The nature of work has long been evolving with contingent workers, dual-income households, and technological advancements affecting how, when, and where employees work. In recent years, the demand for flexible work has increased.
As employee preferences change, employers must adapt and maintain a supportive and dynamic company culture. Companies are embracing new strategies to support on-site, hybrid, or remote work arrangements.
According to The State of the New Hybrid and Flexible Workplace report by HR.com and Aduro, over a third of respondents ranked their organizations as fair or worse at managing workers in flexible work arrangements. This reveals an opportunity for improvement, highlighting an area where employers and companies can better serve their workforce.
With 92 percent reporting that jobs and roles will be redefined over the next two years, it’s critical that employers act now and adapt to the demand for flexible work options.
The first step in developing a flexible work strategy is understanding the present state of the workforce and how flexible work fits into the current market.
What is flexible work and why does it matter?
Flexible work refers to the ability of employees to hold more control over their work arrangements. Workplace flexibility allows individuals to choose how, when, and where they want to work.
Additionally, according to The State of the New Hybrid and Flexible Workplace report, 79 percent of HR professionals say that the percentage of workers in flexible arrangements has increased over the last two years, with 49 percent expecting the number of flexible workers to rise even more over the next couple of years.
This reveals how much the current workforce’s preferences have shifted in favor of flexible work arrangements and, in turn, the opportunity for employers to engage strategies that support a hybrid workforce.
What does flexible work mean for employees and employers?
To employees, flexible work arrangements mean more control over their own lives. They can choose when and where they work and create schedules better suited for their personal needs, familial demands, financial situation, mental and physical health considerations, and more.
For employers, flexible work arrangements have and will likely continue to increase in many organizations even after the pandemic, because it makes business sense.
Offering the option to work remotely has been shown to improve employee retention, allow access to a larger talent market not confined by location, lower overhead costs, increase stress resilience, improve adaptability within the company, and support employee well-being. Moreover, job seekers value autonomy over where and when they work. Flexible work options often rank as a top factor for why employees choose to accept new jobs.
By creating a flexible work strategy, a company can better support its employees and business, providing value to people and profits.
Flexible Work Strategies to Support All Employees – Remote, On-Site, or Hybrid
When it comes to creating a flexible work strategy, there is no one ultimate solution. To ensure an effective strategy, employers must adapt the plan to fit their own workforce, accommodating the specific needs of their employees.
When creating flexible work arrangements for your team, it is important to keep in mind these 4 tips for a successful strategy:
1. Trust your team
Trust is a two-way street. Flexible work requires established trust between employers and employees. When managers demonstrate trust-building actions, it’s often reciprocated by their workforce.
In this, communication is key. Communication between managers and employees is necessary to level-set, discuss flexible work solutions, and create a continuous feedback loop that supports an adaptable and responsive flexible work strategy.
With more people working remotely, managing employees and staying connected with your team may be more difficult. However, no matter how they choose to work, it’s important to trust that employees will get their work done.
Flexible work options may require finding new ways to measure performance, as people working remotely will have less supervision. Refrain from measuring by how many hours your employees spend in front of a computer, but rather focus on how flexible work schedules allow for quality work not limited by how long a person is working.
And last – but certainly not least – engaging in flexible work arrangements involves encouraging greater employee autonomy. To accomplish this, employers must trust their workforce and celebrate the greater control and responsibility experienced by employees in a flexible work environment.
2. Don’t lose sight of your company’s culture
Protecting and prioritizing company culture in a distributed workforce is crucial to ensuring a successful strategy. While 60 percent of HR professionals said work arrangements improved, 36 percent reported a worsened company culture. This reveals the need for employers to maintain and foster a healthy company culture, especially in a hybrid environment.
When working remotely, especially from one’s home, it is easy to become isolated from others, with many reporting social isolation as a primary stressor in remote work environments. Moreover, it’s easy to lose touch with the importance of a strong culture and organizational values. Day-to-day tasks and projects are completed alone rather than in teams, making social isolation an even greater challenge.
To combat social isolation and support a healthy company culture, adopt practices that reinforce community and bring people together. These can include:
- Employee recognition programs
- Training management on how to foster company culture in remote spaces
- Consistent communication between managers and direct reports
- Creating connections between employee contribution and the company’s mission
3. Keep an eye on equity
In a hybrid or remote work environment, employees often feel they have fewer opportunities to advance and grow than their on-site colleagues.
According to an MIT Sloan Management Review and Webex Survey, 75 percent of those working remotely give them a sense of not being “in the know,” and another 72 percent feared a pay gap between hybrid workers and their in-office counterparts. This reveals a need for employers to prioritize equity in flexible work strategies, ensuring that all workers are given equal opportunities for success and growth, no matter where they work.
Whatever flexibility looks like to your employees, it is crucial to provide equitable advancement for all. To accomplish this, companies can implement the following tactics:
- Balance time spent in video conferences and time spent collaborating
- Establish “core” working hours but trust flexibility in others
- Regularly review how processes are working and ensure that every employee is being treated equally
4. Provide your employees with holistic well-being resources and activities
Don’t lose sight of employee safety and well-being. Companies must create an environment for enhanced performance by engaging a more formal and holistic approach to wellness.
Flexible work is one of many necessary components of a healthy workplace environment. By offering flexible work options, leaders are signaling that employees can and should have greater autonomy and control over their time and schedules. With increased autonomy, employees can devote more time to health and wellness. Employers should encourage a healthy balance between work and well-being, creating an environment that values employees, both as people and as workers.
This can include, but is not limited to:
- Well-being tracking. Encourage employees to take part in daily well-being check-ins. Providing information about their physical health and mood can help employers provide support to people when and where it is needed most.
- Prioritizing breaks. Allow employees time to rest and reset throughout the day, using breaks to meditate, connect and chat with coworkers, get up and get active, or stop for a moment and refresh. Setting aside time to rest supports employees’ physical and mental well-being.
- Mental health support. Provide and communicate what mental health support is available for your employees, from hotlines to mental health programs to direct support from leadership and peers.
Flexible Work is a Process
Finding the “perfect” flexible work strategy may not be feasible, but it can be optimized.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution for making flexible work successful for your business, it is a process. Listen to your employees and adapt to the ever-changing needs of a hybrid workforce. Prioritize trust, culture, equity, and well-being every step of the way.
Want to see more insights and strategies for your flexible workforce? Check out the State of the New and Hybrid Workplace Report by HR.com and Aduro.