Flexible work is here to stay. Here’s how your managers can survive it.

Flexible work is here to stay. Here’s how your managers can survive it.

In 2017, Manpower Group Solutions, a global provider of HR consulting and outsourcing, did a major study on employee flexibility. In a survey of nearly 15,000 employees worldwide, they found that 40 percent of them listed flexibility in their Top Three criteria when accepting a new job. That number seemed revolutionary at the time, but it was still less than half of all employees.

Fast forward just five years to 2022 and the post-Covid era, and it seems virtually all workers expect some degree of flexibility in their jobs–even as employers shift back to the onsite work model that existed pre-Covid.

In today’s very tight labor market, employers simply can’t afford to go back to the way things used to be. Employees have more leverage than ever before, and can easily seek more flexible work at any number of competing companies who are hiring.

So how can managers embrace flexibility and maintain–or even increase–productivity? With employees working in multiple locations, and at different times, many managers are struggling to keep up.

As Predictive Index experts, we’ve spent years helping companies figure out who is the best fit for certain teams and types of work, based on their skills and how they most naturally achieve results. Our #1 recommendation to our clients is to ask yourself Who, What and How? before assigning new projects and teams.

Here’s what we mean:

  • WHO is doing the work?

In workplaces that now have little or no physical overlap between employees in a shared office, you’ll need to fully understand every person on your team. Some people are verbal processors and need to discuss ideas and plans with a group. Other people prefer to brainstorm ideas on their own before bringing their work back to a group.

Beyond different working styles, you also may need to consider the practical side of different employees’ working hours and methods, and possibly reorganize larger teams into smaller groups of people who have similar styles and working habits, and who can coordinate meeting times amongst a more manageable group. 

  • WHAT work are they doing?

Some people are wired to work alone and require little feedback. Others like total collaboration, all the time. These are two extremes, but they illustrate an important point. Before assigning new projects to team members who may be geographically disparate, or work different hours, you’ll need to consider WHAT kind of work they are doing and how each team member best achieves results.

For complex projects that require lots of teamwork, a manager can be the gatekeeper and arbiter of how team members need to make themselves available for collaboration time and team calls.

Consider carefully charting out the project tasks and timeline and issue an advance request for employees to block a specific set of days for overlapping work during key project phases (e.g., kickoff, mid-point, finalization). Alternatively, managers can request that employees on the same team be in the office on the same day or two every week, which allows for face time and impromptu meetings. Have a worker who really shines when they are on their own? Consider that when assigning new projects that could be completed by just one person on your team.

  • HOW will they get the work done?

Long waits for status updates or answers to questions can kill productivity. We’ve all been a part of the endless email chain where a document is forwarded and people may wait days for a simple edit, sign off or answer to a question. Predictive Index easily identifies those who thrive in structure and process, and those who don’t. Make sure you determine how your employees can best achieve results, and then consider that when building your teams.

Information availability is especially critical for flexible workplaces. There are numerous tools to facilitate this, but employees and managers must actually use and update them!

Consider project management software where any member of a team can view and edit a document in real time. Your independent workers will appreciate being able to check in on projects without waiting for a check-in call that may be days away. Create rules around how new projects are started, what software will be used, and expectations for response times when documents are shared.

It’s whole new world of work out there. With a few simple adjustments and an eye toward flexibility, your workplace can rise to the challenge and stay competitive as an employer. Want to discuss more ways to build productive teams? Contact us here.