Flexibility in the Human-Centric Workplace
By Fast Company Executive Board
As effects of the Great Resignation continue to surface, innovative leaders are coming to the realization that they no longer hold all the cards in the hiring game. A human-centric workplace is no longer a nice progressive alternative to the traditional office environment. It is crucial.
From work model to schedule to management style, nothing is one size fits all anymore.
This means that attracting strong talent means allowing flexibility — especially in these three areas.
Remote and Hybrid Work Model Flexibility
The pandemic forced many businesses to transition to remote work models, and even the most reluctant leaders were forced to realize its benefits. Now remote is today’s reality. Embrace it or die.
Fast Company Executive Board member Carl Oliveri, CRO of Robin, says, “Companies that refuse to be flexible when it comes to work models, or that don't excel at managing their flexibility, might be doomed to failure. That might sound harsh, but it’s the reality of today’s business environment.”1
Fast Company Executive Board member Cody Barbo, founder and CEO of Trust & Will, suggests a hybrid model. “That way, employees have the power of choice. It’ll help them feel empowered, and thus more engaged and loyal. Your employees who thrive in an exclusively in-person environment can choose to come back to the office full-time if they wish to do so. Those who feel more productive working from home, or want to stay home to be with their families and pets, will have that option. Many of them will want a combination of the two and get the best of both worlds. With the help of their managers, they’ll be able to design an optimal workweek that helps them thrive and boosts their productivity.”2
Besides preventing an exodus of talent, flexible work models can prevent employee burnout and keep the team who stays with you happier and more productive. This is especially the case with knowledge workers, like writers, programmers, and developers. “Being able to work remotely is quickly becoming an expectation among tech workers. And don’t fight it. The happier the employees are, the better their work and the more motivated they are to succeed,”3 says Fast Company Executive Board member Yoav Vilner, CEO of Walnut.io.
You may already know that the current 9-5 schedule evolved during the industrial revolution for factory efficiency. And that it was well-suited for one-income households, in which the (male) worker could expect house cleaning, child care, meal preparation, etc. to be entirely handled by his (female) partner.
In spite of the vast changes to society, including two-income households and the rise of knowledge work, many companies cling to this antiquated schedule.
But you can allow for flexible scheduling in multiple ways:
Baby Steps: 40 Hours Asynchronous
If you’re cool with people changing it up, but need to know exactly when people are available, have employees choose and record their own schedules in a spreadsheet or app. Each individual works when it’s best for them, as long as they “get the hours in” and are available for necessary meetings.
Fast Company Executive Board member Susan Gentz, partner at K20Connect, elaborates, “At most full-time jobs, working hours are still typically 9-5. But what that rigid schedule overlooks is that employees are capable of getting a full 40 hours of work in (we can talk about why 40 hours is the magical number another time), even if they happen outside what is considered “standard operating hours.”4
Full Autonomy: Results-Based
If you’ve taken the time to establish a strong team and just want to see results … measure results instead of hours. Let the 40 hours go, and let people work when they work best as long as they deliver.
Fast Company Executive Board member John Hall, co-founder of Calendar, says, “By developing an effective way to monitor our goals, we can prioritize results, not optics. If the work gets done, I don’t need to see you at your desk at 8 a.m. I trust you, and what’s more, the structure enables me to trust you. …When you combine an atmosphere of trust with organized tracking of goals, the result is positive on both sides. Employers get the results they need, while employees get a more flexible work environment.”5
Flexibility also means letting people work in whatever way they do it best. Of course, documentation and transparency are important. But once those processes are in place, give your people their goals, let them do the work, and reap the rewards.
If you’ve hired a strong team, your people will be able to meet objectives on their own terms. (If not, hire new people or invest in professional development.)
Micromanagement is a subtle way of undermining someone’s skill and judgment, and has no place in a flexible, human-centric workplace.
To keep the loyalty of your best employees as they realize the options available for living a fuller life with better work-life balance, offer flexibility.
As Fast Company Executive Board member Charles Rath, president and CEO of Resilient Solutions 21, says, “I would urge leaders to focus on supporting healthy, resilient teams by responding to the resounding call for flexibility and recognizing the impact it can have on both employees and your bottom line. After all, if we can promote sustainable employee engagement, we can build more successful and innovative companies..”6
Fast Company Executive Board is an invitation-only, professional network of company founders, executives, and leaders who are defining the future of business. Connect with them as part of the community; visit the Fast Company Executive Board membership page or contact us directly to learn more about becoming a member.
Fast Company Executive board members offer great advice in the articles quoted above. Links to the full articles can be found in each member's profile:
- 1 "Give Me Workplace Flexibility or Give My Organization Death" by Carl Oliveri
- 2 "Why Forcing Employees back to the Office Is a Losing Strategy" by Cody Barbo
- 3 "How Our Startup Attracted More CVs During the Great Resignation" by Yoav Vilner
- 4 "How True Flexibility in Work Can Attract More Employees" by Susan Gentz
- 5 "Encouraging Trust Throughout Your Team" by John Hall
- 6 "Why We’re Taking More Days Off (and You Should Take a Break, Too)" by Charles Rath