5 Myths About Flexible Work

Flexibility might be great in theory, but it just doesn’t work for us. We have literally heard this statement hundreds of times over the years. It doesn’t matter what industry we’re talking about — whether it’s tech, government, finance, healthcare, or small business, we’ve heard it. There’s always someone who works from the premise that “there’s no way flexible work policies can work in our organization.”

In reality, flexible work policies can work in any industry. The last twelve months of the pandemic have proven this. In fact, a recent Harvard Business School Online study showed that most professionals have excelled in their jobs while working from home, and 81% either don’t want to go back to the office or would choose a hybrid schedule post-pandemic. It’s important to recognize, however, that flexibility doesn’t always look the same — one size definitely does not fit all.

The Myth of the Five C’s

You may be wondering, “If you can recruit the best candidates, increase your retention rates, improve your profits, and advance innovation by incorporating a relatively simple and inexpensive initiative, then why haven’t more organizations developed flex policies?” This question will be even harder for organizations to ignore after we’ve experienced such a critical test case during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Building Tomorrow’s Workforce

How the best companies identify and manage talent. We believe fear has created stumbling blocks for many organizations when it comes to flexibility. Companies either become frozen by fear or they become focused by fear. It is focus that can help companies pivot during challenging times. In the years that we’ve been working with companies on flexibility, we’ve heard countless excuses and myths for why they have not implemented a flex policy. In fact, the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance has boiled these myths down to the fear of losing the 5 C’s:
  1. Loss of control
  2. Loss of culture
  3. Loss of collaboration
  4. Loss of contribution
  5. Loss of connection

Addressing the Fears

Myth #1: Loss of Control

Executives are often worried that they’ll open Pandora’s box and set a dangerous precedent if they allow some employees to work flexibly. They worry that if they let a few employees work from home, then the office will always be empty and no one will be working. The answer to this is structure and clarity. We can virtually guarantee that any organization that correctly designs and implements their flexibility policy will not lose anything.

To maintain control and smooth operation of your organization, it’s imperative that you set standards and clearly communicate them. Organizations should provide clear guidelines on the types of flexibility offered (for example, remote work, reduced hours, asynchronous schedules, job sharing and/or compressed work weeks) and create a centralized approval process for flexibility to ensure that the system is equitable. It is also helpful to have a calendar system for tracking when and where each team member is working.

You must also commit to training everyone on these standards — from those working a flexible schedule, to those supervising them, to all other coworkers. Education and training will help your team avoid “flex stigma,” where employees are disadvantaged or viewed as less committed due to their flexibility. Training can also help organizations to ensure that successful systems and structures that support flexibility are maintained.

Myth #2: Loss of Culture

While you may not see every employee every day, and you may not be able to have lunch with people every day, culture does not have to suffer with a flexible work initiative. However, it is essential that teams meet either in person or via video conference on a regular basis. At the Alliance, we recommend that companies and firms first define what culture means to their individual organization and then determine how they might maintain this culture in a hybrid or virtual environment.

Many organizations with whom we’ve worked reported that they found creative ways to maintain culture during months of remote working during the pandemic. Many Alliance members organized social functions like virtual exercise classes, cooking classes, happy hours, and team-building exercises to maintain community. Additionally, it’s important to take advantage of the days when everyone is physically present to develop relationships, participate in events, and spend one-to-one time with colleagues.

Myth # 3: Loss of Collaboration

As long as teams that are working a flexible schedule commit to regular meetings and consistent communication, then collaboration will not be compromised. It’s important for all team members to maintain contact (even if it’s online), keep tabs on all projects, and be responsive to emails and phone calls. We always recommend that remote teams also meet in person occasionally to maintain personal contact and relationships.

For collaboration to be successful, remote employees must not be held to a higher standard that those working in the office. Additionally, technology should be used to enhance collaboration. For example, when companies are bringing teams together for brainstorming sessions, virtual breakout rooms can facilitate small group collaboration and help to ensure that all voices are heard. Some organizational leaders have also incorporated regular virtual office hours for unscheduled feedback and informal collaboration.

Myth #4: Loss of Contribution

We have often heard leaders say: “If employees are not physically at their desks in the office, then how will we know that they’re actually working?” But with endless distractions available on computers these days (from online shopping, to Instagram, to Facebook, etc.) you really don’t know what your employees are doing at their desks, even if they are in the office.

In fact, they could be searching for a new job (that offers flexibility!) right before your eyes. It’s important to clearly communicate what is expected of each individual and trust that they will complete the job within the expected timeframe. All employees should be evaluated on the quality of their work and their ability to meet clearly defined performance objectives, rather than on time spent in the office.

Myth #5: Loss of Connection

Technology now enables people to connect at any time of the day in almost any locationMeetings can be held through a myriad of video conferencing applications. Additionally, calendar-sharing apps can help to coordinate team schedules and assist with knowing the availability of team members. Even networking events can now be done virtually. For example, one of our team members created a system for scheduling informal virtual coffee chats between partners and associates to maintain opportunities for networking and mentoring during the pandemic.

It’s important to know what your employees and stakeholders prefer in terms of in-person, hybrid, or virtual-only connection. In a recent survey conducted by BNI of over 2,300 people from around the world, the networking organization asked the participants if they would like their meetings to be: 1) in-person only, 2) online only, or 3) a blend of online and in-person meetings.

One third of the participants surveyed said that they wanted to go back completely to in-person meetings. However, 16% wanted to stick with online meetings only, and almost 51% of the survey respondents were in favor of a blend of meeting both in-person and online. This is a substantial transition from the organizational practice prior to the pandemic, with a full two-thirds of the organization saying that they would prefer some aspect of online meetings to be the norm in the future.

A recent 2021 KPMG CEO Outlook Pulse Survey found that almost half of the CEOs of major corporations around the world do not expect to see a return to “normal” this year. Perhaps a silver lining of the pandemic will be that corporate leaders have overcome their fears of the 5C’s and will now understand how flexibility can benefit their recruitment and retention efforts — not to mention productivity and profitability.

By:Manar Morales & Ivan Misner

Source: 5 Myths About Flexible Work

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Critics:

A flexible work arrangement (FWA) empowers an employee to choose what time they begin to work, where to work, and when they will stop work. The idea is to help manage work-life balance and benefits of FWA can include reduced employee stress and increased overall job satisfaction. On the contrary, some refrain from using their FWA as they fear the lack of visibility can negatively affect their career.

Overall, this type of arrangement has a positive effect on incompatible work/family responsibilities, which can be seen as work affecting family responsibilities or family affecting work responsibilities. FWA is also helpful to those who have a medical condition or an intensive care-giving responsibility, where without FWA, part-time work would be the only option.

Types of flexible work arrangements

References

How Google’s ‘Hybrid’ Work Model Could Work For Your Business

According to CNBC, “Google is rethinking its long-term work options for employees, as most of them say they don’t want to come back to the office full-time.” According to a recent survey of Google employees, “sixty-two percent want to return to their offices at some point, but not every day”. For this reason, the company is working on “hybrid” models for future work. 

If you’re pondering the same in your organization, don’t be binary in your definition of hybrid.

It’s easy to assume a hybrid is a combination of only two things – a car engine with both internal combustion and electric power sources, plants and animals that are cross breeds of two different species, and golf clubs that combine the characteristics of both a wood and an iron.  But hybrids aren’t necessarily limited to combinations of two. According to Merriem-Webster, it can also mean: “having or produced by a combination of two or more distinct elements” and “of mixed character; composed of mixed parts”.

This is great news, because when it comes to hybrid work models, we’re going to need to think much more broadly than just two modes of work – in the office and at home. In fact, there’s a law from the systems sciences that applies.

Ashby’s Law and Hybrid Work Models Recommended For You

We love Ross Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety, which states: “Only variety can destroy variety.”  We usually apply it to problem-solving, and specifically the need to seek out a variety of solvers to match the variety of the problem they’re trying to solve. In their new book Humanocracy,  Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini apply Ashby’s Law to organizations needing “a relentless pace of experimentation” to protect them “from a relentless pace of change”. 

And now, here’s another important implication of the very same law: Only a variety of work options can satisfy a variety of work preferences. That means leaders must work hard to offer a  variety of work models in order to attract and retain top talent.

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The Pandemic Has Changed Preferences and Habits

Why are there so many work preferences among workers? In short: our habits changed almost overnight. Prior to the pandemic, some companies already offered flexible work options – both work-from-home and work-in-the-office – and others were exploring the possibility. Then, starting in March, if people could work from home, they had to work from home. New habits were formed. Daily commuters got used to not commuting. Office-dwellers got used to staying home. Face-to-face believers (like us) adapted to face-to-screen. And across the board, as Airbnb Advisor Chip Conley put it in our interview with him, “IRL (in real life)” was replaced by “URL (digital)”.

As top management thinker Roger L. Martin explained it to us: “Covid-19 has forced us to break our habits, and where they were habits we hated, we won’t be going back. For example, we won’t go back to commuting to work five days per week.” David Musto, president and CEO of Ascensus, told us that leaders will need to think very differently about ”what coming back to the office looks like, now that people have acquired new habits and a new willingness to engage virtually.” 

BBC’s former head of Corporate Real Estate, Chris Kane, told us that it’s premature to declare the death of the office, explaining that:  “For employers and employees, we’ve been stuck in a very traditional bipolar debate between office and home, whereas there’s lots of choice and it’s not just about physical space. Work is moving from being process work performed in an office, to knowledge work, which can be done in a whole raft of settings.” 

This isn’t the end of the office, merely the end of the days when working at the office is the only option, at least in jobs that allow for it and companies that need to compete for talent.

A Two-Option Hybrid Model Isn’t Flexible Enough

As schools have reopened, some have offered a two-option hybrid education model – parents can choose to send their children to school, or they can choose to keep them at home. Others have offered a rigid two-mode hybrid education model, where students attend school during designated hours in a classroom, and in other designated hours, attend school remotely. While these models simplify things for education systems, the limited variety can’t match the variety of parental or student needs. What if I can’t be home all day to be with my kids and don’t feel safe sending them to school? What if my child can’t learn effectively unless they’re in a classroom under the supervision of a teacher, but they’ve got a pre-existing condition that makes them vulnerable to Covid-19? What if conditions change and we need to switch from one mode to the other? What if there aren’t enough teachers or my child’s teacher gets sick? 

Binary thinking when it comes to in-person vs. virtual creates high-consequence, high-anxiety, and sometimes impossible choices for people, as we’ve seen with schools. In the same way, a two-option model that isn’t flexible won’t work for people who are unable to make either option work, or for those who can easily go work for someone else.  

If a hybrid work model is limited to two elements, most people won’t be able to (or won’t want to) pick one or the other. Some people might be okay commuting, for example, but only in the summer when traffic is lighter. Strict policies around how and where people are allowed to work when they’re not in the office will turn people off, as most strict policies do, but especially now that people have experienced a prolonged period of flexibility. Heavily regimented “collaboration hours”, when everyone on a team is expected to be assembled together in one place, can’t reflect the natural ebbs and flows of teams and their projects. 

To limit choice is to defy the Law of Requisite Variety, and doing so will create a number of consequences – instability, dissatisfaction and resistance – that will ultimately drive some people away to better opportunities and push others out. And when it comes to the continuing struggle for diversity and parity in your organization, those with diverse needs are the most likely to be left out of your variety equation. 

Instead, Apply Ashby’s Law Over and Over Again

The answer lies in embracing the notion of requisite variety in three dimensions:

  • Offer the necessary and sufficient variety of work options to match the variety of work preferences so that you’re balancing the needs of the organization and the needs of its people. 
  • Find that balance by asking your people – a requisite variety of them who genuinely represent everyone in the organization – to participate in co-creating those options.
  • Be relentless about experimenting with those models and keeping people involved in re-evaluating them over time, so that you and they can keep up with the relentless pace of change.

If you’re approaching the development of hybrid work models any other way, you’re at risk of getting it wrong, and at the same time, missing an incredible opportunity to unlock significant latent passion and talent across your organization Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website or some of my other work here

David Benjamin and David Komlos

David Benjamin and David Komlos

We are the CEO and Chief Architect of Syntegrity and co-authors of Cracking Complexity: The Breakthrough Formula for Solving Just About Anything Fast. Global leaders and their teams apply the complexity formula to their top challenges, getting to decisions and action in days instead of months or years. From transformation to taking out cost, digitization to improving access to life-saving products, we have equipped leaders to dramatically accelerate solutions and execution on their defining challenges. We frequently speak on topics related to complexity, fast problem-solving and mobilization, and unleashing organizations’ latent talent to bring about controlled explosions of progress.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company is ”reconfiguring” its offices amid a more permanent shift to working from home. Pichai discussed the future of work at Google during an interview for Time 100 this week. While he doesn’t see working in the office going away altogether, he described the office as a space for ”on-sites” — presumably, days where employees, who mostly work from home, gather in the office.

Pichai also said he made the decision to have employees work from home until next summer in order to boost productivity and give workers a sense of certainty during an uncertain time. Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories. Google’s famous offices may look a bit different for employees once it’s safe for them to begin returning to work. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said this week that the company is making changes to its physical spaces to better support employees in the future — a future that Pichai says will include ”hybrid models” of work.”I see the future as definitely being more flexible,” Pichai said during a video interview for Time 100.

Pichai was an honoree on this year’s list of the most influential people in the world.”We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community, is super important for whenever you have to solve hard problems, you have to create something new. So we don’t see that changing, so we don’t think the future is just 100% remote or something,” he said. Pichai said that Google is ”reconfiguring” its office spaces to accommodate what he called ”on-sites” — presumably, days where employees, who mostly work from home, gather in the office.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderGoogle was one of the first major tech companies to announce that employees may continue working from home until July 2021. At the time, The Wall Street Journal reported that the decision was made in part to help working parents whose children might be learning partially or totally remotely this school year. Pichai said there were several factors that went into the decision.”Early on as this started, I realized it was going to be a period of tremendous uncertainty, so we wanted to lean in and give certainty where we could,” Pichai said. ”The reason we made the decision to do work from home until mid of next year is we realized people were trying hard to plan … and it was affecting productivity.”

Pichai said making such a long-term decision forced the company to embrace their new reality: that working from home is here to stay, at least in some capacity. And employees seem to agree: a recent internal survey at the company found that 62% employees believe they only need to be in the office ”some days” in order to do their work well, while 20% don’t feel like they need to come to the office at all. Pichai also touched upon a larger issue for those who live in the San Francisco Bay Area: affordability. All data is taken from the source: http://businessinsider.com Article Link: https://www.businessinsider.com/googl…#Google#newsbloopers#newstodaybbc#usanewstoday#newstodayworld#newsworldabc #

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