In a previous Advisor, I talked about asynchronous-powered workplaces being both the now and the future of remote/hybrid companies’ success. In this Advisor, I talk about another element that complements this and cannot be understated: flexibility.
Flexibility is essential when working remotely or in a hybrid environment. As organizations and leaders come to grips with the challenges brought on by the move to remote and hybrid working (hint: insisting your workforce comes back to the office isn’t going to cut it; however, that’s a conversation for another day), it's more important than ever for them to be adaptable and open to accommodating new approaches and technologies to support their teams.
Flexible work is popular, and many employees want to work remotely for much of the week if given the choice. Job seekers highly value having autonomy over where and when they work. Taking that into account, one of the first steps for organizations and leaders is to recognize that remote working and providing flexibility in that working has important benefits, not only for their employees, but for employers themselves.
For employees, the ability to work from anywhere means they can have a better work-life balance; for employers, it means tapping into a more diverse and global talent pool, increased productivity and efficiency, quicker response to changes in the business environment, cost reduction, improved employee engagement and well-being, and improved employee retention. Overall, flexibility in remote work supports the success of organizations by increasing engagement, productivity, efficiency, and profitability.
However, creating that flexibility requires leaders and organizations to be open to new ways of working and to be able to accommodate the needs of their people.
For example, employees may have different schedules or time zones, so organizations and leaders need to be flexible with meeting times and be able to communicate effectively using asynchronous communication. This can be especially important for those who have children or other responsibilities that may make it difficult for them to work during traditional office hours.
The benefit to the organization and its leaders in this case is improved employee engagement and well-being, as team members are able to work in an environment that is comfortable and convenient for them. This leads to increased job satisfaction and motivation, which in turn leads to improved productivity and performance.
Moreover, flexibility in remote working can also help employees achieve a better work-life balance, which can help reduce stress and increase overall well-being and happiness. To provide an example, a 2022 study conducted by Tracking Happiness showed that:
The ability to work remotely increases employee happiness by as much as 20%.
Millennials are happiest when working remotely.
Returning to office-based work after the pandemic reduced employee happiness.
Employee happiness decreases as commute times increase.
Happiness at work is significantly correlated to overall life happiness.
Additionally, people have different work styles or preferences, so an openness to exploring new tools and technologies that can help support collaboration and productivity rather than sticking with what has always been used is beneficial.
Flexibility in remote work also helps organizations reduce costs and increase savings. By allowing team members to work remotely, organizations can reduce the need for office space (think serviced hubs rather than owning brick and mortar) and associated costs such as rent and utilities. This allows organizations to focus their resources on more important business activities and increase their bottom line. A whitepaper from Global Workplace Analytics (GWA) that explored the impact of remote work on real estate costs concludes:
The combination of remote work for all or some employees, activity-based working, and full or partially unassigned seating not only allows organizations to reduce real estate costs, it increases their agility and improves workplace effectiveness.
GWA notes a number of case studies that show these reduced costs. One company saw a US $42 million reduction in real estate costs as a result of its work-from-home program, while another organization reduced its real estate costs 25% by allowing work from home for three days a week.
Achieving this flexibility requires leaders and organizations to be open to new ways of working and to accommodate the needs of their employees. By adopting flexibility and new technologies, organizations can increase employee engagement, wellness, and job satisfaction, ultimately leading to better performance and profitability.
It's time for leaders and organizations to start thinking about flexibility as a strategic advantage, not just a perk.