees and the connectivity ethos will be company-wide.


Setting realistic guidelines for mobile phones in the workplace will help maintain mutual respect between staff and employers.


Here are some guidelines for mobile phone use during the working day:

  • Specify certain times during the working day when it is alright to check phones and respond to texts etc. For example, during morning, lunch and afternoon breaks.
  • Keep phones on ‘silent’ setting at all times.
  • Pre-warn your manager if you are expecting an important call.
  • Phones may be kept in view in case of emergency calls (a big cause of anxiety for those with dependants).
  • All non-emergency calls must be directed to voicemail.

6. Encourage office down time

The best way to build a productive team is to encourage interaction between staff. Be that through group lunches, formal team building events or instilling a more relaxed work environment. As much as ‘team building’ exercises seem like a clichéd product of the ‘80’s they really do what they say on the tin and build a solid team.

Team building increases:

  • Productivity
  • Motivation
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Positivity
  • Communication

Top tips on successful team building:

  • Treat team building as a fun day rather than a work day. Pick something enjoyable where people will naturally engage and bond with each other, rather than a disguised leadership initiative.
  • Take the team out of their comfort zone. You can guarantee that staff will return from a high adrenalin activity with a renewed level of understanding and respect for each other.
  • Whilst you don’t have to blow the budget, staff are much more likely to feel appreciated if it feels like the company is investing in them.
  • Consider the age, ability and type of people that you employ when choosing an activity. As much as it is good to challenge boundaries, forcing people to do something way out of their comfort zones is likely to have the opposite effect on staff morale.
  • You don’t have to restrict team building to one off ‘big events’, ongoing office initiatives such as bake offs, office sports teams or in office games such as table tennis or table football will still help create a community feel within the office.

10 ideas for team building activities, without a role-play exercise in sight!

  • High adrenalin sports, e.g. zip wires, high ropes etc.
  • Community projects/volunteering
  • Bake off challenges, different themes each week
  • Group lunches with randomly selected members of staff
  • In office problem solving games
  • Office tournaments, e.g. Table tennis, table football, board games
  • Great Escape type activities
  • Go karting/bowling/Laser Quest
  • Karaoke challenge
  • Inter office sports leagues such as football/netball teams

[i] According to research carried out by The Chartered Institute of Personal Development.