Businesses that make the most of flexibility at work will come out winners
How you navigate the return to the office is potentially the biggest opportunity of your professional life as a leader. For many office-centric businesses, a hybrid model where people work remotely some of the time, allowing people to be productive at home and collaborative in the office, is the preferred route. It sounds like a great arrangement if you get it right. But get it wrong and you could see inequalities grow and burnout reach breaking point.
Whatever policy you decide to implement, it needs to be led by what works for your team. Your people truly are your greatest asset, and you want to make sure they’re able to get the most out of their roles. Although remote working has proven to be productive and efficient, what works well for one person will be disastrous for another. It’s important to remember that you’re thinking long-term, so professional development and connection need to be part of the discussion.
Before you decide on what kind of working arrangement you want, make sure you’re talking to your team and managers to understand what the preferences and expectations are. Microsoft recently surveyed 30,000 employees globally about how they see the future of the workplace and 70 percent wanted flexible remote work to continue.
Using clear data is essential: this question is too nuanced to be answered by averages and assumptions. The beauty of hybrid is in its flexibility, and that’s not just at an individual level, but for the whole group.
The freedoms and benefits of remote working have been felt to some degree by most people. Home working conditions vary hugely and the opportunity to develop professionally and feel connected to the company are made much more difficult by remote work. The big question you need to answer is how to take the best elements of remote work, like having no commute, with the best of office collaboration.
Burnout and anxiety are also at an all-time high. According to McKinsey, almost half of employees reported that they’re feeling burnt out, and that’s likely lower than the reality. With mothers taking on more household activities and many of us feeling always on, work/life balance can go out the window.
At MarketFinance we recently decided our new work philosophy. We want to enable our teams to have a better balance and to enjoy the full benefits of flexible working by giving them better control of their time. For many, the office will become a site for collaboration, innovation, professional development and socialising. And working from home can be used for tasks that require more focus. We’re expecting people to spend around 40% of their time annually in the office, but it’s up to individuals to discuss this with their manager depending on their needs and the team’s.
I’m a firm believer that talent can be anywhere, and to get the best talent we’ve decided to take our team global by allowing some roles to be fully remote. So far we already have four new joiners living permanently abroad because we know these roles (mainly in Tech) can be done effectively from anywhere in the world. And after spending months outside of the UK myself with family this year, I’m much more open to remote work globally too. So we’re offering 45 days per year working from abroad.
Before leaping into a hybrid set up, understand that inequalities and division could come in. Whether that’s women taking on more care duties or entry level and part-time staff with more difficult working conditions from home. Ultimately you need to equip people with the resources that help them stay connected, perform well, and maintain work-life balance
This is new territory for most of us, so be flexible about your flexibility. Whatever you decide on now, you can adapt and improve. Make sure lines of conversation are open between juniors, managers and senior leadership so you can tweak your policy when necessary. The most important thing is that your team knows there is a plan in place and is kept in the loop.
If you shift your focus away from set hours to set outcomes, hybrid work has a better chance of serving the whole team. There are risks to this model, but a pragmatic and open-minded approach will help you get the best outcome for your business.