Staff desire more flex – but does it align with your business priorities?
Permanently changing your organisation’s work arrangement is not just a HR-led strategy, but also a critical business strategy. Whether your company decides to fully work on-site, be 100% remote, or adopt a hybrid model, it will likely depend on several factors, including employee and business needs. How can HR leaders help the company come up with a balanced decision?
Employees want flexibility
From a people perspective, many industry reports have concluded the same thing: employees want some form of flexibility. It could be flexible hours or flex-location, but the past two years have allowed employees to figure out what worked best for their schedules and how to optimise their productivity.
For instance, a global study by McKinsey found that more than half (52%) of employees would like their organisations to adopt more flexible hybrid working models in the post-pandemic world. Before the crisis and a mass adoption of remote working, only about a third (30%) of employees desired a hybrid arrangement, with majority (62%) leaning towards working on-site.
HR leaders should note, however, that there are still employees (37%) who want to be based out of the office full-time. Hence, there is a need to consider people’s varied preferences, which can be dependent on things like their experience working remotely, how conducive their home office environment is, or simply their working style.
Employees’ preferences for remote arrangements
If you’ve decided that hybrid’s the way to go, then you must consider how often employees should return to the office. McKinsey’s study found that more than half (53%) of employees globally wanted to work from home at least three days a week. A dive into Asia-specific data found that about 45% of employees based in the region would want the same – at least three or even all five days in a work week.
Findings also showed that working parents were the most vocal about going fully remote. Employees with young children overwhelming expressed their desire for flexibility, with only 8% keen on a fully on-site model in the future. Those without children under 18 years old, however, were nearly three times as likely to prefer on-site work. Regardless, majority of employees still prefer more flexible models.
Read more: Are managers ready to handle hybrid teams?
Clearly communicate the company policy
Personal preferences aside, employees also shared that they want HR and leaders to be consistent on company policy. This suggested that they’re not just demanding to work from home or on site – they have a strong desire for guidance from the company to remain connected and productive. Top areas they’d like leaders to focus on include:
- Establishing clearly set hours for collaboration and expectations on when to be online (34%)
- Having standardised and integrated virtual collaboration tools (29%)
- Ensuring feedback systems or pulse surveys allowed staff to provide real insights about their work experience (27%)
- Holding regular team events to keep them connected and social (26%)
- Setting clear dial-in guidelines for team meetings for staff based on-site (26%)
Consider the business’ top priorities
All that employee-centric information will be crucial for HR leaders to determine what’s best to sustain a positive employee experience post-COVID. However, as with all work-related policies and changes, HR must balance it out with the business’ needs. This will then involve a close alignment with the C-suite and company leaders to discuss how best to simultaneously achieve business priorities and ensure a happy workforce.
To get better insights into this, HRD spoke with Amy Hsuan, vice president of people and strategy at Mixpanel, who has an advantageous position with her dual role as both a people lead and a business strategy head.
“[In] a hybrid policy, there’s strategy from a people lens and from a business lens,” Hsuan told us. “Those two things need to be very aligned when you’re deciding what kind of employer and company you want to be.” She then listed several considerations for HR to work out:
- What does the business stand for?
- Which rival companies are candidates comparing the business with?
- What is your employee value proposition and how is it different from other firms?
“Starting from that visionary standpoint helps you decide what strategy is going to make sense to support the vision or the employee value proposition,” she said.
Ensure a balance of both business and employee needs
Additionally, when working on an ideal strategy for the organisation, she reminded leaders to be flexible. She also warned leaders not to lean too much into favouring the business needs alone, or employee needs. “I think if companies tried too hard to create a remote work policy that’s in the interest of the business, but not in the interest of the people, ultimately, employees will have lots of options to go elsewhere,” she said. “You have to be very mindful of the dynamic now.
“There are a lot of companies that are fully remote, hybrid [or] who only want to be in office. But any one approach that basically sets your policy in stone means that you’re going to leave out a segment of the talent market who can find the specific thing that they want. I think it’s important for companies to [ensure that] their business and people strategies aligned, because there are far-reaching implications [when] those two things are not aligned.”