How flexible work differentiates your company from the competition
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Three years after the Covid-19 pandemic sent us all home, many workers are returning to in-person work – but not all are doing so voluntarily. Most workers say they would quit if forced to return to the office full-time.
While returning employees to the office can strengthen a company’s culture and potentially increase productivity, there are significant downsides to pushing employees back into the office, and managers and employees are at odds on this issue.
We cannot ignore workers’ ever-growing calls for flexibility. However, we cannot introduce work-from-home models as a soup du jour either – executives have to make such agreements consciously if they want to be successful. So how do we figure out the unique hybrid working model that will work for us, our company? And our employees?
Related: You may not need to return to the office after all — New data shows remote work could be the norm again
Flexible working is the future
The upheaval caused by the pandemic has shown that working from home is a viable option for businesses, and I’m not saying this without personal evidence. Since we closed our offices in 2020, my business is almost entirely remote. At the beginning of this year we only had nine employees. In 2023 we are approaching the total of 70 employees and our expected turnover has increased tenfold since 2019. Flexible working arrangements have helped my business thrive, and we’re not the only organization where this has happened.
Many employees also appreciate the newfound flexibility in their lives: they’ve been able to stop commuting and spend more time with their kids, exercise in the middle of the day, and save money by moving to cheaper cities. Workers are unwilling to return to rigid schedules: they’re asking about the ability to work anytime, anywhere, and companies that offer such benefits will be more attractive to potential employees – “workplace flexibility” was one of the main reasons respondents gave accepted her current position.
Employers can also hire geographically diverse candidates by offering flexible work arrangements to support those hiring in competitive markets. If your company is in a technology epicenter and you’re trying to hire local developers, you’ll find that it’s much more difficult and costly than hiring developers across the country. Flexible working allows companies to hire a diverse group of excellent people from around the world without requiring them to sacrifice their own needs and preferences.
Related: Remote work is here to stay. It’s time to update the way you lead.
What to consider when implementing flexible models
Finding the right balance of remote and in-person work for your business takes some research. What works for one company or employee may not necessarily work for another. To determine what works for you, ask yourself four questions:
- What does your company do? What are your goals? Is your work conducive to a remote environment or does it require in-person work?
- A team of developers may be best working from the comfort of their own homes, while civil engineers overseeing fabrication will likely need to work onsite.
- How big is your company?
- A company with 5,000 remote workers needs to be more concerned about creating space for connection, trust and community than a company with 50 employees.
- How does your management style fit with remote work?
- Hands-off leaders could be successful with remote work, but I know leaders who need to be more involved—if they can’t see the work, the work won’t get done. A remote workforce can be challenging for such leaders, and they must consider this factor as they approach hybrid work.
- Can you support workers who may not have a space at home that is conducive to productivity?
- You may need to provide additional support and resources to help employees set themselves up for success while working remotely.
Enabling employees to work from home can greatly improve their quality of life, but without the right setup, it can become a distraction minefield. Without proper support, employees can fall behind, become discouraged, and become disengaged from work. It is up to employers to educate and support employees who want to work remotely, to counteract negative effects in the home office environment and create a positive long-term situation that benefits everyone involved. For our company, we’ve talked a lot about setting up their environment for the success and benefits of Deep Work. We have offered all employees the opportunity for mentoring to help them have a good foundation for success at home.
Reach out to remote workers and ask, “What’s the biggest barrier to getting work done at home?” And what do you need more of?” At the beginning of the pandemic, some of our employees were struggling to get their jobs done. Those with young children and a spouse who also worked faced greater challenges than others. We gave them all some time to catch up and worked with them to come up with a better setup to take home. We have been rewarded for our patience with loyal employees who are all now thriving in our business. We’ve also sent actual desk chairs or desks to employees who didn’t have those items, or even helped some find a local coworking space – whatever the employee needs to be successful in remote work, it’s up to us as leaders , to help them figure it out.
See also: How leaders can make the most of remote work
Embrace the growing pains
Remote work might not be perfect, but we shouldn’t be rushing back to the office for a few hiccups. Instead of seeing this mounting pain as evidence of failure, use it as a chance to be curious about how you can make work from home work for your business and employees.
Flexible working arrangements are just that – it could mean someone working exclusively from home, or maybe they come into the office every day but leave before 5pm to pick up their kids. Aside from the specific arrangement (which will be different for each company and individual), it’s important that we communicate with our employees about their needs and preferences to ensure they can get their job done and achieve their company goals, no matter what they are in pajamas or pajamas at the kitchen table or in a suit and tie in the office.
See also: Your employees expect flexibility in scheduling. Here’s how to give it to them.