Hybrid and Inclusive Work

Hybrid and Flexible Workplaces are not going anywhere!

According to a report by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, remote work in the U.S. has grown by 91% in the last decade. More than 80% of respondents in the same report confirmed that they would reject a job which didn’t offer flexible working. Clearly, work from home is a significant aspect of modern roles, and one which has only seen greater significance in recent years. This is in line with the much touted four-day work week policy, which is seeing more traction, with companies already achieving quantifiable benefits, such as a 40% boost in productivity. 

Looking to Australia, Bjorn Jarvis, Head of Labour Statistics at the ABS, said in December 2021: "Prior to the pandemic (COVID-19), the percentage of employed people working from home on a regular basis had been steadily increasing by around a percentage point every two years. Our latest data for August 2021, as the Delta period impacts were deepening, are showing an 8.4 percentage point jump to 40.6 per cent.” 

Hybrid and flexible working are not going anywhere and it is not an all or nothing approach. It is also not only based on a ROI or KPI by a corporate organisation measuring if productivity is worth the investment into a hybrid and flexible workplace. It is the sum of many factors, an equation of sorts that contains lots of variables depending who you are, where you are, what you do and how you want to live… 

Human + Family + Skills + Job + Benefits + Culture = Working Approach

Lets try a few sample equations: 

Single individual, no dependents + 3-5 years experience + wants flexibility to participate in social life and health activities whenever possible + open minded welcoming non-discriminating workplace = 2 days from office, 3 days flexible 

Individual with partner and dependents + 10-12 years experience + wants flexibility to participate in family life and health activities whenever possible + open minded welcoming but more traditional workplace = 4 days from office, 1 day flexible 

No matter how we argue it, and no matter what some corporate organisations do in changing their flexible working options, it is here to stay – people with the skills required by these organisations will demand it. The pandemic woke many of us up to what we were actually investing our time in. 

We all came to a very sudden halt and were forced to smell the roses. We all realized we were being distracted by our day to day working to the clock and delivering KPIs and tasks, from what has actual meaning – our health, wellbeing, family, friends, social experiences… 

I have heard some managers complain that whilst their employees never left early to collect their children from school, it has suddenly become an expectation that they leave early, pick up the kids and then log back on from home. If you are a manager in isolated thinking one can understand why this is difficult to understand, however, if you for a moment view it from a working parent perspective it makes total sense. For years the care of your children had to go to someone else after school – I know personally my daughter had to be in after school care until 7pm at night and sometimes I was even late for that. If you would have then given me the opportunity to leave at 3:00 to collect my daughter, take her home, do her homework with her and then log back on after 7, I would have grabbed it with both hands. Not only is this great for our families and society but it is also good for employee engagement and productivity. 

Of course if the same person who is not wanting to give up their new found parenting/working juggle in a flexible working environment, is not performing their role adequately or performing at a lower productivity rate, then by all means, have the conversation. But if they are performing the role just like they did in the past and it is not preventing business from operating successfully – what is wrong with this practice and why can it not be embedded in the workplace culture? 

This brings me to the mindset and capabilities of managers of today. For years we all spoke about how the Industrial Revolution would change the workplace and how it is managed. Never did we know that it will take a pandemic to accelerate not only the technological advancement (overnight we all became Zoom or MS Teams experts!), but it also accelerated the demands on how managers manage their teams. 

I remember years ago being a People and Culture executive, we tried to convince the leaders that change will be required in the future – not only because of technological changes that are coming but also because workplaces exist of multiple generations of a diverse range of people with all their own personal preferences in many things, ideas, needs and wants. The time was up for the “do what I tell you, and I will check once you are done” manager. 

This new environment demands a coach, not an input manager. The early days of the pandemic many managers all over the world struggled with this – what are they doing? Are they having coffee? How do I know they are working and not watching TV? 

Easy! What expected output does the person need to deliver and by when? Are they delivering it and on time? Those are the questions. 

But, they said, that means I have to trust them! Oh snap… of course! 

There it is, that five letter word that isn’t really build into the fabric or any large corporation where the unwritten motto has always been TRUST IS GREAT, BUT CONTROL IS BETTER! 

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