It’s no secret that the modern workplace has changed forever. The Great Resignation is clear proof of the importance of flexible work environments for employees, especially during times of uncertainty.
A recent McKinsey report points out that about 80% of companies have reacted swiftly to adapt to the changing post-pandemic job market, but many still struggle with offering the flexible work cultures people need. While employees demand flexibility in the workplace, organisations are generally reluctant to offer it for fear of decreased productivity.
So, what is the long-term solution that works both for employees and organisations alike? The key is to enable organisations to develop hybrid work cultures that balance employee flexibility without compromising on business impact.
In this article, we dive deeper into the pillars that promote flexibility in the workplace while nurturing productivity among teams, and address four foundations that need to be in place for flexibility to thrive: remote work, asynchronous work, autonomous work, and flexible learning.
Work models are the standard for how an organisation functions. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been a gradual increase in remote and hybrid working, especially for technology-related roles.
According to a report on the impact of remote and hybrid working on workers and organisations, in 2019, roughly 12% of the UK workforce reported working from home at least one day of the week, and about 5% reported working more from home than reporting to the office. As of 2022, 38% of workers report working from home for at least one day in the work week.
There are many hybrid and remote work models, so it’s important to be clear on which model best suits your organisation.
Centralised or office-first model
Many organisations have one office and require all employees to be present at the office even when they can work remotely. The centralised or office-first working model is the easiest working model to implement. Organisations using this model tend to think that employees can be more connected without a physical distance.
Partly remote model
As the name suggests, the partly remote working model requires workers to do their work in an office environment, but they can complete it remotely. Organisations typically give employees one or two days a week when they can work remotely. Some companies allow greater remote flexibility for individual tasks but may bind teams to the office environment.
Flexible hybrid model
In a flexible hybrid working model, employees typically enjoy autonomy over their work schedules. The organisation may have no clear preference for in-office or remote work, allowing employees to choose locations and schedules that work best for them.
In this model, employees work remotely most of the time but may be required to visit the office for collaboration, training, and team building. More and more organisations are adopting a remote-first hybrid model because it increases productivity and employee job satisfaction. This model also works best for organisations with no dedicated office space but who can rent a coworking space for team activities.
In the fully-remote working model, employees work from home or any location and there is no option to go into the office. However, it is not uncommon for fully remote employees to get together in person occasionally for retreats and team-building.
7 ways to maintain a great remote culture
Creating a flexible working culture takes much more than implementing remote or hybrid working models. Here are seven core ways organisations can empower employees to learn and work with full autonomy to promote engagement, productivity, and loyalty.
- Designing thoughtful employee experiences around the company culture.
- Leveraging technology to create a scalable company culture across the remote and hybrid workforce.
- Being considerate and trusting employees to create practical work schedules that work for them.
- Building camaraderie to avoid isolation and reinforcing celebration as a part of company culture. For instance, the company can find creative ways to host get-togethers in person or remotely.
- Maintaining a cohesive workforce through regular and tailored communication.
- Investing resources to nurture and support employee mental health and wellness.
- Establishing organisation-wide initiatives or department-specific events that give teams a common cause to work towards.
The asynchronous working model is based on employees not having to be online at the same time or to work simultaneously. Whether working remotely or in-office, workers can work independently and may not be expected to respond immediately to messages and emails. The asynchronous working model works best for remote teams with flexible working arrangements or in different time zones.
The 7 benefits of an asynchronous working model
Organisations are increasingly adopting the asynchronous working model for many reasons. Here are seven benefits of the model:
- It prioritises employee independence and promotes work flexibility
- It allows organisations to hire the best talents globally with minimal hurdles
- It greatly reduces an organisation’s reliance on meetings
- With fewer meetings and fewer interruptions, workers can be more productive and focused on their work
- It promotes employee autonomy and engagement
- It improves compatibility, especially for a distributed workforce
- It promotes flexible onboarding and a more inclusive working style
5 steps to building an asynchronous culture that works
Here are five steps organisations can use to build an asynchronous working culture in their organisations:
Step 1: Add buffers to workers’ schedules
Since employees can be located anywhere and in different time zones, it helps to allow them some wiggle room in case of unpredictable life events.
Step 2: Schedule only the most necessary meetings
The asynchronous working model promotes employee independence. Too many meetings negate this autonomy and hurt productivity and the ability to work. Organisation-wide announcements, lessons and training, and meetings should only be scheduled when necessary.
Step 3: Make use of technologies
Asynchronous working is mostly a combination of remote and hybrid working models. The organisation can leverage technology to streamline teams and use the best tools in the market to communicate and collaborate.
Step 4: Ensure efficient and specific communication
Since asynchronous teams do not have casual office conversations, communication between teams and members must be clear, efficient, and to the point. Official communication must strike a balance between informative and friendly to make the most impact.
Step 5: Optimise onboarding
Onboarding is a critical step for setting the right asynchronous culture. Therefore, an organisation must invest the time and resources to ensure every new hire understands their scope and are confident in their ability to deliver.
Autonomy in the workplace is exactly what it sounds like: granting employees the freedom to choose how, when, and where they work. With workplace autonomy, employees are empowered to design work schedules that suit them and at the pace that they can complete their work. It allows them to choose the order in which they complete their tasks and to make decisions that boost their performance while freeing them from micromanagement.
The 3 foundations of autonomous work
An organisation must put in place three foundational pillars for autonomous work to succeed:
Transparency is critical for an organisation to keep employees on track and deliver impact. The organisation must be dedicated to ensuring everyone receives the business information they need to make the right decisions for the company. This means the organisation’s leaders must distribute information using the right channels.
2. Low-authority and high-accountability
Autonomous work will only succeed when employees clearly understand the scope of their work and have a high sense of accountability to perform. High accountability goes hand-in-hand with low authority to help employees know who handles which projects or is responsible for what role.
Impact is the effect that employees have on organisational performance. The best metric to measure impact in an autonomous workplace is to use quantifiable metrics rather than generalised, subjective indicators. Using the right objectives and key results (OKRs) helps employees appreciate their work and promotes focus and productivity regardless of how they work.
Responsibility is a critical sense that grows when an organisation cultivates a flexible working environment with trust and accountability. This promotes better learning among employees and optimises performance.
In the modern workplace, trust is important for creating authentic relationships that develop and inspire teams. For an organisation to achieve its goals, it must establish a culture of understanding and collaboration and expect everyone to be accountable.
Building trust and nurturing accountability is never a one-off event and, instead, is a learning process. A flexible environment is critical to nurturing both, but the organisation must also invest in flexible learning.
Using peer-driven learning to train remote teams
One of the most effective ways that an organisation can use to grow stronger teams is to use peer-driven learning. In this approach, employees learn from each other. This mode of flexible learning creates positive experiences and, since it is personalised, creates much less disruption to productivity.
The decentralised nature of peer-driven learning is also more agile and works faster than traditional learning and development methods. Since employees get to share expertise and knowledge with each other, this learning system is more effective than a centralised learning approach.
Organisations that embrace remote and hybrid work models will find peer-driven learning the most practical and cost-effective. This method capitalises on internal knowledge, making it a workable and flexible way for remote teams to learn even in different time zones.
Offering flexible onboarding
Training and onboarding new hires is critical to maintaining productivity and performance. For most organisations, onboarding is a tricky process that is difficult to get right, especially when using different working models. Onboarding needs to be a part of the company culture and must be optimised for flexibility and ease.
A flexible onboarding process must also be collaborative right from the pre-boarding stage. The process may be tailored for each new hire based on their roles and situations, but it must keep them engaged.
Lastly, the onboarding process should welcome and accommodate feedback from new hires. Like any other process in the organisation, onboarding will evolve over time, and the input of new hires can help direct it in the right direction.
Leveraging an LMS to enable flexible learning
Using a learning management system can go a long way to helping an organisation close skill gaps and streamline employee learning. The first and most important benefit of a good LMS is that it helps the organisation identify skills gaps and to use the right learning methods to close them.
LMS systems are built to make learning easily accessible and efficient. Some organisations fail to engage learners, something they wouldn’t have to deal with if they invested in the right learning management system.
Is your organisation ready to embrace the future of flexible working? If so, take a look at 360Learning’s playbook on implementing flexible working cultures.