Organizations have been pondering the benefits of workplace flexibility since the 1990s, with increasing numbers allowing employees to work in a flexible manner at least some of the time.
Recently, a handful of companies have made public workplace policy changes by calling their remote workers back to the office, citing the need for more in-person and in-the-office collaboration.
Such moves are leading some to question whether flexible working is still a viable option. And there’s no simple yes or no answer to this important workplace question, says Peter Miscovich, Managing Director at JLL.
“Even this binary question oversimplifies the complex workplace strategy decisions companies face in preparing for the future of work,” he notes. “To attract digital talent, companies today need to develop agile workplace networks with multiple workplace options.”
The right workplace strategy at the right time
Business models are being turned upside down as companies compete for digital talent to propel their companies forward in the emerging digital economy.
In this highly competitive business environment, a flexible workplace can be a key factor in attracting and retaining digital talent. A recent survey conducted by ManpowerGroup Solutions found 63 percent of job candidates today don’t feel they need to be sitting at their desk to get work done. Moreover, 45 percent of respondents say flexibility is a key motivating factor in considering a job change.
As Millennial and Gen Z digital natives enter the workforce en masse, the way companies think about work will continue to shift, and simplistic cookie-cutter workplace solutions just won’t cut it, says Miscovich.
“The question shouldn’t be ‘do we allow mobile flexible work or not?'” he explains. “Organizations must consider what workplace strategy will be best to empower the current and future workforce to achieve the essential organizational and business ambitions.”
Ever evolving technology behind collaboration and messaging tools have made it increasingly easy for employees to stay connected no matter where they are in the world.
However, organizations are realizing the benefits of clustering in one place—including the corporate workplace. This “paradox of place” is shifting the reasons people have for going to work, rather than working remotely.
“Just because we can work from anywhere doesn’t mean we want to,” says Miscovich. “The casual interactions and the collaboration opportunities that happen in an office all foster a ‘we’re in this together’ culture. Immersive high-quality workplace interaction and collaboration accelerates innovation.”
Creating a human-centric model
Mastering the right workplace mix is critical to creating the high-performance workplace strategy.
Take Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, which found that employees who are happiest with their jobs are not spending the majority of the week in the office—but they’re also not spending the entire week working from home.
Instead, the workers reporting the highest level of engagement were those who spent a good portion of their time working outside of the corporate office—but who also regularly worked alongside their colleagues in-person within the office environment.
“Modern workers are craving flexible and immersive creative work environments where they can balance both concentration with collaboration,” says Miscovich. “That’s true whether they’re working from home, a café, a co-working space or the office itself.”
As such, the best results are achieved when organizations consider how to curate a workplace mix that supports their unique culture, enables diverse work styles and caters for diverse work behaviors, Miscovich notes.
“Companies that create immersive flexible workplace solutions will truly attract, retain and enable the next generation of digital talent,” he concludes.