Looking ahead to a time when the pandemic is over and a return to the office is possible, how popular is that likely to be and what will the new normal be? Neuroscientist and Business Psychologist, Dr Lynda Shaw, tells us why flexibility is the key to boosting performance and best working practices in 2021.

 

  1. FLEXIBILITY INCREASES WELLBEING & LIFE SATISFACTION. It will be very hard for employers to take newly enjoyed liberties away from home workers such as being able to pick up their children from school. Showing empathy for an individual’s situation and values and offering them the ability to personalise their working week within reason and not micro-managing them will be essential going forwards.

 

  1. FLEXIBLE WORKING IS GOOD FOR INCLUSION as it promotes equality and diversity by accommodating different commitments and responsibilities such as for working mums. The more compassion we show, the more able we are to reduce biases in the workplace.

 

  1. FLEXIBLE WORKING IS GOOD AT LIFTING BARRIERS IN THINKING. A major barrier in business is rigid thinking or habitual responses based on past experiences.  If you offer versatility, you won’t limit your employees’ potential or that of your business.

 

  1. FLEXIBLE THINKING IS GOOD FOR GOAL CLARITY. If we all understand what we are striving for and offer various, adaptable and agile solutions to reach end goals then we are more likely to have better outcomes.

 

  1. FLEXIBLE THINKING IS GOOD FOR RESILIENCE because if we can reframe and find positives then we are able to better recover from the inevitable highs and lows that we have all faced in the last year.
  2. FLEXIBILITY HELPS RETAIN STAFF. Companies that want everyone in the office may lose staff to those who offer flexible time or to continue to work from home.

 

  1. FLEXIBILITY ALLOWS EMPLOYEES TO TAKE VALUE-BASED ACTION. Benefits and rewards don’t always lead to long lasting motivation and loyalty in a way that flexibility in working practises does. Understanding an employee’s values can help motivate them. For example, if an employee is passionate about travel and wishes to go further afield for a longer holiday, accepting this is important to their happiness will build loyalty.

 

  1. FLEXIBILITY INCREASES COLLABORATION. Getting to the heart of problems and finding ways to fix them as a team will naturally increase collaboration. Allowing workmates to seamlessly step in with overlapping duties is good for inclusion, mentoring and delegation and enables better work/life balance.

 

WHILST FLEXIBILITY IS KEY, DON’T OVERLOOK THE FOLLOWING:-

 

  • NOT ALL JOBS CAN OFFER TIME OR WORKPLACE FLEXIBILITY. Whilst some job roles can be redesigned with careful thought, others will struggle to make it work. Hybrid models can balance remote work efficiency with the benefits of social interactions, creativity and innovation generated by working in person with colleagues.

 

  • DON’T MICROMANAGE EMPLOYEES WORKING FROM HOME as it damages employee trust and can lead to burnout as employees struggle to meet the constant check-ups. Instead, simply stay connected and check in on your colleagues as a team, bridging the gap between those working remotely and those in the office to create a level playing field. Employers should make maintaining a cohesive team a top priority.

 

  • UNDERSTAND EACH OF YOUR EMPLOYEE’S CIRCUMSTANCES & NEEDS. People’s lives have changed vastly since the start of this pandemic. Continue to be mindful that home lives may sometimes interfere with work. Encourage an open and honest workplace where colleagues can share their problems and show support where possible.

 

  • ADDRESS THE MAIN CHALLENGES – Even though we have may have been working from home for some time address unstable Wi-fi, breakdown of workplace relationships, distractions and feelings of isolation may still exist. If working from home is going to continue, best practises need to be in place for the long term.

 

  • THE VALUE OF TEAM BUILDING. Integrating new or inexperienced employees is very hard to do remotely.  Some employees will be extremely keen to work at the office especially if they have distractions at home or live alone, so businesses must continue to find new ways to team build, mentor and encourage good working relationships.

 

  • DON’T BE TOO ATTACHED TO A SINGLE PLAN. Even if your business is offering flexibility, we have a long way to go and will need to constantly reflect on what is working and what isn’t, so leaders will constantly need to assess, review, plan and implement new strategies.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.