Business Type :

Employees at small businesses often have more varied responsibilities than their counterparts at large corporations. While corporate employees tend to do highly specialized work, small business employees must wear several hats.

That makes it more important for small businesses to retain valued employees and keep their morale high, because they’re more difficult to replace.

The Employee Engagement Problem

Most employees at American businesses are not engaged in their jobs—in other words, they don’t feel managers value their opinions, or they see no opportunity for professional advancement. In a 2015 survey of more than 80,000 workers at large and small businesses, Gallup found that only 32% described themselves as “engaged” in their jobs; 51.8% said they were not engaged, and 17.2% said they were “actively disengaged.”

For a small business with 100 employees, that means about 17, on average, are “actively disengaged.” Translation: They don’t like their jobs—and they’re probably considering moving on. This is especially true for younger workers.

In another survey, Gallup found that 60% of millennials are thinking about moving on from their current job, and 50% are planning to do so in the next year. Many are dissatisfied with jobs that don’t allow them to telecommute on occasion and lock them into inflexible work schedules.

The Solution: Give Workers What They Want

It’s important for small businesses to administer employee engagement surveys on a regular basis to find out what issues most concern their employees—and to use that information to improve employee satisfaction in the workplace.

Recent surveys indicate that what many workers want is more say in the design of benefits packages, more recognition from their managers, and more say over their work schedules. In an Intuit Quickbooks survey, more than 80% of workers said they wanted more flexibility on their jobs.

For female workers, that means flexible work schedules—more than half in the Gallup survey reported that a flexible work schedule was a major factor in their job choice, and 60% said that “work-life balance” was “very important.” As Julie Urlaub, founder of the sustainability consulting firm, the Taiga Company, explains: “The best-in-class business sustainability cultures can be summarized in two words: open and flexible.” For small businesses that want to retain female and younger employees, the question is whether flexible work schedules make sense for their companies.

The Benefits of Flexible Work Schedules

The answer, in a word, is “yes” according to Intuit Quickbooks. Flexible work schedules are not only doable—they’re actually beneficial, improving recruitment and retention efforts and boosting productivity.

Here are 4 benefits to small business of offering flexible work schedules:

  1. You’ll recruit and retain top talent: With more than 8 in 10 job seekers preferring flexible work schedules, you’ll have a competitive edge in recruiting the most talented employees. Having a say in the design of their weekly hours will make them more engaged and more satisfied in their jobs, which will boost employee retention. The cost of replacing a current employee—and retraining a new one—is about twice that employee’s annual salary. For employees who make $40,000 a year, that’s $80,000 per employee, making retention strategies like flexible work schedules a smart investment.
  2. You’ll reduce overhead costs: Allowing employees to work remotely, even part of the time, cuts the cost of everything from utility bills to office supplies. It also means you’ll need less office space, which could save money on rental costs.
  3. You’ll spend less on absenteeism: When employees take the day off—perhaps to care for a sick child or because they’re not engaged in their jobs—they still get paid. Those costs add up: On average, absenteeism costs businesses $3,600 annually for each hourly worker and $2,650 a year for salaried employees. Flexible work schedules reduce absenteeism, another cost savings for small businesses.
  4. Your workers will be more productive: Employees who are highly engaged in their jobs work about 6 times harder than those who are disengaged. They’re more likely to take on more responsibilities, help their coworkers and find new ways to do their jobs more efficiently, all of which improve your company’s productivity. Flexible work schedules also let your business stay open more hours each day so you can serve more customers and increase sales.

At first glance, offering flexible work schedules might seem impractical and costly. The fact is that workers who can design their own schedules are more likely to stay in their jobs, call in sick less frequently, and work harder for your small business—all of which add to the bottom line.