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Workplace Flexibility: Are Employers Flexible Enough to Accommodate Change?

If anything, the pandemic clarified one thing – it is possible to be highly productive even if one chooses to work remotely. This year, companies have started opening up their workspaces and revamping their policies to accommodate the changing work culture.

Time and again, employees have mentioned that flexibility and autonomy are the two major factors they will consider while taking up employment. In the last two years, it has become abundantly clear that flexibility is the key to getting things done. According to a report by the ADP Research Institute, 67% of workers mentioned that they feel empowered to take advantage of flexible work arrangements at the companies compared to 26% before the pandemic. Employees are also willing to take pay cuts in exchange for greater flexibility and control over their day. The pandemic also showed us that employees are just as, if not more, productive while working from home as they were from offices. Supporting this finding is the Owl Labs’ 2021 State of Remote Work Study.

Empowering employees to choose their time and place of work will lead to happier employees who are more than willing to go the extra mile. It is a win-win situation for employer and employee.

remote working

Workplace flexibility will play a major role in attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent.

Policy Making For the Changing Workforce

In an HBR study that covered over 5,000 knowledge workers, 77% said that they would prefer a workplace which offers flexibility over a fancy corporate headquarters. Apple’s work-from-office policy, where employees are required to be present at worksites has led to multiple resignations, including that of the director of machine learning. When companies try to dictate how employees should manage their time, workers feel unheard and less valued.

Scott Waletzke, vice president of Adecco USA, told The Exceed Economist that the ability to maintain a good work-life balance will often sway job seekers’ decision to accept an offer or not.

A Completely Remote Workforce

Companies are now considering policy changes to allow employees greater control over their hours – as people aim to live fulfilling lives by balancing work and personal life duties. One such company is Twitter, which has offered its employees the option to work from the office and also to work remotely on a permanent basis. A Glassdoor survey found that Gen Z workers were in favor of greater flexibility and appreciated companies that trusted them to manage their own time and work.  Allowing remote work lets companies hire top talent, without worrying about geographies.

Hybrid Work- A Middle Ground Where Most Employers and Employees Meet

Creating a clear and concise roadmap of how companies plan to move forward will help employees plan their career. Flexibility opens the door to a large pool of candidates who would have otherwise been inaccessible. In June 2021, Adobe’s Chief People Officer, Gloria Chen mentioned that the company will work to allow “an intentional mix of physical and virtual presences.” Hybrid work lets employees enjoy the best of both worlds. They can collaborate with colleagues when in office and also manage their time to get other things done while working remotely.

The Case for Working from Office

A Future of Time study conducted by Adobe threw up some startling results. Fifty-six percent of enterprise workers admitted that they were working longer hours from home. They felt pressured to be available at all times of the day, which impacted their mental health, leading to stress and burnout. A third of the workers planned to switch jobs in 2022, and wished to improve their work-life balance. Apple CEO Tim Cook believes that while video conferencing has narrowed the distance, it is no substitute for face-to-face collaborations.

David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs wants employees to come back to office at the earliest. In an interview with Bloomberg Television, he admitted that he wishes to see everyone in office by the end of the year.  

The Future of Work

Josh Bersin, Founder, Bersin Academy, states, “There is also the issue CEOs and leaders lose touch with the real issues employees face, so “management by walking around” still has to take place somehow. This feel of what it’s like at ground level is so much harder to replicate when everyone is off-site, or maybe in a different state.

What our research shows is that “boundaryless” work is productive and positive for most people, but many young people don’t have big homes or places to work in, so they still need a space to work in and in a productive way. I would not be surprised to see Starbucks emerge as being “the third place” between work and office again—and pretty soon, too.” 

Savvy organizations will work to understand their workers’ needs and wishes before formulating policies. What works for one might not necessarily work for the other. With this in mind, companies will have to formulate policies that ensure employees feel motivated and are productive, wherever they work from. If hardworking employees are forced to follow the company’s tone-deaf dictates, they might just choose to walk away. 

Jane Harper
Writer. Human resources expert and consultant. Follow @thehrdigest on Twitter

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