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The proliferation of remote work during the global pandemic has proven that working from home is a viable work model with few downsides. Yet companies continue to encourage, even require, their employees to return to the office, often to their own detriment. For example, PwC’s Pulse Survey: Cautious to Confident found that 64% of executives agree their company needs as many people on-site as possible.
As remote work continues to top employees’ wish lists, it’s clear that many business leaders need to do a better job of embracing a culture of flexibility in their organizations to retain and attract employees. workers.
Employees continue to demand workplace flexibility
According to our Global Workforce Survey, today’s workers want (and need) variety in the way they work. Nearly two-thirds say they prefer a mix of in-person and remote work. This flexibility is at the heart of job satisfaction. Only 45% of in-person employees say they are satisfied with their jobs, compared to 50% of hybrid employees and 63% of fully remote workers.
Maintaining connectivity and culture is important, but inflexibility risks breeding resentment. While 26% of respondents in the PwC survey would prefer full-time remote work, only 18% said their employer is likely to adopt this model. Only 11% of employees prefer full-time in-person work, but 18% say their employer is likely to require them to come into the office every day.
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Workforce agility is key to being competitive in a very fluid and competitive marketplace. Organizations must therefore both meet employee expectations and enable their employees to perform at a high level. Otherwise, they risk facing high turnover, low productivity and loss of business agility.
A workplace strategy that benefits the organization and the employees
It’s clear that most employers still haven’t figured out a new way of working in the post-pandemic world, one that provides benefits for both employees and the company. However, leading organizations are embracing a culture of flexibility in the workplace by implementing policies and tools that respond to employees where they are. Success in this new hybrid model requires engaging employees and giving them a sense of personalization and ownership of the way they work.
Here are four strategies for business leaders to enable a culture of workforce flexibility that benefits the organization and the employees.
1. Offer personalized flexibility
Workplace flexibility is not a unique proposition. People have different needs, work styles, and preferences for how they work, and personalization helps put people in the best position to succeed. Empowering workers to work in the way that works best for them gives them a sense of responsibility and inspires them to perform.
Some people may need to work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. to take care of childcare or other personal responsibilities. Others may think they would perform better in a four-day work week. Some may choose to forgo some pay for more vacation or personal days. Flexibility allows people to work how and when they want in the most optimal way.
In the meantime, don’t forget the power of connectivity and in-person coaching. Some people just don’t know what they’re missing. Making this real to them by bringing teams together regularly and using connectivity as an in-person incentive can help clarify the value.
2. Establish the rules in advance
Regardless of people’s individual needs and preferences, it is up to managers and business leaders to determine whether it is in the best interests of the organization to let people customize the way they work. This requires open communication channels between managers, employees and HR as well as formal plans around in-person, remote and hybrid working.
People need to know what the job expectation is no matter how they choose to work, and managers need to know where the boundaries are. Clear rules of engagement must be defined, formalized and communicated to stakeholders, as well as clear responsibilities.
3. Empower different work styles with advanced collaboration and connectivity tools
A flexible workforce is only as effective as its toolset. Wherever they work, employees need the tools to effectively connect to corporate resources and collaborate with colleagues, customers and partners.
We need to go beyond video conferencing to give people interactive tools like the whiteboard, real-time polls, and the ability to split into teams. Remote workers need desktop-like connectivity, so they can work the way they want without latency or bandwidth issues. And the people who work in the office should not be forgotten either. A complete overhaul of the layout of offices and shared spaces can encourage people to come to the office more often and be more productive.
4. Encourage growth and career advancement
Each employee must feel challenged in their role and want to develop their career within the company. Development and advancement opportunities are great ways to retain and attract employees. Investing in people through learning and development programs enhanced by recognition, badges and incentives creates the kind of work environment that can get people excited.
High performers seek out opportunities that challenge and excite them. It’s just a matter of giving them opportunities to excel and demonstrate what they can do.
Positioning people to excel
Hybrid working models are not going away. Retaining and attracting productive workers requires flexibility in the way they work and empathy from business leaders about what the “new normal” looks like for employees. Business leaders have the opportunity to scale up and encourage workforce flexibility – working with employees to give them the opportunities, processes and tools they need to do their jobs well and offer the classic win-win.
Joe Atkinson is chief product and technology officer at PwC US
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