May 25, 2023

If The Future of Work is Flexible, Why Cling to the Past?

A flexible work environment increases employee engagement, provides effective public relations, reduces the cost of turnover, and keeps your company culture current. So why not embrace it?

Now more than ever, workers are demanding to be treated with respect. As an employer, providing workers the option to choose a flexible work environment will be crucial to surviving and thriving in the digital age.

Increasingly, workers would rather quit than be forced back into the office—and it’s not just Gen Z. More than 50% of workers across generations don’t want to return to the office to work.

Providing employees with the option of a flexible work environment will not cause employers to lose respect or make an organization crumble. This was demonstrated throughout the course of the pandemic.

An organization will not collapse if it offers employees the option of a flexible work environment. In fact, organizational health thrives in flexible working environments. Proven through a two-year case study, flexible work means improved employee engagement, improved public relations, reduced turnover costs, and maintaining relevance.

Smarter, happier work

Empowering your employees with the option to work flexibly actually improves employee engagement. As long as leadership knows how to guide employees, remote work can meaningfully improve employee engagement. For better or worse, remote workers actually have a tendency to log longer hours than their in-office counterparts.

Some detractors of the flexible work environment think that remote work hurts the social aspect of in-person work. While remote work reduces the chances for water cooler conversations, this can be replicated via employee connection tools like Helm.

The change to flexible work environments is also a great opportunity for human resources professionals, people operators, and team leaders to begin implementing intentional social workplace opportunities. Just because a worker is remote doesn’t mean older staples of workplace culture like company picnics, celebrations, or business lunches need to disappear. In fact, these aspects of community are going to be even more critical to maintaining teamwork and socialization within the digital workplace.

Why worker satisfaction is worth it

Employees are a company’s most valuable advocate for effective public relations. If an employee feels valued where they work, you better believe they will tell their friends and family they are working for a great organization.

When an employee feels appreciated they are more likely to speak positively about their workplace to others. This creates additional word of mouth advertising that builds a positive reputation in the community. Satisfied workers means enhanced public relations.

Satisfied workers also means reduced turnover and, by extension, reduced bottom-line turnover costs. An organization makes an investment when they take on and train new hires. Obviously this investment is made with the intention of bringing on a new employee an organization will retain and develop over time. If a new hire feels undervalued and that their employer does not take their needs into consideration, they won’t stay as long or contribute as much.

Scott Sonenshein on Dare to Lead podcast

Quality of life = quality of work

A flexible workplace is the future of work. To maintain relevance in the digital age, employers will need to be adaptable to the changing needs of their employees. While it’s understandable that some employers will resist providing employees the option to continue working from home, it will do more harm than good to force employees back into a full-time, in person office environment.

The pandemic has shown us it really is possible to work from anywhere–and that it’s not a bad thing. People have become more connected to their families, and have experienced an improved quality of life. With the rise of inflation, being able to cut costs on gas and childcare is more important now than ever. In short, if an organization wants to thrive, it needs to take care of its workers. A worker that feels valued will stay.

A worker that feels heard by their employer is a worker who will become an earnest advocate. A worker that feels cared for is someone who’ll stick around. Does the digital workplace present challenges to the workplace? Of course! But these are challenges that as a society we have been able to overcome throughout the course of the pandemic.

Embrace the change

Now that we have really gotten a hold on how to work from anywhere, why would a worker want to give that up? If workers are able to attend a meeting, contribute, and connect virtually, why waste the time, money, and effort to drive to the office? These are the questions employers need to be prepared to answer and address if they want to maintain their organization, let alone thrive in their communities.

If allowing employees the option to choose a flexible work environment increases employee engagement, provides free and effective public relations, reduces the cost of turnover, and keeps your company culture current, then why not embrace it? Formalize the switch we’ve already made. The future of work is flexible.

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