A 5 Part Series - Part 4
While the COVID-19 pandemic has most certainly placed flexible work arrangements, specifically remote working, in the spotlight, far before that, great companies began to see the benefits that such arrangements could offer and implemented initiatives enabling them to reap the rewards. The days of a standard 8-5 workday tied to your desk in a physical office are over; over for the organizations that will continue to flourish at least.
Historically, organizations have feared remote working conditions or more flexible arrangements for the fear of a decrease in productivity, communication issues, and an overall lack of oversight. What they are failing to recognize, however, are the benefits that this offers as well as solutions available to place their concerns at ease.
Specifically, the pandemic has dramatically changed the way in which we work. As a result, companies who do not begin to embrace more flexible arrangements will begin to be outdone by those that do.
Here are a few things to think about…
While standard start and end times with an hour lunch break may have been typical years ago, they are no longer the norm for companies who get it and are truly focused on the ultimate goal; completion of work, happy customers, engaged employees, etc. While typical hours and set lunches may be required in some cases based on industry, job function as well as customer needs, the reality is that many positions don’t require this and there is a real opportunity to make a shift here. Racing into work by 8:00 am, missing out on valuable time with kiddos (who may not wake until 7:30) or waiting for that clock to turn to 5 even though your work that particular day was finished up plenty before that, actually negatively impacts overall morale, engagement and does absolutely nothing to help the organization meet their goals, unless of course that goal is to see individuals in their desk chairs from 8 to 5, making for a much larger issue. Where possible, companies should consider switching to an environment in which work is focused more on goals, and not time. Everyone is drastically different; whether that be the way in which they work, or their schedules outside of work. For me, a fairly ideal day is starting work around 9…I am up early but I am not ready to dive into anything too complex until I’ve gotten in a workout, coffee, and plenty of playtime with the little one. From then on I am in full-swing and feeling as productive as ever until about 3:00-3:30 when I hit a wall and am ready to spend time with my family and/or do a million other things. You’ll notice that this accounts for less than an 8 hour day. Because I’ve structured my day around my most productive hours, that’s all that I need. Studies actually show that 89 percent of employees waste at least some time at work each day with that time ranging from 30 minutes to three or more hours; sooo with my structure and proper prioritization, I am still meeting and exceeding all necessary goals, all while having a more adequate work/life balance which makes me happy, increases my engagement and fuels the work that I do. Why then do so many organizations not allow for more flexibility, creating goal-oriented work to enable soaring productivity levels; all of which helps the organization better reach goals while also creating an environment in which employees are more engaged? Less than an 8-hour workday is an argument for another time, let’s just say that it is an antiquated approach largely based on the industrial revolution that isn’t actually helping us, but rather holding us back, however, the point is that organizations who allow work to be dictated by goals and not specific time will continuously outperform those who stand by rigid schedules.
Obviously, remote work environments have become the norm over the past several months. While many great companies have embraced this for some time, telecommuting has actually been a little slower to take hold than many may have predicted when such technology first emerged; which is most likely associated with poor cultures, management practices, and a lack of investment in technology that make it possible. The pandemic however is forcing the investment in remote working, where it is possible. The benefits are staggering. It’s no surprise that there is a better work-life balance with the ability to meet with home contractors or throw in a load of laundry during your lunch, and there is certainly less commute stress given that time is not wasted, and blood pressure does not rise sitting in dreaded traffic. There is also a positive environmental impact; cars are not being used to travel eliminating emissions, and fewer resources like paper and other office supplies are being utilized, all of which leads to a more socially responsible organization. There is more time to eat healthier, less exposure to illnesses and more time for physical activity. And probably most important to the organization is the increased productivity and performance. Often, working from home usually leads to fewer interruptions, less office politics, and less or more efficient meetings. When done right, a remote work environment enables employees and companies to focus on what really matters. After all, coming in early and leaving late may “look” like more work is being done, but actual performance is a much better indicator of productivity. While remote working certainly has some possible disadvantages as well; isolation, negative impact on career progression, and even productivity in some cases, the benefits far outweigh the concerns, and if an organization is able to adequately manage these, they will soar ahead of their competitors. This of course includes things like a healthy and engaging culture to begin with, collaboration tools, employee development opportunities, and goal-oriented work and accountability measures.
It is no surprise that things like flexible work arrangements and remote environments appeal to the majority. While stats have always shown that employees value this, the recent pandemic has made this an even bigger priority for most. Per a recent study, 77 percent of employees would list flexible work as a primary consideration when evaluating future job opportunities. The average applicant is even willing to take an 8% pay cut in order to work from home. As a result, top companies are realizing that not only are they able to attract top talent, but they are better able to actually retain them. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook suggested that “when you limit hiring to people who either live in a small number of big cities or are willing to move there, that cuts out a lot of people who live in different communities, different backgrounds or may have different perspectives.” Many companies are doing much more than just allowing existing employees to work from home and are also seeking out candidates regardless of their location and allowing them to work remotely, which is creating a much larger supply of top candidates as well as overall openings and lifestyle options for workers. Think about that; companies who are hell-bent on a physical presence or a rigid work environment are limiting their candidate pool tremendously. Again, what is the ultimate goal? If a company is looking for a Social Media Manager with very specific experience, would they be best suited to open up their search and offer the position remotely in an effort to get the best person for the job or to limit that to the particular city they are in, hoping for someone who best fits the bill? As Zuckerberg suggests, not only does this limit the potential pool, it limits the type of individuals you are going to get, decreasing the potential for different perspectives and overall diversity; a critical component of success. Outside of hiring, retention will increasingly become a challenge for organizations who do not shift quickly. With flexible arrangements and teleworking becoming the norm, employees will continue to shift to organizations who allow these capabilities.
It is time for organizations to really think about their goals, in addition to what is best for their employees and society as a whole. At the end of the day, happy, engaged, productive employees are what make a successful business. If you are able to accomplish your goals as an organization, better appreciate and respond to employees needs and be more socially responsible as a result, why not take advantage? Implementing strategies that keep this in mind has the opportunity to propel businesses into greatness.