The workplace as we know it is changing, and it requires more flexibility than ever. But when we say “flexibility,” what do we really mean?
Many organizations say that they’re offering flexibility by offering a “hybrid” schedule, one in which employees work from home on certain days and at the office on others.
The problem is that the employer often sets the schedule, which means that even though employees don’t have to be at the office every day, they still don’t get a say in where they work during each individual day. That isn’t really “flexibility”—in fact, it’s closer to the opposite.
This is perhaps why we’re seeing more organizations run into issues with the hybrid model—like employee burnout, logistical challenges, or just plain dissatisfaction. While this model may be effective for business continuity in the near-term, many employers are finding that it isn’t a long-term solution.
This is because true flexibility revolves around employee choice. People need autonomy and consistency to feel happy, balanced, and productive at work. In fact, a 2021 Gartner survey found that 43% of digital workers said that flexible working hours helped them achieve greater productivity.
Organizations who understand this sooner than later will retain a competitive advantage in the talent market. Employees who can work remotely all the time will find a way to do it. It’s not surprising that 59% of digital workers in the Gartner survey referenced above said they agreed more with the statement “I would only consider a new position or job that allows me to work from a location of my choice” than with a statement saying that location would not matter.
The pandemic has started a work-from-home revolution, and knowledge workers in every industry are discovering that they have more options than ever before. That means they are going to choose employers that offer them the most control over how, when, and where they work.
Let’s briefly examine how employers can accommodate these changing demands to retain and attract talent for the long-term.
Reduce Requirements, Increase Resources
Talented people will find a way to get work done no matter where they’re at. If you’re able to trust your employees to do great work, you should also be able to trust them to do it their way.
To that end, I believe the traditional office space can be reframed as a “creative and collaborative space.” It will no longer be a place where everyone must promptly arrive at 9 a.m. every day. Instead, it will become a resource that is available to them when they need it. They can schedule in-person meetings with colleagues or clients and reserve individual desks, all on their own schedule.
When strict location requirements are reduced and available resources are increased, your employees can more effectively get things done on their own terms, leading to a better work experience for everyone.
Building the New Workplace
Of course, repurposing the physical workplace isn’t as simple as waving a magic wand. It presents a number of logistical challenges that have to be solved.
Before you implement this kind of structure, it may be wise to call a meeting with leaders from HR, facilities, space management, real estate, and any other relevant departments to make sure everyone is aligned and prepared for the upcoming changes. It’s best to establish cross-departmental collaboration early in the process so all costs and concerns are considered prior to getting started.
You may also want to consider the addition of an integrated workplace management system (IWMS) that can help you manage the transition. This type of cloud-based software can help you:
- Visualize and customize spaces using interactive floorplans
- Establish a portal for employees to reserve spaces and submit move requests
- Track utilization data to see how, when, and where space is being used (including badge swipe data)
- Right-size your real estate portfolio using real-time data from all of your organization’s properties
With these capabilities, you’ll be able to more seamlessly implement and manage a flexible workplace—all while giving employees the autonomy they need to flourish under the new system.
A Future that Works for Everyone
People are doing their best to adapt to changing circumstances. As leaders, we have to be especially sensitive to their needs, requests, and preferences. Our employees deserve a work environment that enables them to thrive—regardless of where they sit every day.
It will take collaboration, planning, and the right tools to make it happen. But by taking a people-focused approach, giving our employees more autonomy, and helping them establish consistency, we can successfully transition to a new way of working that is more practical and more sustainable than ever before.
Written by Ben Person.
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