Instead of hybrid, remote or in-office work styles, this may be a better option

Conversations around returning to work are mostly focused on hybrid, remote or in-person models. They all have their additional pros and cons. However, there is another option that provides a better work-life balance that is often overlooked by large companies: flexibility.

Flexibility empowers workers because it gives them autonomy in their working lives. A flexible work model gives employees the confidence to organize their own schedules. They can decide when and where they want to work. With management buy-in, the employee can create their own schedule, along with feedback from their team leaders, without fear of being reprimanded for taking the time to see their children’s plays or go to the doctor. A person may decide to come to the office five days a week and then work remotely the rest of the month. By allowing people to design their own schedule, they are more likely to be happier and more productive.

Data Shows Americans Seek Flexibility

According to a recent McKinsey American Opportunity report, nearly 90% of respondents said that, if offered, they would accept a flexible work option. This finding was consistent across all demographics among the 25,000 Americans surveyed. In the United States, almost 60% of people currently work from home at least one day a week, with only 35% able to work from home full-time.

With childcare issues, worries about Covid resurgences and other potential health risks like Monkeypox, burnout and fuel savings from not having to commute, a flexible work model provides the answer to achieving a better work-life balance.

People crave the ability to trust to do their best because a cookie-cutter forced schedule may not fit their needs and hamper their productivity. In a separate study conducted by the Pew Research Center from this year, 48% of respondents with a child 18 or younger quit their job due to inadequate or non-existent childcare options. Nearly 40% of respondents said they quit because they worked too much. Unable to make their own hours, 45% of workers left their organization due to a lack of flexibility.

Challenges with hybrid, remote and full-time work models in the office

The hybrid became widely accepted after major tech companies instituted this model. The new standard required employees to report to the office two or three days a week and work from home the rest of the week.

Employees pointed to a glaring flaw in the hybrid working style. While they appreciate the balance between being at home and in the office, the policy, while an improvement, is unintentionally restrictive.

For example, a person may have a pre-commitment on one of the days they are supposed to be in the office and feel distressed that they cannot get to the office on the required day. They also feel it could be used against them in an annual performance review. People are unique and have individualized needs. A working single mother may need to drop off and pick up her child from elementary school and arrive late at work and leave early.

A two-class system could easily develop. People in the office will benefit from proximity bias. Meanwhile, remote workers will start to feel left out. Under time constraints, an important impromptu meeting is ordered. You can easily imagine hybrid and remote workers being forgotten and left out of the conversation. A group of co-workers who want a quick brainstorming session might not stop to find someone who isn’t in the office that day and just keep going.

For many women, who disproportionately bear the burden of caregiving, flexibility is not a luxury perk, but rather a fundamental part of their labor market participation. Indeed, the major job aggregation site and resume database site surveyed 1,001 women in the United States who transitioned from full-time work to on-demand work, roles contract workers, part-time workers or who have completely withdrawn from the labor market.

According to the report, 83% of working women say they prefer flexibility over stability. For some respondents, flexibility is not seen as a preference, but rather as a job requirement. The top barriers to working full-time in an office for respondents were mental health issues (54%) or the increasing need to care for children or elderly and sick family members (51%).

What companies are doing to bring flexibility to the workplace

In a previous conversation with Steve Hafner, CEO of Kayak and OpenTable, the forward-thinking executive champions a flexible style, empowering employees to be in control of their lives. They can decide if they want to come to the office, how many days and which days are best for them. A person could choose to go to the office five days a week or none. It could be two weeks and one week in an office. They may be interested in checking out an office in another city or US country outside of the states.

Hafner tapped into the zeitgeist of what has the most impact for his staff, saying, “Our team wanted more flexibility and mobility, so we listened. He added, “I remain an advocate for in-person collaboration and we will continue to embrace it at Kayak and OpenTable. Our people demonstrate that great talent can do anything, from anywhere, and have an incredible impact. »

In an interview with Cathy Moy, director of human resources at major accounting firm BDO, she shared her plan for the future of work. Moy’s heuristic concept is that business leaders should trust their employees. Building on this first principle, the main objective of the company is to help people (employees, customers and business partners) to thrive every day.

The company’s past, present and future work style is flexible. Employees are empowered to decide for themselves where they will work. While the hybrid model is rigid, in that it brings staff back into an office on specific days, BDO provides the freedom and autonomy for employees to decide for themselves.

The decision-making process is decentralized and done locally, with input from team leaders. If a person wants to come into an office because they are feeling the stress of isolation at home, tired of barking dogs, leaf blowers, noisy work in the house across the street, wobbly internet connections and a cat that jumps on the keyboard and photobombs your presentation video, the person could work in peace in an office. If anyone wants to stay for the week, that’s fine. If they want to work on the beach, that’s cool too.

Moy argues that people who work in a flexible environment are happier, which leads to better performance for themselves and their customers. They are more motivated and committed to the company, due to the high level of trust and the resulting environment that encourages people to grow personally and professionally.

Because everyone has unique needs, responsibilities and interests, flexibility is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The amount of time a person spends working in a BDO office, at a client site or in a remote location “can vary from week to week, from team to team and from commitment to the other”. Moy encourages his employees to find the right kind of individual arrangements that benefit them, the company’s customers and their colleagues.

Moy says they hire people because they believe in them. She feels that dictating the terms of entry into an office reflects mistrust. This opens up a larger conversation. It looks like there will be a big divide on the future of work. There will be people and companies, like BDO, who value and trust their employees. They don’t buy into the old idea that time spent at a desk is more important than performance and productivity.

While some bosses are always suspicious of what their staff are doing, Moy takes a different approach. She subscribes to the theory of “positive intention”. This concept accepts that actions taken by workers are based on trying to do the right thing. This does not mean that the results will be positive. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. “It’s okay,” Moy argues. In a “safe and trusted environment”, people are allowed to make mistakes and fail without fear of reprimand or repercussions.

This year, Cisco, an American multinational technology company, conducted a hybrid labor survey of 28,000 full-time employees in 27 markets. The study found that flexibility is beneficial to an employee’s overall well-being, both in their career and in their personal life. “For the most part, across generations, gender and seniority, job performance has improved along with employee well-being, work-life balance, relationships and even personal confidence. “

Using this data for practical business purposes, the tech company does not order its employees to come into an office on set days. Instead, Cisco’s philosophy is to decentralize the decision-making process, so that team leaders and staff can achieve mutually beneficial working styles. This means, in effect, that the individual has the freedom to decide when it is most appropriate to come into the office. The flexibility woven into the model allows a person to work from home in the morning, then come to headquarters for lunch to meet colleagues they haven’t seen in person for two years, and then fly home before the weekend. evening rush hour.

Jose C. Birney