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Employees are demanding - and getting - flexible work arrangements that allow them to work from home.

Working from home has slowly become part of the present-day work lexicon. A flexible
telecommuting policy allows employees to improve their work-life balance, which can be compromised by the stress of having to commute long hours to and from the office.

Often called ‘flex work,’ flexible work arrangements allow employees to alter, on a temporary or permanent basis, their work schedule, the number of hours they work or the location where they do their work, according to Employment and Social Development Canada. It allows staff to better manage the often competing demands of work and family. For employers, it helps foster productivity as well as offering work environments that attract and retain needed talent.

In a recent study by International Workplace Group (IWG), more than 15,000 professionals from a range of different industries in 80 countries were asked for their views on the changing workplace and flexible working. The study revealed that about 85 percent of Canadians would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible work policies. Additionally, more than half, or 54 percent, of Canadian respondents said that having a choice of work location is more important to them than working for a prestigious company. Subsequently, over the past 10 years, 69 percent of surveyed Canadian business professionals say their companies have introduced a flexible workspace policy.

Considering the survey results, encouraging flexible working policies could be a way to improve Canada’s current skill shortages. Allowing staff to work from home is a potential way to help reduce attrition rates, according to studies. In interviews with researchers, remote employees also reported higher job satisfaction. “We hear from clients quite often about how often their employees are willing to sacrifice on
salary versus flexibility or vacation, flexible leave and things like that,” Avra Davidoff, a counsellor with Canada Career Counselling told the Ottawa Citizen. “People are becoming more aware of their value. People don’t have to work in the traditional employment setting. They would rather take a 10 percent to 20 percent salary cut in exchange for something they feel would improve their overall career and life satisfaction,” Davidoff stated. To that end, telecommuting can be partially tied to improved staff health and overall wellbeing. Commuting, for example, can create stress and place financial strain on a person, which ultimately impacts things like how much time they are able to devote to physical activity.

Aside from the personal upsides, an increase in working from home also presents benefits on a broader environmental scale. Fewer people commuting means less cars and traffic on the roads. And there are
numerous versions of providing remote work, such as offering it on a contingency basis when severe weather events are forecast, or for summer days when parents’ children are out of school. It can also be given on an individual, probationary basis, be part of a promotion or granted in lieu of a raise or a bonus.

Though as valuable as a non-existent work commute is, the unfortunate reality is that not every business is able to provide such flexible alternatives. Client-facing businesses like credit unions are at a disadvantage in this instance, having to rely on employees being physically present in order to operate. However, there are other ways to help compensate for this loss.

Credit unions provide other kinds of benefits that still help contribute to an improved work-life balance, even though they might not be able to offer work from home days. And while larger credit unions can afford greater tangible perks, smaller credit unions still provide value through their distinct office culture and environment. Cooperatives also stand out from other businesses, thanks to their member-centric focus, which extends not only to their members but staff. Among other things, credit unions often offer generous vacation days, parental leave top-ups, and partial or fully paid certification and training. Such perks may not help with commute times but still help employees feel appreciated and more balanced in their work/life routines. ◊