The Importance of Planning for Flexible Work Arrangements

The traditional view of remote employees being of a lower status than in-office employees is becoming increasingly outdated. Those who are skeptical of technology may choose to overlook platforms such as Teams and Slack, while implying that remote employees should visit the office for a more conventional experience.

It is no longer acceptable to be unaware of the technologies available to knowledge workers, such as Slack and Zoom, as they have become the standard for communication. In an unexpected shift, those few employees who still work in offices now need to use their own computers, cameras, and headphones in order to connect with remote workers for video conferences, effectively working from home while on business premises.

The Hybrid Is the New Norm

It has become apparent that a large number of organizations have spent an excessive amount of effort discussing the definition of ‘hybrid model’ and developing PowerPoint presentations, rules and procedures for something that most staff have developed organically. Our company has placed our trust in our employees to determine how to continue working in an unpredictable situation, and it has been demonstrated that any attempts to confine what has been successful up to this point is futile.

It is not beneficial to either impose overly restrictive definitions on hybrid working models, or the opposite. Unless there is an evident advantage for remote workers, enforcing a set number of days in the office can cause a lack of confidence. Our organization has already asked many employees to work from home; attempting to add further demands could lead to a lack of trust, or even cause staff turnover.

As a leader, it is important to consider what can be done to support teams and people in their work. What resources and assistance could be provided that would help them to be successful? Could face-to-face meetings be beneficial, and if so, could these be hosted by yourself? Do you have any advice or experiences from similar organizations that could be shared to help?

Our staff have shown remarkable flexibility in helping the company succeed in difficult times and it would be counter-productive to impose a hybrid work environment on them. There is no requirement to do so and in fact evidence suggests that allowing employees to make their own choice regarding their working arrangements is more likely to yield positive results in the short to medium term.

Continuously Seek Knowledge

There have been numerous advances in the manner, place and timing of work provision in many businesses, the majority of which have been devised by individuals or small teams. Rather than attempting to construct a broad strategy based on what has been successful for certain teams but may not be advantageous for others, the focus should be on documenting and sharing “winning practices”.

This could range from creating collections of inspiring desk or home office arrangements, to transforming a manual process created by a team in Excel and email into a fully automated programme.

It is a regrettable fact that many ideas generated in the local area are largely disregarded. If your business has put significant effort into creating such technologies, it stands to reason that it should seek to maximise its returns by encouraging their broad usage, rather than trying to restrict them.

Partner up and Make It Work

It is easy to underestimate the value of your vendors and partners as a source of knowledge regarding remote and hybrid work models. Companies such as Works have been working globally for a long period of time, and employees are often eager to share insights about how the pandemic has enabled them to refine their practices.

Furthermore, these collaborators may have access to proprietary or pre-existing solutions for managing physical office space, as well as forming collaborative partnerships between departments or teams.

Gaining valuable insight into the potential efficacy of the new model can be achieved by examining the experiences of non-competing peer businesses, suppliers and customers. These organizations may have implemented similar regulations in the past, providing an invaluable opportunity to gain insight from their experiences. It could be that certain measures such as introducing in-office-only days or new collaboration tools have been successful or conversely, been a complete failure.

Putting the Employee First Will Lead to Success

Recently, there has been an increased focus on customer experience in the delivery of goods and services. A significant transformation was observed when businesses began to take into account their customers’ needs and preferences. Potential improvements may also be seen by looking at the business from the perspective of its employees.

Investment in programmes which may not be successful can be avoided by carrying out simple tests, such as consulting with employees to determine whether free lunches and in-office yoga classes are more beneficial than avoiding a 90-minute commute. Rather than concentrating on creating process maps and new policy manuals, focus on predicting and meeting the needs of employees.

Our staff have endured considerable challenges over the past few years. To ensure their continued success, it is important to foster an environment which encourages learning and promotes their innovative ideas. Rather than engaging in further discourse regarding the definition of hybrid and remote working, let us focus on reinvesting in our workforce, rethinking our working practices, and exploring how these elements can be optimized to suit our employees.

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