Part 3 of a 3-part series looking at how the workforce is evolving, what’s driving the changes and what it means for modern-day employers.
As the working world becomes more fluid and more virtual, the focus is on results however that happens best — a three-day week, at night after the kids go to bed, or from your favourite coffee shop. It’s about getting the job done and efficiency, not analysis paralysis or time spent in your cubicle.
And the best part? There is significant proof that when a company gives employees that flexible freedom to customise their work life to suit their work styles, strengths and availability, it’s not just a feel good story — there is a seriously good impact on the bottom line.
Take Best Buy out of the US — they implemented a system called ROWE — results-only work environment — and found that productivity, on average, shot up 41%.
Flexibility is no longer a “nice to have” or a special reward or, worse, something to give an employee begrudgingly and then punish them for it. It’s a compelling business strategy.
Employees get the flexibility they don’t just want, they are coming to expect. And, as the research shows, their productivity increases, absences due to sickness drop and loyalty to the company surges. So, not only do employers win new staff with great company culture, they keep them for longer and make more money. Why wouldn’t you embrace it?
Well, maybe because it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Now, I’ve avoided saying it until now but here it goes — Work-life balance (it’s so overused, we really need to come up with a better phrase and I say that as a big advocate).
In most corporate circles, this phrase makes management cringe and gives HR teams instant migraines.
Flexible work arrangements are not easy to manage even with a small team let alone workforces that are hundreds or thousands strong. Yes, we have great technological advances that make it possible to have virtual meetings, team chats, collaborative documents and alternative ways of working like hoteling and job share, but with so much choice brings lots and lots of variables which makes management much more multifaceted and challenging than ever before.
Rob Carter, chief information officer at FedEx, has a great theory that the online game World of Warcraft or WoW, as its 10 million devotees worldwide call it, offers a view into the workplace of the future.
Each team faces a fast-paced, complicated series of obstacles called quests, and each player, via his/her online avatar, must contribute to resolving them or else lose their place on the team. The player who contributes most gets to lead the team — until someone else contributes more. The game, which many Gen Yers learned as teens, is intensely collaborative, constantly demanding and often surprising.
“It takes exactly the same skill set people will need more of in the future to collaborate on work projects,” says Carter. “The kids are already doing it.”
The fact is, offering flexibility is not a choice employers will be able to avoid for very much longer. It’s coming like a freight train — and if your competitors aren’t already doing it, they will soon.
It’s important to remember that part of building a great company is building trust – trust in leaders, trust in managers, and trust in employees.
It’s time to adapt and focus on the positives of offering flexibility and the ability to customise your work life in your workplace.