4 Things for Employers to Consider About the Future of Work

5 min read
Opinions expressed by contributors are their own. Leaders seem to be divided about what the workplace of the future might look like. Some I have spoken with over the past 12 months are under the impression that a return to 100 percent office-based work is in the cards, while others will remain fully remote or adopt a hybrid solution.

Going back to 100 percent office-based work ignores certain how the world of work is changing. For employees, often, the element of choice is the key to work satisfaction. Choice equals freedom. Many employees may be itching to get back to the office and to face-to-face contact, but perhaps, not full-time, as before.

The belief that physical presence is the main key to employee productivity and performance is a limiting one, and the thinking around it needs to be challenged. From what I have observed as a coach, companies that already had a strong culture and high employee engagement and productivity adapted more easily to the changing world of work. For those that had preexisting problems, the cracks became more pronounced than ever before. And I would argue that blaming this solely on the global health crisis is avoiding the issue. Challenges present us with unprecedented opportunities to develop fresh thinking and “future intelligence.” We just need to open our eyes.

Adam Henderson, founder of Millennial Mindset, asked in a LinkedIn article, “If you can’t trust your employees to work flexibly, why hire them in the first place?” His research shows that flexible approach to work also helps businesses retain their best talent as they are giving their employees an option to do great work, but in a way that fits them.

The need for flexible solutions is backed up by the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016: 75 percent of those surveyed said that they would like to start to, or more frequently, work from home or other locations, where they feel more productive.

In a conversation I had with Christy Lake, chief people officer at Twilio, we talked about rethinking the world of work. Lake started at Twilio in April 2020, near the onset of the global health crisis. She has been working remotely since starting; in fact, Twilio hired 50 percent of its current workforce during the pandemic. She sees the crisis as an opportunity to hire the best people without worrying about geography. The office has its place and the younger demographic, especially, are eager to get back to the office, but the element of choice is important.

Twilio introduced an open work policy to its 4.5 million employees, to cater to the feedback received, which was that 70 percent actually wanted to have office interaction — just maybe not five days per week. Some 40 percent wanted to be fully remote. These percentages are not dissimilar to the findings of the Deloitte survey. It does not make sense to go back to the exact way of working that we had before.

Related: What Is the Real Future of Work?

So how do you approach this for your workforce?

By conducting a bottom-up evaluation of all job roles to see which roles must be office-based versus which can be fully or partially remote, you can identify the important intersection between taking care of your employees and making sure your customers are taken care of.

For many office-based jobs, a hybrid solution is workable and gives both employees and employers the best of both worlds.

Employers can be guilty of believing that they know what their employees want without really taking the time to ask them and encourage open and honest feedback.

If your employees want a hybrid solution and flexibility or a fully remote job and there are no specific requirements for on-site work, then does it make sense to deny this? To attract the best talent in the future workplace, you need to cater to what millennials and Gen Zers want, and that is flexibility. By allowing this, you are placing trust in employees, which in turn, engenders loyalty.

When you listen, you can be adaptive to the signals that guide you to how you can attract and retain your talent.

Related: Keep Up with the Future of Work by Looking to Your Gen Z Colleagues

In some ways, the crisis has leveled the playing field between employees. Those who were unable to attend office networking, face-to-face drinks and parties that may have furthered their career (for example, because they had young children) may have felt that it was hampering their promotion prospects.

The online world has created more inclusivity, in some cases, where employers have chosen to put effort into developing this. Attending a social virtual call is a lot more feasible for those who may have felt excluded before.

By changing how we assess people’s performance and considering it in light of their current situation, we begin to really see how our people perform. Long hours do not always equal better work or higher productivity. We need to recognize that.

Related: 4 Ways To Build a Culture that Supports a Future-Proof Business

If you are going to have a fully remote or hybrid workplace, you need to still create that feeling of connection to the company and community. That means communicating the values and workplace culture clearly. And that is only part of the equation. With choice and freedom comes responsibility. If you give your employees what they want, they are more likely to give you what you want.

You need to help people understand what is expected of them, how they should operate and make decisions, and tell them what good performance could look like in different situations. You can then put in place the systems and support that your employees need to operate at their highest level.

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