Leave it to total lockdown of the whole continent to help bring about reasons for flexible working. Almost 55% of employers are switching to a hybrid flex model going forward.
While the trend was already happening, the crisis certainly sped the process up. Employees are finding benefits in anything from a better family life to cutting out on commuting and some are hoping to keep some of that going forward.
Far from just the employees, many business find perks too.
What’s your plan after lockdown? Whatever best fits your business, it’s become clear that allowing for a little more flexibility has a lot of perks with surprisingly little to worry about . Not least when it comes to employee happiness and retention.
Let’s see what flexible working myths lockdown helped bust – what lessons we learned and the reasons why you should never worry about flexible working again.
We can trust employees with flexible working
In a recent BBC survey, it’s clear that most managers aren’t actually that worried about transitioning to a flex work model.
If they are worried about anything, it’s typically uncertainty. But we have learned we have less to worry about here than thought.
Uncertainty is basically the lack of trust. Trustworthy employees, regardless of how they choose to work, create certainty. Employees who cannot be trusted with for example delivering on time, will create uncertainty under the very same conditions.
Do you trust your employees? Have they performed during lockdown? They will do so in the future too.
On the flip side, we’ve also learned that if you have an employee you feel you absolutely cannot trust when given responsibility for their own working structure, your top priority in that area should be either hiring someone else – or better, turning that employee into somebody worthy of your trust.
People haven’t stopped showing up “when they’re supposed to”
Punctuality is not lost. People will still attend meetings when they are happening.
So are they maybe taking an hour extra to run an errand during the day? Short answer: if they meet their targets you shouldn’t worry.
Let’s look at group with the most understood flexibility needs – parents with young children.
Working parents overwhelmingly don’t want additional uncertainty in their professional lives. They’ve got plenty of that at home. Flexibility for working parents means the ability to create their own, workable timetable. And by and large, they still deliver on their goals.
Take the baby out of the equation and you quickly realise this has been the story with most experienced flexible professionals. If they meet targets, who cares when they do it. (With a caveat, which we’ll see in a second).
If you think that flexible working means people come and go when they choose then – yes – you’re half right. But they’ll be coming and going at an agreed schedule, and they will deliver the goods. In the end, that’s what matters.
People are no less reachable than in an office
Did you ever hear of Slack or Zoom? It’s this thing the kids are doing nowadays. And everyone else.
Expecting people to need an office to be present during the day is a decidedly… retro concern. The last months has shown that not knowing where someone is physically located is far from a comms barrier when the primary tools you use to communicate with them live in their pocket.
There is no reason not to allow flexible working, if your employees have all the tools literally at hand all the time.
The thing is, we know everyone already knows this. When people are dismissive about flexible working because they don’t like the idea of people coming and going at unmanageable times or suddenly sliding off the grid.
Actually, what they’re really saying is they don’t like the lack of control. But…
People are still as reliable as before
It always comes back to this, in the end. What if I can no longer trust people to work as hard as they were working before?
Well, do you trust the adults you work with to do what’s expected of them? If you do trust them, then there’s no need for uncertainty, regardless of what flexible working arrangement you come to. You’ve got nothing to worry about. Trust IS certainty.
If you feel you have employees you don’t trust after lockdown, then you have a whole different – and much greater – set of problems. It’s not the distracting environment I’m sure they have at home currently that stops them from finishing their work. A completely unmotivated individual can find even the humble daydream an unavoidable diversion.
You need a way to motivate them – and there are few shortcuts. Well, there’s one: hear some tips on a motivation WFH culture from Tanya Sun at Papercup in our podcast.
Where do you stand?
Like the current health crisis, not knowing what’s going to happen makes it tough to make good decisions.
So if you think that allowing for further flexible working is going to increase that uncertainty, then you’d totally be forgiven for being apprehensive about it. There are more reasons than not to allow for more flexible working, and very little to fear.
Employees who are serious about seeing the benefits of flexible working have a vested interest in making sure everyone knows exactly what’s what.
Wherever they are, they’re still working.