The world of work is changing rapidly. Technology is dramatically transforming industries and the impact of Artificial Intelligence and automatization on employment and the workforce is clear.
The types of skills that employers need are changing all the time. And the workplace is evolving at a much greater pace than ever before.
Employees desires and demands have evolved too, and it can be challenging for companies to keep up.
Believe it or not, when it comes to employee motivation, money isn’t as important as you might think.
Today more than ever before, employees want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to work with purpose, enjoy a good work-life balance and flexibility is becoming essential at the workplace.
More than 70% of people around the world work remotely at least once a week, while 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week, according to the recently launched study by IWG.
So today, it’s going to take more than a paycheck to attract and retain talent.
We talk with Eva Pánková, an HR professional specialized in flexibility at work, about the state of flexible working in Spain, its benefits and challenges for professionals and companies, and how companies can grow and scale with flexibility.
After years in HR in different countries in 2018, Eva Pánková and Angeles Guerrero Gracía decided to start the new brand “Peope2Win” to help companies develop flexible working strategies and efficient distant collaboration as their competitive advantage.
With their company based in Barcelona, they do analysis and measure how work flexibility really works and they support HR experts, managers, and individuals with training. But they also help companies get their internal processes and culture ready for the digital age.
Q: What do you mean by work flexibility?
A: Flexible work simply means the opportunity to choose where, when and how you work. It can be a flexible working schedule or hours, remote work, working from home, part-time jobs, freelancing and much more. Practically it means that you will create strong bonds with your colleagues and at the same time will replace physical contact with distant collaboration. Regarding a Manpower research from 2017, work flexibility is a top 3 motivator in making career decisions for 47 % of respondents in Spain what is even higher than the worldwide average.
Q: More technology and more flexibility in working are new trends which will not probably change soon.
A: People often consider work flexibility as something new. The reality is that most of you have naturally worked remotely for years. With colleagues in other offices or countries, clients and suppliers who you do not meet face to face regularly. There are even businesses which are naturally distributed like logistics or any organization with massive sales network (e. g. finance, FMCG). But even production and people working on shifts or rotations are not working together in the same place at the same time. These people have to collaborate remotely because it is part of their work. This does not automatically mean that they are good at it and that they deliver their best performance or feel good about it.
Q: What do you think are the key benefits of flexible working? What kind of problems flexible working can solve?
A: There are several numbers based evidence that flexible working can improve company performance. Based on CIPD report from 2012 on work flexibility 72% of the employers surveyed believed that implementing flexible working practices had a positive impact on staff engagement and 73% felt that it had a positive impact on employee motivation. Furthermore, Aon Hewitt’s report from 2013 confirms that for every 1% increase in employee engagement, you can expect to see an additional 0,6% growth in sales for an organization. Flexible employer brand is more attractive and companies can choose better talents than their competitors. Travel expenses are lower and people are less exhausted if they know how to lead or be part of virtual teams effectively. Besides, real work flexibility can naturally increase the diversity of your teams, attract Millenials and younger workers, women, older experienced experts etc. Now you choose from a much bigger talent pool. If work flexibility really works, communication and collaboration are better in your company.
Q: And which are the main challenges?
A: What we see very often is that companies buy technology, they put in place guidelines for home office or flexible working time and expect that it will work on its own. Very often they forget to provide training, to talk about rules in teams, to coach managers on flexible team leadership. Also, they do not talk to people about how flexible environment is different from what we know from the office and that not always it works intuitively. Finally, the main challenge is to combine good company processes and tools with people skills, so they can feel well about working flexibly.
Q: Some companies say that flexible working is great, but not for their business. Is work flexibility just for some companies?
A: There is a huge scale of options if you talk about work flexibility. Simply from 0 to 100 %. There are no good or bad flexible regimes. The only criterium is what works well for your business. I believe that any business can work flexibly. And I know examples of e. g. call centers which work in a very flexible way. You just need to find the right way for you. Based on what I saw it is more about mindset. Once you admit that flexible working is possible in your company, you will always find the way.
Q: Is there anything that can help companies to get ready for flexible working? What kind of companies is good at implementing work flexibility?
A: If you want to spread flexible working in your company, understand first how it would work for the business in your offices. Unfortunately, distance magnifies problems. If you are not sure, check how your employees and managers really feel about your company, the work, the effectiveness. You can measure how much your company environment is ready for flexibility. Moreover, you can measure how the work flexibility you have already implemented really works, its possible weak spots and prevent future problems. We usually combine 3 resources to get the full picture of the company situation – company data, online survey, and online interviews.
Q: Is every employee good at flexible working?
A: Based on research we know that there are personal qualities which make flexible working naturally easy for some people. Their disadvantage is that they struggle to understand why people around them behave so crazy:-) Generally I think anyone can succeed in distant collaboration. It’s more about the effort you have to invest in your success and of course, the easiness with which you adapt to this environment. Even if your personal profile is not the ideal one, you can become a great expert or leader and deliver an exceptional performance. It helps if you are conscious of your needs for better self-management. Ideally, your manager knows how to support you with a specific leadership style, but if it’s not there you have a problem. The good news is that we know how to measure it and we can help the company understand, and develop a healthy flexibility, including its team dynamics.
Q: What do you recommend to companies if they consider flexible working?
A: Have a clear idea why you are going for work flexibility and what would be different if you do it well. Measure it. Analyze what you have and measure impact. Start small. Accept that not everyone is ready, but with proper tools, they will be, so it is OK. You can start with teams which are naturally distributed to make their life easier. Or help managers who want to lead in a flexible way and need some support. You can also test some flexible solutions in teams with high flexible demand or where hiring new people is tough to see the real impact. Try not to push anyone, it is better to offer flexibility as a choice. Your company will naturally change step by step and flexible working will become a sustainable part of your company culture which will develop your potential.
Thank you Eva for such an interesting and amazing content.
Readers, does your employer allow workplace flexibility and how do you value this benefit? What does being flexible at work mean for you?
Leaders, is your company facing challenges to attract and retain talent? Are you considering flexible arrangements to grow your business?
We would love hearing your thoughts on comments!