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  1. Career Advice
  2. Career development
  3. Flexibility in the workplace: how can it benefit you?
Flexibility in the workplace: how can it benefit you?

Helen Oswald

Flexibility in the workplace: how can it benefit you?

Artwork by: Polina Shpak

  • What is flexibility in the workplace?
  • Benefits of being flexible at work
  • How to be flexible at work
  • Key takeaways

How can flexibility in the workplace benefit you? Learn the key benefits of flexibility in the workplace and how a flexible approach can help you both deal with the unexpected and advance your career.

In the workplace, a predictable daily routine gives many people a sense of comfort, security, and wellbeing. Having a full understanding of your role, completing routine tasks effectively, and being counted on to deliver consistent results can prove a win-win for both you and your employer.  

But it can also be a little bit boring! Predictable behavior can help you succeed in a controlled environment, but in the real world, unpredictable situations are bound to crop up at some point (like a pandemic!). In terms of the workplace and your career, it makes sense to be prepared.

One great way to handle unexpected issues or periods of change is to embrace flexibility in the workplace. Being flexible, adaptable, and responding positively to challenges will really impress your peers and employers. Enhancing these skills can also be a route to growth opportunities and career advancement. 

In this article, we explore more about flexibility and adaptability in the workplace including:

  • What is flexibility in the workplace?

  • Benefits of being flexible at work

  • How to be flexible at work

Statistical Insight

Change can be unsettling in the workplace. Research by the American Psychological Association found that staff exposed to recent or current change were three times more likely to seek other employment within the next year (46% vs.15%) compared to those staff experiencing no recent, current, or anticipated change.

What is flexibility in the workplace?

Flexibility in the workplace is the ability to be adaptable to change, with particular focus on how and when work gets done. A flexible employee can think on their feet, support their colleagues, and effectively change direction in order to navigate unexpected obstacles and challenges.

While you can always reduce the risk of potential problems by planning ahead, you can’t always anticipate what is actually going to happen in the future. A project may start positively, but unexpected resource issues or bottlenecks could quickly cause things to go off the rails. 

Accepting that unpredictable things may happen and having the mindset that you are ready to deal with any challenges that arise is the best approach. Being flexible and adaptable in these situations will also be of value to your colleagues and employer, not only in terms of fostering a team-focused culture but also in achieving organizational goals. 

Benefits of being flexible at work

Adopting a flexible approach in the workplace can definitely benefit your career. Here are some key benefits of flexibility in the workplace.

1. Enhanced adaptability

Adaptability is an important element of your long-term career success. Your company may have shifting strategic priorities, new systems or processes may be introduced, and/or your role and responsibilities could change. 

Whatever the change, the best approach is to be flexible, positive, and have a willingness to determine the best possible solutions. Remember, you may not be able to control the change itself, but you can control your response to it.

Do
  • Plan ahead. Anticipate new developments, evaluate risks, and create a plan. If you are planning a sales pitch for example, this can help you navigate any potential objections or pushback from the client.
Don't
  • Allow others to take advantage of your flexibility in the workplace. It’s one thing to have a flexible approach, but you need to set boundaries so that you don’t become a “dumpster” for someone else's work.

2. Skill development

Your manager may delegate you a brand new responsibility, so being flexible in this situation means accepting this challenge with a positive and team-focused attitude. Learning new skills may seem daunting at first, but they are vital to continued professional development.

Showing a lack of flexibility might limit your ability to take on new concepts or ideas and be viewed as a negative by your organization’s leadership team. Demonstrating a commitment to learning new skills can highlight you as the perfect candidate for a promotion as well as providing you with valuable transferable skills for future job opportunities.

3. Collaborative working

Flexibility in the workplace is the foundation for building strong team relationships. Your colleague may be struggling to meet a deadline or cannot attend work due to being unwell. By offering assistance or working with your team to adjust schedules and priorities, these issues can quickly be eliminated.

Flexible employees don’t try to dodge these problems; they put the company first and work harder to make sure the organization is successful. Employers will be impressed by your flexible approach, and colleagues are more likely to return the favor if you are ever in a similar situation.

4. Job satisfaction

Having an awareness of flexibility in the workplace is likely to give you more job satisfaction. If you are open to taking on new projects as well as working flexibly within your team, this will lead to accelerated professional development. Your employer will benefit from your commitment, leading to a positive work culture and increased job satisfaction for you.

Expert Tip

Don’t miss an opportunity to demonstrate your flexibility in the workplace. Offer to help a colleague when things are busy and stressful, provide solutions-based approaches to any problems, and don’t be afraid to ask for help should you need it.

How to be flexible at work

The good news is that flexibility is a skill that can be developed in the workplace. The more you practice the skills required, the more capable you will be in dealing with unexpected situations and change. 

The level of flexibility required will depend on the type of work you do too. If you are in the nursing profession, for example, you would need to be flexible in terms of your workflow if there was an emergency situation or a staff shortage. 

Here are some top tips to help boost your flexibility in the workplace.

1. Stay calm

It may be stating the obvious, but when expectations suddenly change it can be unsettling and your anxiety may start to rise. It is really important to stay calm as this allows you to think more logically and make good decisions.

If you start to feel the panic rising when presented with a major change, you can counter this by perhaps taking a short break to absorb the information, practice taking deep breaths, talk to a trusted colleague, and develop a plan to move forward.

2. Be optimistic

Focus on having a positive attitude when faced with a problem. This will help you maintain a confident outlook as well as model this behavior to other team members. 

If a manager or colleague comes to you with a problem, view it as an opportunity to help others with your knowledge and experience. Likely they have approached you because they believe you can help them. 

3. Communicate openly


Communication goes hand in hand with flexibility. Miscommunication can cause further problems. Rather than saying yes to everything, use your judgment to communicate your thoughts. For example, if your boss gives you an unrealistic timeline for a complex task, then let them know your opinion and the best possible solution. You can still be flexible but also be realistic.

4. Develop your skills

Learning new skills is a great way to enhance your flexibility and adaptability in the workplace. You can achieve this in various ways.

  • Stay ahead of emerging and new industry trends. Look at what competitors are doing and what is happening in terms of R&D in your industry.

  • Cross-training is a great way to develop your skills. This involves learning different roles or tasks that fall outside of your normal responsibilities.

  • Make the effort to work with people or on tasks you typically avoid. This will stretch you and get you in the habit of trying new things.

Trying these strategies will help you more positively embrace change, and leadership teams will value your flexibility and commitment–especially if you are providing fresh and insightful ideas.

Key takeaways

  1. Flexibility is an important quality that will help you progress in your career. Having an openness to change and embracing new ideas is key to career growth.

  2. Being flexible in the workplace will make you more adaptable, enhance your skill set, boost collaborative working, and ultimately lead to increased job satisfaction. 

  3. Practice being flexible in the workplace. Stay calm and be positive when facing a challenge. Consider it an opportunity to enhance your skills and knowledge to ensure continual growth.  

Helen Oswald

Helen is an experienced content writer, with expertise in corporate law, business, sales, marketing and education. Prior to this, she worked in recruitment and human resources, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in terms of a potential employee. Helen loves exploring new places, writing blogs of her travel across Europe and enjoying trips to the US, Thailand and the Middle East. She is an avid reader of fiction, poetry, self-help books and factual content and also enjoys creative writing in her spare time, including poetry and children’s fiction.

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