So, it’s 2021. New year, new you (or, something like that…)! A chance for fresh starts, fresh goals, and reinvigorated motivation. But, if you’re still working from home in the new year, that “fresh start” won’t look like a brand-new work outfit, greeting coworkers and sharing stories of celebrations over coffee in the kitchen, and getting back to the grind all together. It will probably look like each workday has looked for the past 10 months. You’ll walk a few feet over to your desk (maybe at least a new pair of sweatpants are involved?) and power up your computer for your first video call of the new year.
Settling in. One of the biggest realizations from the past year is that, not only will remote work continue as the pandemic persists, but it is likely here to stay long after we return to a healthier, safer environment. Last year, our COO, Jess Milloy, also discussed the value of settling into a pace, schedule, and habits that will help make us feel productive and successful. A report by Upwork revealed that one in four Americans will be working remotely in 2021.1 LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index indicates that 47% of professionals in the US believe that their companies will permit remote work in some capacity following the pandemic,2 and a recent Gartner CFO Survey also indicated that nearly 75% of companies plan to implement permeant shifts to remote work in some capacity after the pandemic is over.3
Some examples of those modeling these indefinite shifts include several tech companies, like Twitter, Square, Facebook, and Google. In fact, the CEO of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Sundar Puchai, has already promoted the implementation of a flexible work week in which employees are only in the office for a limited amount of “collaboration days” a week.4 This reflects a potential trend toward the “3-2-2″ work week: 3 days in the office, 2 days remote, 2 days off, according to Ashley Whillans, a professor at Harvard Business School.2
The big picture is that workplace flexibility is on the rise. More specifically, remote work in some capacity is likely to become part of our new normal. The good news is, we’ve learned a lot over the past 10 months of remote work and adjusting to a flexible environment. Employees and employers are feeling more confident in this arrangement, and many companies are reporting smoother processes now than at the start of the pandemic.1
So, how can we stay motivated heading into the new year? Flexibility is one of our core values at FMP, and one way we’re staying energized is through focusing on the positives of work-from-home life. Maximizing workplace flexibility for your employees is one of the biggest benefits of this virtual environment.
So, what exactly is workplace flexibility? This month, our FMP Blog sub-theme is Workplace Flexibility. This is likely a term you’ve heard countless times since the world has transitioned to remote work. Workplace flexibility refers to adaptable work arrangements that adjust to suit the needs of the employee and employer.5 Workplace flexibility can take many formats, like flexwork (hours worked in a day) and remote work (working outside of the office).6 A culture of flexibility has become a critical element for retaining a high-performing, diverse workforce. And the COVID-19 pandemic has not only pushed remote work to the forefront but has also made it an essential survival strategy. This type of flexibility and adaptability has allowed companies to continue operating, even in the event of an international crisis.
How can we benefit from flexible work arrangements? Just a few of the numerous benefits of a flexible work environment are highlighted below:
- Increased employee attraction and retention. A survey by FlexJobs in 2019 revealed that 80% of employees said they would be more loyal to companies with flexible work options,1 and Deloitte’s marketplace survey on workplace flexibility indicates that 94% of employees believe they would benefit from work flexibility.7
- Improved mental health.7Flexible work arrangements allow employees the opportunity to find a work balance that best suits their personal lives and work styles, which can lead to reduced stress and increased happiness.
- Better work-life balance.8Eliminating commutes and increasing schedule flexibility creates space for a healthier integration of work and personal life. For example, parents navigating childcare or individuals caring for elderly relatives can reduce conflicts between work and personal obligations.
- Improved productivity and efficiency.9One aspect of remote work that has been reported to impact efficiency is fewer non-essential meetings. Beyond that, when individuals don’t feel tied to working within a set time frame, this allows them to better schedule and prioritize tasks throughout the work week.
- Reducing costs and carbon footprint.6Downsizing office spaces and limiting commuters on the streets can not only have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line, but also help the environment along the way!
What are some additional considerations as we continue in a remote environment? Despite the many benefits, there are still some key factors to keep in mind when implementing flexible work policies.
- Employee engagement.3 Think of ways to keep your employees connected and communicating! We are missing the coffee chats after a stressful day, high-fives after a big presentation, and drop-ins to resolve that quick question. And on top of that, our kids, family members, and pets are a constant distraction. So, it is critical that both employees and employers put in the extra effort to stay engaged during remote work. Turning on your camera for the weekly check-in or attending that virtual happy hour can go a long way.
- Avoid burnout. With flexible work hours, it can be easy for employees to slip in to a routine in which they feel as though they are “always on the clock,” and expected to be available all hours of the day.10 Be sure to encourage boundaries between work and home life, even (and especially) when we don’t have those geographically.
- Top-down modeling. It is key that leadership models the behaviors and attitudes they want to instill in their employees, especially with flexible work arrangements.11 This will instill trust and empower employees to find work arrangements that work best for them.
- Communication.6Remote work disrupts the flow of day-to-day office communication and impacts trust and expectations. Flexibility can get muddled with ambiguity, so clear, consistent communication is key. Specifically, setting clear performance expectations and reinforcing trust from leadership can help to make flexible work arrangements successful.
With seemingly much of the same on the horizon, we’re focusing on staying energized in the new year and remaining adaptable. How is your company maximizing workplace flexibility?
Haylee Gans joined FMP in May of 2019, and works as a Human Capital Consultant mainly on competency modeling and assessment projects and training and development solutions. When she’s not geeking-out on survey design or data analysis, she can be found on a run in the sunshine or with a big bowl of home-cooked pasta.
- Ioannou, L. 1 in 4 Americans will be working remotely in 2021, Upwork survey reveals. (December 15, 2020).https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/15/one-in-four-americans-will-be-working-remotely-in-2021-survey.html
- Olster, S. 24 Big Ideas that will change our world in 2021. (December 9, 2020). https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/24-big-ideas-change-our-world-2021-scott-olster/
- Castrillon, C. This Is the Future Of Remote Work In 2021. (December 27, 2020). https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2021/12/27/this-is-the-future-of-remote-work-in-2021/?sh=298284b41e1d
- Wakabayashi, D. Google Delays Return to Office and Eyes ‘Flexible Work Week’. (December 14, 2020). https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/14/technology/google-delays-return-to-office-and-eyes-flexible-work-week.html
- How to Boost Your Workplace Flexibility in 2021. (December 1, 2020). https://factorialhr.com/blog/workplace-flexibility-2/
- Managing Flexible Work Arrangements. (April 21, 2020). https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/managingflexibleworkarrangements.aspx
- Workplace Flexibility Survey. (April 24, 2020). https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/workplace-flexibility-survey.html
- Dunn, A. 2021 Trends: Flexibility in the Workplace. (December 22, 2020). https://www.workdesign.com/2020/12/2021-trends-flexibility-in-the-workplace/
- Farrer, L. 5 Proven Benefits Of Remote Work For Companies. (February 12, 2020). https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurelfarrer/2020/02/12/top-5-benefits-of-remote-work-for-companies/?sh=37b3ef0d16c8
- Windley, D. How To Create A Successful Flexible Work Culture. (June 29, 2020). https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2020/06/29/how-to-create-a-successful-flexible-work-culture/?sh=4088430614be
- Sayers, L. Flexibility critical to being a talent magnet to the modern workforce. (January 7, 2017). https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/about/diversity/internationalwomensday/blogs/flexibility-critical.html