Remote work isn't enough: 5 tips for the future of flexibility at work

Managing remote teams? Consider these tips to ensure your employees have the long-term flexibility they need
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For most of us, our pre-pandemic work lives centered heavily around a physical office space. Fueled by in-person interactions, workplace perks, and office social events, a strong sense of community and culture was important to the success of any organization.

The pandemic changed this. No longer is remote work seen as a perk – it’s now a common offering that’s here to stay. To compete for talent, companies need to focus on being “people-first.” This means providing employees with the flexibility they need, and merely offering remote work will no longer cut it.

5 tips for work flexibility

Consider these tips for increasing flexibility at work for your employees.

1. Create a remote work guide

Remote work poses challenges, especially for younger employees entering the workforce. In an office, they can stop by and ask a colleague questions about office protocol or procedures. From a laptop in their home office, it’s not so easy.

[Also read Hybrid work: 5 tips for a flexible future.]

Consider creating a remote work training program for new employees that outlines remote work expectations, including company hours and a flexible schedule policy. By establishing clear parameters, employees have the opportunity to work as they please within those boundaries.

2. Encourage time blocks

Employees often worry that when they aren’t at the office, they are expected to be online and available 24/7. This line of thinking is actually detrimental to productivity and could lead to burnout.

As a fully remote manager, I encourage my teams to block time on their calendars throughout the day to ensure they have time to step away, have lunch, or walk the dog. Working from home doesn’t mean employees can’t take breaks.

3. Establish meeting-free times

Sitting on multiple video calls a day is draining for everyone. Establishing meeting-free times across the organization provides employees a chance to focus on their work without interruption.

Meeting-free time is a simple concept, but implementing it takes careful planning. While meeting-free days are most successful when the entire company can adopt them, implementing them on a team-by-team basis can also be impactful.

[ Advice for implementing meeting-free days: 11 productivity tips from IT leaders ]

4. Create opportunities for mobility

Work flexibility is often considered strictly in terms of schedules, but true flexibility goes much further than that. A key element is to ensure that your employees have a wide range of opportunities available, including career growth mobility.

Ensure that your employees have a wide range of opportunities available, including career growth mobility.

The ongoing technology worker shortage presents new opportunities for companies to fill vacant roles internally. Many organizations are now looking to remove the high (and sometimes unrealistic) barriers to entry for certain roles to increase the talent pool. If you take this approach, clearly outline roles and responsibilities for all roles and be transparent with employees about how they can reach the next level. When roles are clearly written out, it’s easier to evaluate how well your existing talent might fit with internal opportunities. It also gives your employees a goal to work toward.

5. Focus on continuous learning

Companies that foster a culture of continuous learning are better equipped to respond quickly to changing circumstances and tackle new challenges. Promoting continuous learning not only accelerates business growth but also improves job satisfaction, morale, and productivity – all key ingredients for a happy and flexible work culture.

Our managers empower their teams to make learning part of their workflow. For example, we offer our employees access to resources such as LinkedIn Learning so high-performing teams and individuals can pursue skill development opportunities outside their traditional roles.

Continuous learning empowers a flexible workplace. Consider providing sessions hosted by outside experts or internal executives on topics such as eliminating bias, improving team communication, and best practices for leading virtual teams. These will help “normalize” flexible work and equip your workforce with new tools for long-term success.

The paradigm of working in an office 9 to 5 five days a week ended in 2020. Forward-thinking organizations are embracing remote and hybrid work models and exploring how they can provide all their employees with the flexibility they need to excel.

Remember that true flexibility goes beyond allowing employees to work from home while trying to keep old practices in place. It’s about fostering a culture that sets employees up for long-term success.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Keren Rubin is VP of People Operations at Augury, a Machine Health company building a world where people can always rely on the machines that matter. A former food engineer turned VP of People Operations, Keren has applied engineering concepts to people management.