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This article was published on March 28, 2022

The not-so-secret secret to successful flexible work strategies

Give your people what they want

The not-so-secret secret to successful flexible work strategies

We’re now in what many refer to as “the Great Resignation.” In a recent survey, one in four UK workers said they planned to change jobs in the next few months. In September 2021 alone, the US Department of Labor reported a record 4.4m people quit their jobs, a trend that echoes globally.

And while many pundits and HR experts are rushing to explain its origins, there remains the simple fact that work has changed. Rules around office mandates, and even offices themselves, are being adapted to a new breed of workers who want flexibility, control, and safety.

Employers who provide greater flexibility could gain a major advantage in the talent war. According to Otto Verhage, COO of recruitment tool TestGorilla:

“A greater number of applicants will be looking for hybrid working in the wake of Covid-19: it’s been proven that the economy won’t fall apart if people work from home part-time, and some employees who had never previously worked flexibly have seen how beneficial it can be.”

But, while this new way of flexible working is good for individuals, it could spell trouble for teams and companies that fail to adjust, and lose talent as a result. Research shows that 65% of employees feel less connected to their coworkers.

“People are losing their attachment to their team, their peers, and their company. The purpose of a workplace is to bring people together to remind them of the mission, the culture, and the values of a company, and be surrounded by other people that believe the same thing,” says Larry Gadea, CEO and Founder of workplace platform Envoy.

It’s clear employees want flexibility but also need the right incentives to stay for the long haul — so how can companies get the best of both worlds?

We had a chat with the founders of Envoy and TestGorilla to find out.

Make office time about collaboration and team building

For Gadea, team building moments should be purposely programmed into your organization. Less time in the office means that time is more valuable, and should be first and foremost used for collaboration and team bonding.

“Getting teams together for more than zero days a week is very important,” Gadea tells TNW.

This is the whole point of hybrid. It’s about people actually going in for some amount of time — three or four days a week — and learning about each other, building community, and building value in their work outside of just the money they get paid or the title they have.

It’s also about employee wellbeing. In the vast majority of workplace surveys that have come out during the pandemic, the thing people missed most was the informal chats with colleagues. In many cases, this led to detachment from the team and the company. In extreme cases, this led to feelings of loneliness and depression.

If you’re having a bad day in the office, somebody may come up to you and say, ‘Hey, what’s up? How can I help?’ There’s a much higher likelihood that teammates will talk to each other and try to help solve each other’s problems than if you’re at home on Zoom.

Spend more time on onboarding

While some will have talent jumping ship left and right, for others it’ll be a golden opportunity to snatch up experienced talent looking for work that suits their lifestyle. Always keeping an eye on the latest job market trends, Verhage and his team at Test Gorilla have seen how this is reshaping recruitment efforts:

We’ve noticed that many companies are now specifying in their job ads whether they require employees to work in the office full-time or not.

This is helping candidates to quickly filter through and discard job opportunities, but it also opens employers up to a much wider pool of talent:

Historically, for example, we’ve seen that women are disadvantaged by traditional office hours because they often do the lion’s share of childcare, so a model that enables everyone to fit work around their lives will create more diverse, and therefore more successful, companies too.

However, while the potential for free and flexible work arrangements may be a great tool for attracting talent, actually keeping that talent is another story. Without a connection to the team or a company’s mission, the difference between one remote job and another is simply down to a difference in paycheck.

A study by Better Up found that a stronger sense of belonging can lead to a 56% increase in job performance, 75% reduction in sick days, and a 50% lower turnover risk.

For Verhage, the key to fostering a sense of belonging amongst remote and hybrid employees is having a strong onboarding process in place. As he explained, at TestGorilla, they have a full remote program in place to welcome new hires into their team:

New employees start off by watching videos made by senior members of our team, explaining the company and how it works, so they feel as though they know the key people before they even meet.

We arrange get-to-know-you calls with relevant colleagues, invite new joiners to online socials and ask them to create introduction videos, so that their colleagues get to know them quickly too.

Make it easy for teams to schedule in-office time

Two of the biggest challenges companies face with hybrid work are how to provide employees the flexibility of coming to the office when they need to, and how to provide them with the right tools when they’re there.

As more teams turn to flexible working, more companies are replacing permanent desks with hot desks that can be reserved in advance. Hotdesking, the sharing of desks, can provide significant savings on office space for those who decide to downsize, but can also come with headaches for managers and individuals who want to schedule in team building time.

One of the biggest pain points for employees is making the effort to commute in and showing up to an empty office. According to Gadea:

When someone decides to come into the office, they can book a desk through Envoy’s app, and they can see who’s coming into the office and when, and reserve a desk near people on their team. Or, they can book a meeting room, a collaboration area, a parking spot, and even lockers for personal items – anything they need to get work done.

Another common challenge businesses today are facing as they reopen is how to keep workers safe.

A survey by Envoy found 43% of office workers, either hybrid or full-time, are more worried about exposure to and transmission of Covid than remote workers. For employees of color, 21% lose sleep over it compared to just 11% of their white coworkers.

Envoy Protect is a solution that allows employees to get an overview of who is working in the office and when so they can sync work schedules and optimize time in the office. They can also reserve workspace and, most importantly, certify health status. Users can upload proof of vaccination, a weekly negative Covid test, or a daily health check.

While the uncertainty of flexible work schedules may hold some companies back, the beauty of this new way of working is that it gives your company more flexibility to adapt in uncertain times — and today there’s nothing more important than that. In truth, the not-so-secret secret to flexible work strategies is simply being flexible enough to experiment and find out what works best for your team.

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