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As the world of work evolves, the concepts of hybrid and/or flexible work have emerged as game-changers for modern organizations. While hybrid work focuses on location, flexible work encompasses the broader aspects of when and how work is done. In this article, we explore the implications of these models on leadership, teamwork, and employee wellbeing and discuss why a comprehensive approach that combines the benefits of both can lead to success in the modern work landscape.
Since the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of flexible working has gained significant attention and reshaped the future of work. While the term “hybrid working” has become a popular buzzword and most organizations are embracing hybrid working models, it is crucial to recognize that flexible working encompasses much more than just the location of work. True flexibility extends beyond the physical setting and encompasses when and how work is done, empowering employees and organizations to achieve a new level of productivity and work-life balance. In this article, we explore how flexible working transcends the boundaries of hybrid work, offering a comprehensive approach to reshaping the modern workplace.
Moving Beyond the Hybrid Work Model
The hybrid work model emphasizes a blend of remote and in-office work, affording employees the liberty to choose their work environment. This approach acknowledges the significance of work-life integration and allows companies to optimize their office space.
However, flexible working surpasses mere location and delves into other critical aspects of work, such as:
Flexibility in Scheduling: The ability to determine when work is conducted is one of the fundamental tenets of flexible working. Traditional 9-to-5 schedules are gradually yielding to flexible hours that accommodate the individual needs of employees. Whether it involves accommodating personal commitments, catering to different time zones, or maximizing productivity during peak performance hours, flexible working permits individuals to structure their workday accordingly.
Empowerment in Task Execution: Flexible working empowers employees to have a say in how work is executed. It promotes autonomy, enabling individuals to take ownership of their tasks and determine the most effective approach to achieve desired outcomes. This fosters creativity, innovation, and a sense of empowerment, resulting in heightened job satisfaction and engagement.
A Culture Focused on Results: Flexible working revolves around outcomes rather than mere presence. It champions a shift from the traditional emphasis on hours spent working to results-driven work culture. By prioritizing productivity, organizations can harness employees’ strengths and accommodate personalized work approaches that align with individual working styles.
Seamless Integration of Work and Life: Unlike the compartmentalization of work and personal life often observed in conventional models, flexible working seeks to seamlessly integrate both aspects. It recognizes that personal commitments and well-being play vital roles in overall job satisfaction and productivity. By granting individuals the freedom to effectively balance work and personal responsibilities, flexible working nurtures a healthier and more fulfilling work environment.
Flex Work Implications for Leaders and Teams
Hybrid work poses significant leadership and teamwork implications as well. Leaders must adapt their management style to foster collaboration and engagement across remote and in-office teams. Clear communication, trust-building, and accountability become paramount to ensure effective coordination and maintain team cohesion. Leaders also need to prioritize outcome-driven performance measures rather than traditional time-based evaluations. Empowering employees with decision-making authority and autonomy allows them to navigate the unique challenges of hybrid work. Additionally, fostering a culture of flexibility and work-life integration promotes employee well-being and productivity.
Managing a fully flex team probably poses even more challenges. While hybrid work models have garnered attention for their focus on the location of work, it is essential for leaders to recognize that the concept of flexible working encompasses much more— including when and how work is done. Understanding the implications of flexible working on leadership and teamwork is vital to navigating this transformative era successfully.
This is why flexible working demands a shift in leadership approaches. Leaders must adapt to a more outcome-oriented mindset, focusing on results rather than traditional measures like time spent in the office. The ability to set clear objectives and provide autonomy becomes crucial in empowering individuals to achieve goals in their preferred manner. Leaders must become effective communicators, fostering open channels of communication to bridge physical distance and ensure all team members feel heard and valued.
Trust becomes a linchpin of leadership in flexible work environments. Leaders must trust their employees to manage their own time, make independent decisions, and deliver results. At the same time, employees must trust their leaders to support and guide them, even in a remote or flexible setting. Establishing a culture of trust and transparency builds strong foundations for successful leadership in the flexible work era.
When it comes to teamwork in flexible working, it introduces both opportunities and challenges. On one hand, teams can benefit from diverse perspectives and a global talent pool. Collaboration can transcend geographic boundaries, allowing teams to tap into expertise and creativity from various locations. Additionally, flexible working encourages individual ownership, fostering a sense of accountability and motivation within teams.
However, teamwork in a flexible work environment requires deliberate effort. Leaders must facilitate virtual collaboration platforms and equip teams with the necessary tools and technologies to communicate and collaborate effectively. Team members must adapt to virtual meetings, ensuring active participation and inclusivity to overcome potential communication barriers. Cultivating a strong team culture and fostering social connections become critical to maintaining team cohesion and motivation.
Flexibility also challenges traditional hierarchical structures. Leaders must embrace a more egalitarian approach, encouraging input and ideas from all team members, regardless of their level or location. A flat organizational structure promotes a sense of shared ownership and empowers individuals to contribute their unique perspectives.
As Markus Graf, VP of Global Talent at Novartis put it: “Organizing all Novartis work around a ‘job’ and having everyone in a job architecture was the primary means of how we organized ourselves,” he said. “Moving forward, it’s now much more about outcomes and what impact is actually created and ultimately what contributes towards delivery against the business strategy.”
Wellbeing Considerations in Hybrid and Flexible Working
It is crucial to recognize that hybrid and flex work have differing implications they have on employee wellbeing. Understanding the impact of these models on well-being is essential for organizations and individuals striving to create a harmonious work environment.
Hybrid work can present challenges to employee well-being. The blurring of boundaries between work and personal life, as individuals navigate between different physical settings, can lead to an “always on” culture. Employees may find it difficult to switch off from work, leading to burnout and increased stress levels. Additionally, maintaining effective communication and collaboration among hybrid teams requires conscious effort and clear guidelines, ensuring that individuals feel equally included and supported, regardless of their work location.
Flexible work offers a more comprehensive approach to employee well-being. The ability to set personalized schedules and prioritize tasks can enhance work-life integration and reduce stress. Employees have the freedom to attend to personal commitments, such as family responsibilities or self-care, without compromising their work responsibilities. This flexibility allows individuals to optimize their productivity and well-being by working during their most focused and energized periods.
However, flexible work also demands discipline and self-management skills. Without clear boundaries and structure, individuals may struggle to maintain a work-life balance, resulting in potential challenges in managing their time effectively. Organizations must provide support, resources, and training to help employees navigate the flexible work environment successfully.
Either you offer fully flex or hybrid opportunities to your people – as organizations and individuals embrace the transformative potential of these models, a comprehensive approach that combines the benefits of hybrid work with the flexibility of when and how work is done can lead to a harmonious and high-performing work environment.
By prioritizing outcomes, fostering trust, promoting collaboration, and considering individual well-being, organizations can create a dynamic and inclusive workplace that maximizes productivity and employee engagement.
The future of work lies in recognizing that flexible working goes beyond physical location. It encompasses a holistic approach that considers the when, where, and how of work. By leveraging the advantages of hybrid work and embracing the principles of flexible work, organizations can create an environment that empowers individuals, drives innovation, and fosters healthy work-life integration, ultimately leading to success in the modern work landscape.
Written by: Mihaly Nagy
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