We know that Elon Musk’s attitude to flexible working is wrong. His belief that employees working from home are ‘pretending to work’ is out of step with current business thinking and out of date in general. But in our recent survey on LinkedIn, though the majority of respondents said that they fully trust their teams to be engaged and productive out of the traditional office setting, 65% said that they would also like to have some in-person connection and face-to-face interaction.
Balancing these two is key in 2022. We must all find a way to allow for greater flexibility in where and how we work, understand that life outside the office is a huge consideration for people in a post-pandemic world, and find a way to combine that with what works best for the business.
Instead of just saying yes to every request for remote or hybrid working we must be more strategic in the decisions we take. We must ask questions about when a team needs to be together, how well it works when fully remote and how well new employees fit into a team that is not in the office.
We must also look at the patterns that occur when flexible working is on the table. Is there a gender bias to working from home, are there more men than women in the office and is there a promotion and development bias to those that come back to face-to-face working?
We have been very focussed over the last two years on where the work is taking place, but we must also look at when and how that work is being done and concentrate on KPIs, deliverables, performance, and happiness – in 2022 retention is also key.
Fundamentally, meeting these challenges requires a change in the way we work and to do that we must focus on what Sarah Jackson OBE, a visiting professor at Cranfield School of Management in the UK, called the four Ms: Managers, measurement, men, and messaging.
- How to manage is perhaps the biggest change businesses must make. We must support managers in this new flexible working world and train them in the people skills they now need to be able to implement flexible working successfully and fairly, and to manage people effectively from home. At 3SIXTY we can train frontline managers to help them manage remote teams and we can work with senior managers and HR teams to effectively support them.
- We need to measure productivity, of course, but we also need to measure how well new hires settle into teams, watch for gender stereotyping, track engagement and retention and follow through on feedback. Our team at 3SIXTY can use data to measure progress towards business targets, and pulse exercises to listen to feedback.
- Men may sound like a very gendered category, and it is, but it is vital to make sure that both men and women are taking up flexible opportunities and that it is not seen as a “mother’s option”. Work allocation and performance metrics must be the same across both gender and work location. 3SIXTY can help companies to use data to track working patterns and impacts on careers (for men and women).
- Communication in key in a flexible workplace. Where not everyone is present at the same time, messaging around hybrid working needs to be consistent, clear and communicated from the top down. At 3SIXTY we are communication experts and can help build a strategy that gets your message across.