A 2017 report from Deloitte reveals that 80 percent of executives rate employee experience as “very important” or “important.” Yet just 22 percent of companies feel that they’ve successfully created a differentiated employee experience. A crucial component of a great employee experience is enabling more flexible work—also known as “remote work” or “virtual work.”
Gallup found in 2016 that 43 percent of employees work nontraditionally and spent more time doing so. “Nontraditional work arrangements” encompasses a range of more flexible options, including occasionally working from home, offsite work, working outside the hours of 9 to 5, job-sharing, and other practices. Employees are demanding greater flexibility in the workplace and using technologies to enable them to communicate seamlessly with colleagues anywhere in the world.
As companies embrace flexible work arrangements, they need to consider their workplace strategy carefully, so that they deliver on the brand promise to employees. Considering the following questions can begin the process of deciding how your company can best prepare for a more flexible workforce.
Does a particular role lend itself to a flexible work arrangement?
Think about the various roles in your company and if and how it would be possible for them to be done more flexibly. Some roles may require special equipment that can’t be taken offsite, for example. But many roles can be done from anywhere, at flexible times, opening the doors to a mutually beneficial flexible working policy.
Are your employees mostly focused contributors who spend their time working independently, or strong team players who spend their time working collaboratively?
While few jobs are fully independent or fully collaborative, many organizations lean one way or the other, by necessity or culture. More independent-leaning companies may have an easier road to mobile work, but collaborators can explore tools and technologies that help them work together online.
Many companies are choosing a “best of both worlds” option, with employees working flexibly 60 to 80 percent of the time. Gallup found that when employees spend time both working at home/off-site and in a traditional office setting, engagement climbs. Employees can enjoy the benefits of mobile work while still getting face time with coworkers and management.
Are your employees looking for greater work/life balance?
Millennials bring new expectations about work/life balance to their jobs. This new generation of workers won’t mold their lives around a job; rather, they want a job that fits their life. For many employees, flexible work is a major company perk, and employees are more willing than ever to change jobs to get it.
Can we clearly communicate this change to our leaders and employees?
Creating a flexible work policy is only half the battle. Ensuring all leaders and employees feel supported through this change is critical to a successful strategy execution. To remain a leader in a competitive marketplace, attract and retain top talent, optimize performance, and enhance work/life integration for its employees, Guardian Life Insurance launched a multi-year workplace strategy initiative in 2015. Guardian invited Gagen MacDonald to support the launch of Guardian on the Go, which helps employees transition to, and work productively in, a mobile work arrangement.
Gagen co-created the change story, developed compelling campaign messaging, and created launch materials including interactive digital toolkits. During a pilot, 92 percent of surveyed employees reported feeling satisfied with Guardian on the Go and found the process easy to understand. 100 percent of surveyed managers felt supported throughout the launch and implementation. With a successful pilot, this award–winning flexible work program was rolled out company-wide in 2017.
Can you keep your remote employees engaged and immersed in your company culture?
Once you’ve developed a flexible work policy and employees are using it, it’s critical that they still feel like part of the team. Whether they sit in a cubicle or home office, driving employee commitment to your business cause is essential for productivity and culture. Most employees—regardless of how or where they work—spend a majority of their day interacting with technology. If used correctly, that technology can enable transformational experiences that change how people think about their work. But true employee engagement will look and feel different at every company.
Clearly there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Guardian has chosen a more flexible workplace policy with great success (as have others, like Dell and UnitedHealth Group). Some companies, like IBM and Yahoo, are doing the opposite, bringing their mobile workforce back to a centralized location. What’s important is that companies ask the right questions, stay open to different approaches, and embrace new environments and ways of working as they evolve.