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Flexibility the key for rebooting the office in the new normal

Published: September 23rd, 2020 By: Glenn Weir

Kronos

The pandemic has thrust accelerated digital transformation on organizations worldwide. In a world of new realities and expanding horizons, it is becoming abundantly clear to business leaders that, as important as customers and technology are, employees are an equally critical part of the success equation.

The task now facing organizations is gigantic and complex: rebooting the office. Overnight, businesses have had to get on a hyperdigital fast track where work-from-home is not the exception but the norm. A key ingredient in the reboot of an office is in ensuring staff are engaged and productive, and most companies continue to work diligently to that end.

Some leaders have moved beyond the idea of a new normal into a richer “omni” work reality. Said ITWC CIO Jim Love: “It’s not just a ‘new normal.’ We aren’t returning to work; we’re reinventing the workspace. We have that pressure to return to a best semblance of the way things were, but with a hybrid workforce where many may be remote but others either partially or fully present physically.”

Considering the need
Employers know the importance, especially now in the work-from-home era, of building a positive and rewarding employee experience that ensures employees feel connected and validated. This takes on even greater significance with millennials, who according to a recent report are much more open to considering new job opportunities even when employed than are their older, less “job-hopping” peers.

But businesses also have to consider the needs and expectations of employees who do jobs for which a physical presence is required. While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things, it hasn’t changed companies’ need to ensure employees are engaged and productive both in their work and in where they work.

Options for the physically present
Companies should not make the mistake of assuming that employees with roles that require presence cannot work flexibly or aren’t interested in flexible options. There are in fact many ways organizations today can offer “flex” and work/life balance to these employees. Former IPMA-HR Executive Director Neil E. Reichenberg provided the following ways in the publication Being Present:

  • Sharing of a full-time job between two or more individuals
  • Compressed hours, including a shorter work week of longer work-days
  • Variable shift durations
  • On-call: Zero-hour contracts in which an employer offers no guarantee of a fixed number of hours per week or per month
  • Flex to work from home whenever possible i.e., when completing paperwork

Offering “flex” arrangements has many potential impacts on organizations.

“What begins with higher levels of engagement, especially when it comes to younger cohorts, becomes overall job satisfaction,” said Love. “From there a plethora of benefits come. Employees are present mentally, from which you get less absenteeism and a much higher chance of retaining these people’s services over the long haul. This is the kind of continuity you want in today’s uncertain market.”

A quick reference for these times
“Providing Flexibility When Presence is Required,” an excerpt from the book Being Present, looks at the importance of having the right people for future success, and goes into the business case for flexible work arrangements with adaptive schedules — specifically as it pertains to jobs that require physical presence. The excerpt also covers:

  • Ways employers can motivate employees in positions that require physical presence
  • Whether implementing reduced workweeks with reduced pay can be implemented
  • US municipalities that have enhanced their employee experience even when many employees are required to be physically present

Download “Providing Flexibility When Presence is Required”