The way we work is changing, and businesses have to revolutionise how they manage the workplace and their talent to create a positive environment for all to collaborate in.
How do employees want to work? Do they want the privacy of cubicles where they can work without the fear of interruption and disturbances? Or do they prefer open plans which remove all obstacles to collaboration and foster innovation at a wholly new level?
How about a mix of both?
Take this workplace experiment carried out by advertising genius, Jay Chiat, who declared that his office was gong the ‘virtual’ way. Mind you, this was somewhere in 1993, long before words like flexi-hours or ‘work from home’ had entered our workspaces.
In his experiment, he decided to abolish cubicles and dedicated desks. Only open space and freedom. Unfortunately, this radical idea bombed. His workers rebelled, and he had to redo the office design. Yes, his people wanted freedom but not at the expense of losing their privacy entirely. What he needed was flexible working, an idea that was to catch on many years later, now.
Are you looking for ways to incorporate flexible working in your workplace? How do you make it work? By addressing these needs.
Give employees the power to choose how they want to work
As long as the output aligns with the final goal of the company, it does not matter how your employees work. Do not force them to do it ‘your’ way, but rather give them the space and freedom to achieve their goals in the way they deem most convenient.
This distribution of power is what constitutes a truly flexible workplace. When you let go of control, you will see an immediate shift in the way work gets done. It tells your employees that you trust them, which, in turn, empowers them to perform better.
Work is something you do; not some place you go to
A business looking to create a healthy work environment has to understand that every individual performs their best work in their own ways. And for this, businesses must support the employee’s method with the right tools.
About 25 years ago, around the same time that Jay Chiat had tried his virtual office experiment, Erik Eldhoen, a consultant, coined the term Activity Based Working (ABW).
According to this concept, work is an activity rather than a place to go to. And for that to work, workspace should be malleable. Employees should be able to mould and shift their work environments as per their mood, personality or type on work on hand. This is possible only if they have the right tools and technology that allow constant changes or movement. Surprisingly not many businesses, even those that claim to be flexible, are providing that.
Did you know that even today fixed technology outnumbers mobile technology by 2:1? This means that not every employee can take a business call while walking in the garden or concentrate on a project in silence, away from the daily bustle of the office.
By being able to move away from a traditional fixed-desk set-up and giving workers a chance to get the best of both worlds in their workspace, businesses can not only boost creativity but foster unexpected collaborations too.
Enable uninterrupted work
Employees look for a nourishing place where they can achieve their goals, in peace and quiet. As a business, it is your responsibility to create such an environment.
It might shock you to learn that on average, a worker is interrupted every 11 minutes, and that it takes 23 minutes to be able to get back to the task at hand.
Your workspace, whether it has cubicles or open spaces, needs to contain quiet private corners for employees to work from.
Foster innovation, don’t stifle it
There are some businesses that have not yet touched flexible working because they have an unfounded fear of losing control and encouraging chaos. To them we say, done right, a truly flexible work environment will in fact a foster innovation.
Those workplaces that combine the design of space and the right technology are today a creative worker’s destination of choice. Work-life balance is a thing of the past now; people are looking for work-life integration. And people who are in the business of workspaces, like coworking spaces and business centres, have recognised this need and cater to it. From private cabins, to flexible desks; from open collaboration zones to sound-proof meeting pods and phone booths; there’s a space for every type of work style.