As we navigate through the ongoing effects of the pandemic into its third year, it is crucial for organizational leaders to foster a collaborative dialogue with employees to address and alleviate any residual uncertainties regarding the optimization of flexible work arrangements. Empowering employees to actively participate in shaping the future of work will foster a sense of engagement and buy-in.
The adoption of flexible work policies by many companies has evolved beyond pre-pandemic and early lockdown norms. Such arrangements have been shown to positively impact employee satisfaction and build trust in the organization. (source 1, source 2).
However, simply providing flexible work options is insufficient in guaranteeing job satisfaction. Employers must also actively manage employee perception of their flexible work experiences. This includes enhancing positive experiences, addressing negative experiences proactively, and facilitating open communication channels for employees to share their experiences.
Facilitating Authentic Communication on Flexible Work Experiences with Employees
According to Gartner (2021) (source), there is a shortage of employee confidence in their ability to influence flexible work arrangements. Only 59% of employees believe their preferences have a significant impact on the flexible work decisions made by organizational leaders. Despite the availability of favorable flexible work policies, employees may still feel that these decisions are made without consideration for their thoughts and experiences.
Leaders may recognize the importance of the initiative, but lack clarity on the implementation approach. Figure 1 presents a readily adoptable model that could accelerate the implementation process.
In cases where remote work is not feasible due to front-line job responsibilities or industry mandates, it is imperative for organizational leaders to have open communication with employees regarding alternative forms of flexibility. These alternative forms of flexibility provide employees with increased autonomy and promote a human-centered approach to work.
The concept of flexible work arrangements for on-site employees may raise several questions, but it can be effectively addressed by granting employees the autonomy to determine their preferred work pattern. Some sample questions that leaders could start asking onsite employees would be:
- Work when I want;
- Decide what I work on;
- Decide how much I work;
- Decide who I work with;
By asking the right questions, leaders can facilitate the adoption of flexible work patterns by employees through the provision of decision frameworks that balance personal, team, and customer needs.
In this rapidly evolving work landscape, employees seek to have a say in shaping their work environment. The recommendations outlined above for engaging employees on flexible work showcase how communication leaders can empower employees through enterprise-wide dialogue and personalized discussion aids.