Flexible workplaces are all the rage. Why is this trend so popular? Many companies assess feedback from their employees, read research about millenials, or are evaluating means of increasing employee satisfaction or reducing costs. Like many trends, consultants, research and internal and external pressures force companies to determine if a flexible workplace is the right solution. At Polycom, we have some of the best practices in flexible work, and following up from my prior blog on Social Commuting, I would like to provide some advice for those seeking to try this approach.
First - Determine WHY this is important to your company and be clear all efforts align to support those goals. Too often I see companies trying to do more, when a more focused approach provides the results necessary to achieve the companies goals.
Second - Use a very simple framework of:
when you are evaluating solutions. Lets break this down:
Workplace is the overarching system which will estabilish flexibility. This includes your people, real estate, IT tools and infrastructure, culture, rewards and communications vehicles.
Workspace is the real estate you inhabit. This might be your headquarters, sales offices or a combination. Evaluate your costs, where your current employees and future talent resides, and come up with a holistic plan to lower costs while increasing employee satisfaction and productivity. Your workspace can also be a differentiator to establish innovation, encourage collaboration, allow for quiet design time, or create an image of fun.
Workforce are the people that make the results happen. This should encompass all your workforce, temporary labor and full time employees alike. Determine the environment that will make them most effective and engaged, what will attract and retain the talent you need, and what tools and culture will be necessary to support your overall system design.
All three elements should come together in a holistic approach to meet the initial goals you identified. But if this is such a trend, why did a recent study (2014 National Study of Employers) determine that ony 38% of employers let some employees work at home on a regular basis, and just 3% extend this perk to “all or most” workers. To truly achieve a flexible workplace and social commute, you need to be clear with your workforce regarding who is participating and why. There should also be socially driven rules and expecations around flexibility, rather than corporate policy to dictate behavior.
The New York times states, "Even though flexible arrangements often improve retention, part of the reason they are not more widespread is because they require a leap of faith that employees won’t become less productive". This is simply a factor of change management and trust. Leap of faith or a solid set of goals, communications devices and ability for managers to track the performance of their employees? It must all work together, and the results can only be achieved when flexible workplace designers think about the system, not just the individual parts.