Flexible work is here to stay, but companies that resist it may not be

Britta Schellenberg
Britta Schellenberg

In much of Eastern philosophy, attachment or “craving” is the root cause of all suffering. And since impermanence (or change) is a basic truth of the world, craving the return to the way things once were or “the way things should be” (rather than accepting the way things are) is a surefire recipe for suffering.

COVID-19 has profoundly changed the world of work (you’ll read more about that below). Employers can resist these changes, but doing so will only result in employee churn and diminished work productivity. Robin exists to support organizations that seek to thrive amidst change.

As VP of Marketing here at Robin, I read a lot about the hybrid workplace, and every two weeks I share my favorite articles with you.

Feel free to let me know what YOU think. 

WSJ: Flexibility at Work is Here to Stay

Organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant (Give and Take) is a national treasure, and he’s become a leading voice on workplace flexibility. Grant recently wrote a powerful, must-read article for The Wall Street Journal, entitled The Real Meaning of Freedom at Work

Grant makes the case that “flexible work is here to stay, but companies that resist it may not be.” Grant details reams of research showing that “when employees have the flexibility to customize their work, they’re more effective, more satisfied and more likely to stay.” Other insights from Grant:

  • “As the Covid-19 pandemic moves into a new phase, many companies have started insisting that we come back to the office full-time. In response, people are quitting their jobs in droves. Flexibility is now the fastest-rising job priority in the U.S. [today].”
  • “When Covid untethered us from our offices, many people experienced new forms of flexibility, and the taste of freedom left us hungry for more. We started rethinking what we wanted out of work. But the Great Resignation is not a mad dash away from the office; it’s the culmination of a long march toward freedom” and flexibility.
  • “If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic about going remote, it’s that people aren’t shirking from home—they’re working overtime.  . . When we started treating humans like machines, we began confusing time spent with value created.”

Robin: Defining Expectations and Building Infrastructure for Hybrid Work

A new Robin blog post helps organizations set expectations around hybrid work. The post’s key idea is that employers cannot dictate the terms of these arrangements, but must trust and support employee flexibility around when and where to work:

“Some leaders believe the solution is just to require that everyone come back to the office. However, recent surveys show that more than half of workers would consider leaving their jobs if they were not allowed to retain some of the flexibility in space and time.”

Instead of dictating terms, employers should create remote work agreements that cover 4 major areas:

  1. Flexibility in schedule and place 
  2. Professional decorum
  3. Home office setups and data/equipment security
  4. Digital tools and training

Defining these agreements and setting up a supportive, flexible infrastructure will drive employee productivity and retention. The post ends with this nugget: “Tools like Robin will help companies structure the best environments for high-performance work; allowing employees and team leaders to schedule spaces and quickly see what’s happening in the office reduces uncertainty and empowers” people to do their best work.

Gallup Survey: Hybrid Work Will Continue to Dominate

On October 13th, Gallup released a new workplace survey (called, Remote Work Persisting and Trending Permanent) showing that more than 2 out of 3 white-collar employees worked remotely either full-time or part-time in September, even as vaccination rates among these workers approached 80%. Other Gallup findings:

  • “91% of workers in the U.S. working at least some of their hours remotely are hoping their ability to work at home persists after the pandemic.”
  • The top 3 reasons for preferring remote work: (1) “Not having to commute,” (2) “needing flexibility to balance work and personal obligations,” and (3) “improved wellbeing.”
  • “Two-thirds of all full-time U.S. employees think that having people work remotely long term will have either no effect or a positive effect on their workplace culture.”

Gallup’s last paragraph of its report serves as eye-opening reading: “Employers may still worry about the effect remote work has on company culture, but most workers do not share this concern. The greater risk to culture could be not providing options for work-location flexibility.”

CIO Magazine: Redefining Teamwork for Hybrid Work 

CIO Magazine recently published an article detailing 5 Ways CIOs are Redefining Teamwork for a Hybrid World. The article describes multiple experiments within multiple organizations that involve the interaction of practices and policies of collaboration with technologies supporting collaboration. These experiments involve, for example, hybrid meetings where half the team is sitting in a conference room while half the team is utilizing a video platform. 

What works best for each organization will depend on:

(1) The role and communication styles of individual teams.

(2) The availability of technology and support infrastructure.

(3) The willingness of the organization and its teams to experiment with collaborative approaches.

The article’s advice is spot on: “Pay attention to technological and the human side of things. Tech makes more things possible, but at the same time the human side is more important than ever. We need to re-establish connections and tap into the creative side of what [humans] bring. Keep an open mind and a curious mindset, and we’ll learn some new norms.”

Thank you for reading and see you again in two weeks.

Meanwhile, continue to remain adaptable amidst the impermanence of the (business) world — when you accommodate the needs of your employees, they’ll return the favor with their productivity and loyalty.

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