Flexibility

Flexibility

Where do people work, when do people work, and how people work, making all the difference in the outcome. If COVID shelter in place taught us anything, that we learn people have different preferences. Situation changes, people’s preference changes with it. What makes a happy team is providing flexibility accordingly. 

Where do people work

Recently, I came across an article describing all the work arrangements post-COVID. So many new terms emerged from this situation. “Static hybrid,” “Office-first,” “Office,” “Dynamic hybrid,” “Synchronized hybrid,” “Default digital,” “Fully remote.” I lost track of what these new terms mean. (Source: Who’s going back?) Big tech companies have always been in the two extremes. On one end, they are building massive campuses with perks to house a city of its own. On the other extreme, no physical offices with an entirely remote team. It is arguable which approach is better. People have different situations that result in different preferences. They will be attracted to a workplace that matches their preferences. For many companies that did not fall for the two extremes, providing team members with flexibility is the right approach. The same article mentioned that “73% of workers want flexible remote options to continue.” (Source: Microsoft’s Work Trend report). Janet Van Huysse, Head of People at Cloudflare, recently published an article outlining how Cloudflare is rethinking and redesigning the workspace to allow people to use the office space that matches their needs. (Source: How Cloudflare is reengineering its office for a post-Covid world). Where do people work? They have a choice.

When do people work

The generation before me worked 9-5. The coworkers of my generation enjoyed the flexible hours. However, with the flexible hours and office perks, it also came with the long hours. Many of us slept in the office at least once. We worked an average of 60; 70hours a week for an extended period of our career. Fast forward to today, many HR leaders are campaigning work-life balance for team members. Although there is an ongoing debate about the unlimited time-off, the fact there is such an option does represent this new thinking. They are providing an opportunity for team members to take time off when they need to. I am a big advocate for work-life balance. Now, I am closely watching all the countries that are experimenting with a four-day workweek. During the Covid lockdown, many companies implemented the extra day (some extra week) off for employees. Our group—Product Design— also experimenting with Creative Recharge Day each quarter. Companies became more global, with offices across continents, employees logging on any hour of the day. Synchronous communication has become challenging ever before. Employees have the option to shift working hours to enable a more connected workforce. When do people work? They have a choice.

How people work

I was taught to be competitive. I spent much of my career honing my craft and learning fast to gain deep domain knowledge. Domain knowledge means job security. Yet, I was laid off three times. It was helpful that I spent time learning skills, but I most benefited from the people skill. There is one thing for sure that in the tech industry, things change fast. Able to learn new knowledge fast means job flexibility. The people-skill, the ability to learn did not come from competition. They came from collaboration. The domain knowledge can be very limited to the company we work for. But the capability of working with people, collaboration, and gaining new knowledge fast is for our team members to take with them no matter where they work. Providing an environment, people can learn new skills is our gift for all of our team members. We’ve been experimenting with pairing and team rotation, in the hope that our team members will gain these skills on the job. The more they know, the wider knowledge they have, the more flexible our team members can find the projects that match their ability, skills, and interests. In return, for business, that is more flexibility for staffing the projects. 

Where to do our work and when to do our work is the physiological need for employees. In addition, how to do our work (together) contributes to the safety needs.

—Employee happiness #1.

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