How can you create a flexible working culture that works for everyone?
As a leader, you’ve likely worked hard to establish a positive culture in your business. You probably set down your values. Followed up with solid HR policies. Hired good people. Brought them together at meetings and nights out. And then, suddenly, everyone was forced to work from home. And it became harder to maintain that great sense of community you created.
Prompted by the global pandemic, workplace preferences are changing and a new dynamic workforce is emerging. Some people want to come back into the office. Others want to mix working in the office, at home and elsewhere. While some want to work from home permanently. In fact, our UK employee research highlights that 61% of office-based workers now say remote working should be the new default.
Yet whether it’s in the office or not, your organisational culture remains critical for attracting and retaining people.
So what can you do to adapt your culture to flexible working so that it works for everyone? (Especially if the office is unoccupied for several days a week.)
We talked with our business customers about maintaining a positive culture in the era of flexible working. Here are our top five takeaways from those conversations:
1. Lead from the top
As our employee study shows, there are seven new dynamic workplace personas. Some of those people can’t wait to get back to the office. Especially the ‘Command & Controllers’ who tend to be in senior roles. But if the bosses are always in the office this could create a culture of ‘presenteeism’, where people feel they need to be seen in the office to prove they’re working hard. And it could ostracise those who want to work from elsewhere.
To combat any misconceptions of where people should be working, you could encourage leaders to talk about different work styles. This will help to normalise flexible working so people feel comfortable making their own choices.
2. Make pledges
When people started working from home due to the global pandemic, it took some people longer to adapt than others. It might have been about whether they had the right technology and workspace set-ups. Or if they were getting the right support from their colleagues. As a result, some businesses introduced flexible working pledges that represented their working culture.
If you’re looking to offer a more supportive flexible working culture, you could create your own list or borrow others that have worked well elsewhere. Like everyone agreeing to hit ‘Delay send’ on any emails out of working hours. (Meaning people don’t feel pressured to work the long hours that some senior members might do.) Or signing up to hosting ‘walk and talk’ meetings so people can spend time away from their screens. Or even simple things like agreeing that everyone will put a lunch break in their calendar.
3. Include everyone
While we’ve highlighted that there are many different working preferences, catering to all these new needs and keeping a great culture going may not feel that easy. But it might just be about making sure everyone feels included, for example on a conference call, wherever they’ve dialled in from. Rather than just having people sit there and listen in, you could promote more active involvement.
Asking people a question and hearing what they have to say is one way to bring them into the meeting. This is particularly effective when some colleagues are dialling in rather than video calling. To do this, it’s important to make sure everyone has access to the same technology like Microsoft Teams or Microsoft Audio Conferencing. That way, everyone is treated equally.
4. Get together when it matters
It’s probably fair to say that some people are happy to lose the morning commute. Particularly if it led to sitting at a computer all day with little interaction with others in an office. But it’s also true that brainstorming, sharing ideas and team bonding can be much easier in person.
One way to balance these needs is to encourage people working flexibly to come into the office on the same day of the week. That way, there will be a guaranteed opportunity for people to chat face-to-face and no one has to travel to an empty office.
You might even want to schedule meet-ups and events for those moments when it really matters. Like a monthly team catch-up, planning session or show ‘n’ tell meeting.
You could even organise your social events on the days when most people are already in the office anyway. So there’s more chance of team bonding but less pressure to come in for an event that’s not taking place till the evening.
5. Support different work styles
It might seem obvious but making sure people have the right tools to do their jobs is just as important to a positive working culture as the softer elements. Tech frustrations or inequalities can make people disillusioned, fed up and less productive. All of which affects a culture of togetherness.
As our research goes on to show, listening to what people actually need makes them feel included and part of the organisation. Whether it’s providing access to the full suite of Microsoft 365 apps at home. Offering training on how to get the best out of Microsoft Teams features like calendar sync and file sharing. Or just having the peace of mind that you’ve given everyone the same security protection – even on personal devices.
Looking for other ways to support a flexible working culture in your organisation? Take a look at how we can help your business flex and get the most out of your digital tools. Or just get in touch with our team today.