Regardless of your view or your organization’s stance on remote work a year ago, 2020 forced you to move people to work away from the office. Many leaders yearn for the chance to bring everyone back to the office and get things back to normal. Even when the regulations and a vaccine allow that, it might not be the best answer. Regardless of your desire for a team working together in person, in the future, you must consider flexible working arrangements. Here some of the business reason why.
The Changing Demographics
It has long been noted that the Millennial and Gen Z generations want greater flexibility in their work and workplaces. By 2025 these two generations will represent 64% of the workforce. Those who might yearn for the “good old days” of the workplace must realize that their good old days isn’t even the same as what nearly two thirds of the workforce will see or remember. These demographics were true before a pandemic sent everyone to work from home.
The New Expectations
As an employer you will need to understand the customer base for your potential jobs – and that customer base has new expectations. While I have laid out the case that demographics point to a more flexible approach to work, many others have now seen a working world that doesn’t include commuting and have grown used to those time and cost savings.
Yes, people still want and need the social interaction that the workplace provided, and not all of that can be replicated virtually. But people will find that they don’t need to work together every day in order to get that need fulfilled.
Just as other socio-economic events shaped people’s beliefs in the future (think the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and 9-11 as just three examples), the pandemic will do so as well. Nine months (so far) or working from home has changed how many people see work and the possible ways to view it moving forward. Those new experiences will change their overall expectation of what work can and should be for the rest of their careers.
The Impact on Retention and Attraction
These demographic and experiential trends fly directly in the face of automatically assuming everyone will want to come back to the workplace five days a week. If your future workplace is the old traditional 40 hours in the office model, you will have many people, even those who have long been valued and loyal employees starting to look elsewhere. It would be one thing if every business was bringing everyone back to the office, but you don’t have to look far to know that won’t be true.
The Competitive Landscape
Once upon a time people saw flexible working arrangements as one of the most valuable perks to a job. In the near future, it will be considered a given. If you aren’t offering flexible working arrangements of some sort you will be in the minority and at a significant disadvantage to finding, attracting, and retaining the talent you need to maintain and grow your business.
If you believe that “people are your most valuable resource” you must take this change in experience and expectations seriously.
A Future of Flexible Working Arrangements
I cannot tell you what the right flexible working arrangement is for your organization. I can tell you that the future of work will be far more fragmented than it was pre-pandemic. Perhaps you will move to three days home two days in the office, perhaps two home/three in. Maybe you will want everyone in the office the same days, maybe people will be able to choose. Some will want to work in the office all the time, and others from home most of the time. It is also possible working hours will shift and change.
I believe the future will include all of those options and dozens of other variations. Our role as leaders is to be thinking (and engaging our teams in a conversation) about possibilities, not counting the days until everyone is back in their cubicles.
I know it is hard to ignore our personal opinions and personal preferences. But as leaders, we must look at the business case. I have laid out some factors you must consider about the future of work. When you consider all of them carefully, I think you will find that you will need some sort of flexible working arrangements as a part of your organizational future.
I know it is hard to ignore our personal opinions and personal preferences. But as leaders, we must look at the business case. I have laid out some factors you must consider about the future of work. When you consider all of them carefully, I think you will find that flexible working arrangements of some kind will be a part of your future.
If you are wrestling with these questions and wanting to support your remote and hybrid team members and leaders both now and in the future, we have a variety of tools and learning experiences to help. From videos to virtual learning, from blog posts to books, you will find it all at RemoteLeadershipInstitute.com.