All good things must come to an end.
For our last discussion, we got the chance to talk about all things workplace flexibility with three industry experts – Renee Murray, Head of People & Culture at Half Dome, Helen Comerford, Chief People & Culture Officer at Squiz, and our host for the event, Damien Andreasen, Vice President of HiBob.
What is it? How can it help us attract and retain top talent? How does it improve employee productivity and efficiency?
Let’s find out.
A whole new world …
… A dazzling place I never knew.
This new world of flexible working can certainly feel like we’re diving into the unknown.
There’s been plenty of buzz around the concept, so we wanted to take a minute to really hone in on what workplace flexibility actually is.
More than just logging in remotely, workplace flexibility is about creating a lifestyle. Other than throwing in some important meetings during those core hours and sprinkling in ‘a baseline and some boundaries’, you do you. As Renee highlighted, it’s about allowing teams and individuals ‘to find what flexible work looks like for them’ – whether it’s having ‘balance days’ to reset, or letting people work anywhere in the world for three months.
When Squiz introduced Squizflex around two years ago, it was all about empowering leaders on how to let their teams manage their own work lives – to let them decide when and where they worked best. Provided the work and the customer remained central, it’s ok to go to that 8am gym class.
As Damien highlighted, we’re also getting rid of this psychological game about getting to work on time. Removing the unnecessary pressure and stress is surely only going to have a positive effect on people’s output.
That then got us thinking, what are the other pros and cons of this new territory?
It’s not just about the money anymore (though in this economy a good salary package is important for those of us who enjoy eating our greens). Renee points out that we want a workplace that allows us to ‘thrive and unlock our whole potential in different ways’. Whether it’s an extra hour of sleep or lifting those heavy weights, we need time for whatever allows us to bring our best selves to work.
It seems we can all agree with Helen that the ‘pros far outweigh the cons’. However we still need to be aware of balancing those blurry lines.
While many people are juggling professional life with daytime daycare duties, it’s also not productive for anyone to be watching kids play in the background during a big presentation. Understanding how to have these conversations respectfully and support people with multiple commitments is something we need to continue exploring.
Navigating new territory
Speaking of distractions, how do we make sure that our attention isn’t constantly diverted by the temptation to binge that Netflix series or the pile of dishes in the sink we should probably clean up?
How do we keep productivity on track with flexible working?
For Renee, this new territory calls for a new way of thinking. Instead of focusing on the ‘headcount in the office’ we need to look at ‘collaboration, culture and outputs’. By tracking key outcomes we can ask, are we ‘comfortable with the quality of work that’s coming out’? If the outcomes aren’t really cutting it, why?
Speaking of collaboration, when people are connecting, what does that interaction look like? Are people within the workplace only talking to each other when having a meeting? Maybe it’s time to introduce some more relaxed and social interactions.
It may be that the way we use an actual office space has changed. As Helen noted, focusing on getting the nitty gritty done at home, our offices instead become places that people come together to ‘purposely collaborate and connect’.
This means that office layouts and designs may be in need of a refresh. Damien recalled how the office structure for a previous job was focused on what type of work happened where. With a ‘loud area’ for customer facing calls and those in sales and a ‘quiet area’ that was often occupied by the engineers and product designers, it paints an interesting picture for the future of the atypical office.
A never-ending journey
The third main focus of discussion was the big bosses. If your CEO has never known anything else but coming into the office everyday, how do we get them to see why change is good?
For Helen, it’s an ongoing conversation – we need to ‘keep bringing it up and we’ve got to be confident that this is the right thing to do’. It also needs to be an open conversation that is respectful and mindful of others perspectives. Like we said before, collaboration is key.
It might sometimes seem like the easy option is to just bring everyone back into the office. As Renee pointed out, ‘the reality is it takes a lot of work to find out … how best to support our team and provide an environment for them to thrive in’. It comes back to continually having those conversations. Ask people ‘is our approach to flex still working for you? Are there ways we can do things differently’?
We know things are continually changing and rapidly in the workplace right now. This means, as Damien pointed out, there needs to be ‘free flowing discussion’. Nothing is ‘set in stone’ anymore. If something works today, but doesn’t work tomorrow, that’s ok. We simply need to keep the conversations open by ‘asking the questions, gathering data and making informed decisions’.
We’re not going to get everything right the first time round, but by opening up to the reality of workplace flexibility, who knows where this new world might take us.