With the likes of IBM, Yahoo and Aetna calling time on their flexible working policies, you have to wonder what inspired those companies to take those steps. What motivated them to implement flexible working policies in the first place? And why did they scrap them? Was it relating to cost? Supporting all those ‘workers’ based out of the office and the expenses bill that often accompanies it?
Or was it down to lack of trust in those employees working from remote locations? Were they not delivering? Or could it be that the policies, though well-intentioned, were too rigid, too loose, or simply not treated as a strategic imperative and therefore not included in strategic planning and budgeting? You could speculate all day long.
As an organization that enables businesses to offer a flexible infrastructure to support both those based in office environments and staff working from remote locations, we want to help identify the right answer.
I believe it boils down to three core things:
Accepting and embracing the new normal — When new employees walk in to an organization, the chances are they require a level of flexibility. To accommodate family commitments, to enable them to handle ad hoc travel issues, to navigate around spin class or even to work uninterrupted on that major presentation are all valid reasons for working away from the office. Our Changing World of Work survey unearthed that people like to be given a choice on where they work.
The ideal scenario, and what was apparent when we looked at the survey data, is employees want the best of both worlds. By providing both an office and a remote option, it gives the employee the power to choose where they want to work dependent on the task in hand. Our survey found that millennials are more productive when they can work in a more creative setting, whereas baby boomers prefer a quiet, small office space. Essentially, one size does not fit all, and businesses need to be able to accommodate for the evolving workforce we are seeing today. Interestingly, when a meeting does require face time you generally find they would prefer to be there in person if their schedule permits.
Having the right business mindset — We know that millennials demand different levels of flexibility in the workplace and these demands are only going to increase. Therefore, the smart move is to embrace that way of working and set the tone of the business from the top down. If your CEO is actively encouraging people to get the job done, through the means that work for them, then he or she is immediately communicating a trust and confidence in workers to succeed.
And if working flexibly is included in the company’s strategy, it will be given the right level of attention when it comes to HR, budget, real estate, and technology planning. If you are working within rigid systems that say an employee should be wedded to one location, whilst that is something to be mindful of regarding real estate, businesses are becoming more mindful when looking at office space. Encouraging teams to establish core working agreements will reinforce both the trust and support of senior leaders in the policy, as well as employees’ sense of autonomy and responsibility.
Management by results – To add to the above point, and underpinned by our survey, 62% of employees expressed a fear of being judged by others when working flexibly. This isn’t healthy for anyone. Adding that extra level of stress or not taking the opportunity to do what worked for them. What would eradicate the workplace anxiety felt through all the age groups, is for business owners and managers to become task orientated or results driven, as opposed to focusing only on being in the office 9-5 (presenteeism). If the mandate for all employees is, it doesn’t matter when or where you do your job, if it gets done and you are delivering, then that should limit any judgement or unnecessary anxiety/stress.
Having the right IT infrastructure in place – Including solutions that support flexible working in corporate IT planning will help ensure that employees are equipped to succeed. Teleflex solutions, a global manufacturer of instruments used in healthcare, recognized that as a user of Skype 4 Business, they would need an infrastructure that was scalable and that could support the demands of the changing workforce. With satellite sites and remote workers all over the world, they endeavored to make the world smaller through enabling video solutions in the rooms and offices, that integrated seamlessly with Skype 4 Business for those needing to be based remotely.
In summary, some companies have decided to do away with their flexible working policies for whatever reason. However, there is still a large demand for flexible working options and many companies and organizations are embracing the flexible workplace of the now, and getting ready for the workplace of the future.