As the battle for workplace definition continues to rage online and on corporate campuses, one thing has become clear - there is no going back to the way things used to be.
But as more and more information comes out about employee views (and their productivity) and the more popular culture attitudes shift toward new perspectives in balancing life and work, it is ever more apparent that the end no longer justifies the means. It’s all about the means - or the journey, as people like to say.
In the days before pandemic, a paradigm shift was already evolving around building a people-first approach, one that's more responsive to human needs, mental wellbeing, work-life balance, etc. The trend toward work-life balance had been in the works for some time.
Whereas before, the workforce was forced into preconceived notions and molds— reporting to the office by 9am (if not before), staying until 5pm (if not later), unwinding a year’s worth of stress with a 2-week vacation, etc. — traditional constraints continue to be eased. The same went for remote work as employers started gradually allowing remote work from time to time or as one-off emergency contingencies.
Enter from stage-right the Pandemic. As with most revolutions, the current workplace revolution was sparked by a crisis. While employers used to force employees to march into the office— from as far as 2-3 hours away if need be—the pandemic forced everyone to march right back out and work from home.
Work-life Balancing Act.
Most recently, Simone Biles' struggles at the Olympics has taken the idea of allowing individuals to define their own work-life balance and pushed it into the spotlight (quite literally).
Now obviously, Ms. Biles is somewhat of an extreme outlier with distinct job hazards unique to her profession — permanent physical paralysis being not the least of which. When you’re part of a business team with many highly integrated, interlocking and moving parts in a production chain to deliver a product or service, not everyone can just show up to work just whenever they’re feeling at the very top 100% of their game.
But the outpouring of sympathy, empathy and all-around support does show an evolution of understanding that was almost unheard of before. And it also highlighted once again the discussion and debate about work-life balance and allowing people to define what works for them (and when) and what does not.
And that flexibility in understanding underpins the delicate balancing act that’s underway in the workplace as employees seek to dismount from traditional office models and some employers struggle to find and offer the flexibility that is required.
Uprooting grassroots productivity.
This brings us back full acrobatic circle to the idea of flexibility in the workplace. Not to beat up on Apple (they just happen to be one of the biggest most profitable companies in a spotlight of their own making), but there was another recent development in the battle between employees and employer workplace flexibility.
As The Verge reported, in a very recent internal grassroots poll of Apple employees a full 90% stated that workplace flexibility was an important issue:
“In the survey, which was sent out in early June, nearly 90 percent of respondents said they “strongly agree” with the statement “location-flexible working options are a very important issue to me.” A total of 1,749 people answered the question. Employees defined “location-flexible” as the option to work from home indefinitely.
This is of course in the face of Tim Cook’s mandate that all employees return to work three days a week.
The interesting thing - perhaps not lost on those employees - is that Apple revenues during the pandemic shift to remote work didn’t crater, but actually skyrocketed. Fast Company reports that Apple sales in the first quarter of 2021 clocked in at $1 Billion dollar a day – that’s $90 billion in the first quarter alone, with sales rising 54%.
Given that those numbers were achieved by a largely remote workforce (not including manufacturing and in-store sales, of course), the proof seems self-evident that quite simply, remote work can be hugely successful.
Any trepidation to offer remote options due to the fear of a fall in productivity, or lack of collaboration, communication, ideation, marketing, sales, or just general slacking off and binge-watching Netflix, seem to be misplaced, to say the least.
Give the people what they want.
People like to say it’s a complex issue, but it’s not that complex really. It really boils down to trusting your workforce. Don't treat them like children. They're professionals and know what they're doing and what they need to get it done. Assuming you hired the right people.
And there is a solution to help. Again it all revolves around flexibility, understanding and respecting the workforce as adults and professionals who, like Ms. Biles, know exactly what they need to do their job and deliver top performance.
And that’s all about providing them with the freedom of choice to choose how and where they work to maximize their own personal potential - thereby delivering results (like Apple saw).
And again, getting the job done on their own recognizance is exactly what employees far beyond Apple have been doing throughout the pandemic.
So. That leaves the question … What IS the solution going forward?
It’s this…the hybrid workplace model. And it centers on offering the most flexibility to your workforce so they can choose what options work best for them. And by extension, for their employers.
While some people will certainly want to go back to the traditional HQ office commute, for those seeking a remote compromise, there are three models to work with:
Work from a dedicated office (The Hub and Spoke model)
Companies can retain their existing HQ (Hub) and invest in dedicated full-time spaces at coworking venues that are in locations of their choosing (Spokes) on either a short- or long-term basis. This option means Employers can provide employees with the choice to come into a dedicated office, but without having to invest capital in long-term leases — especially in these uncertain times.
Work near home
For those employees who prefer the hard-stop division between work and life of going into an office, but want to avoid one of those 2-3 hour commutes – or are geographically so far away that’s impossible to commute— companies can grant access to a curated list of coworking venues near employees’ homes, allowing them to use the space as part of your hybrid workplace solution, giving flexibility and choice of spaces that suit employees needs.
Work from Anywhere
The now-familiar remote work option gives employees the ultimate freedom and flexibility to work from wherever they want. But even 100% of remote workers sometimes need the more powerful resources often found in a traditional office space. With Hybrid workplace options, employers can provide on-demand access to private offices or dedicated desks. Particularly useful for traveling teams to convene or host client meetings in a professional environment or conduct zoom calls distraction-free.
Plus, It also allows remote workers the freedom to get out of the house (or café, or beach chair) and find a quiet professional space when they need to really focus or connect with other like-minded individuals, etc.
Everyone thinks, works, and excels differently. Thus the Hybrid workplace allows each individual the option to choose what works best for them in order to excel and propel themselves (and by extension, the company).
The binding thread that underpins and drives them all is the idea of offering flexibility and choice to workers. Respecting that they know what is best for them, and allowing them to choose the workplace solution they want and need to accomplish tasks.
The fact is most employees are professionals and take pride in their work. They will get things done without micromanagement of their tasks, and by extension, of where they perform those tasks. So set them free to do their job.
At the end of the day, the choice is simple— there is no choice but freedom of choice for the workplace (and workforce) of the future. Companies will be judged by employees and word will get around whether they’re truly dedicated to putting people first, or it's just a recruitment ruse. That will be the litmus test all companies face going forward.
Technology has allowed the workplace to evolve across physical boundaries with seamless communication and collaboration and there’s simply no going back. There is still a time and place for traditional offices, mega campuses, and headquarters (both regional and global), but the key to their utilization isn’t about forcing workers back, it’s about enticing them back. Offering something they’re not getting remotely, and allowing them to choose to return. If they’re happy and productive where they are - all the better for the business ( and you can even reduce your capital investment in the future).
But as Apple and others are finding, the future of the workplace isn't about force, it’s about flexibility. And the key to unlocking that flexibility is the Hybrid Workplace.
Unlock the power of an agile workforce, support employee wellbeing and overall happiness for a productive workforce. Find out more about how our Enterprise solution can help you power your hybrid workplace - www.liquidspace.com/enterprise