Are you Re-flex or Low-flex?

How will our businesses look by the end of 2021?

One of the silver linings of the Covid age has been its role as a change agent. It has forced us to challenge traditional beliefs on how we run and structure our organisations.

We have long argued the case for a more flexible approach to work – and the need to ensure a (peaceful) transfer of power away from business owners and leaders and back towards employees.

In short, give people freedom and choice – so long as they can meet the needs of their roles and the business – and you should get happier staff and better outcomes.

Over the past 10 months we’ve been privileged to speak to dozens of leaders about this topic. For some reform was already on the horizon, for others Covid has been a catalyst for reimagining what their businesses might look like once we return to some kind of normality.

2021 will be the year that the outcomes of those soul-searching conversations become apparent, where freshly polished transformation programmes turn vision into reality.

Some change will happen very quickly, but most will take a significant amount of time.

Internal comms and a focus on re-evaluating the stories we tell about our companies will be high on the agenda. Those who have engaged and empowered their teams early in the conversation will be best placed to deal with the challenges ahead.

As new business models start to take shape, we have identified four main categories that – in the broadest possible sense – typify the approaches businesses seem to be taking. They are:

 Re-flex ·       A switch to fully remote working with all offices closed – or repurposed

·       An emphasis on high levels of flexibility for staff. Where possible teams will be given the freedom to work where, when and how they choose as long as aligned with business needs and organisational culture

·       A focus on implementing a high trust culture

·       Organisations will be outcomes focused

·       Technological innovation focused on staff wellbeing and collaboration

·       More flexible services will drive new and more accessible offers for customers

 

Hy-flex ·       A hybrid approach of both office and remote working. Offices will take on the role of an ‘innovation hub’

·       An emphasis on high levels of flexibility for staff. Where possible teams will be given the freedom to work where, when and how they choose as long as aligned with business needs and organisational culture

·       Staff given freedom and choice to attend the office when they need to – recognising individual circumstances – providing business and cultural needs are met

·       A focus on implementing a high trust culture

·       Organisations will be outcomes focused

·       Technological innovation focused on staff wellbeing and collaboration

·       More flexible services will drive new and more accessible offers for customers

 

Low-flex ·       A hybrid approach of both office and remote working

·       Limited levels of flexibility – such as a designated number of days working in the office each week, or traditional ‘flexi-time’ with core hours. Terms are dictated by the organisation, with limited staff input

·       Technological innovation focused on staff outputs – for example monitoring login and logout times

 

No-flex ·       An immediate return to traditional working practices

·       Exclusively office based

 

 

I wonder how many leaders recognise where their organisation might fit?

Of course, the above is not meant to offer any definitive answer on where companies may or may not end up over the coming years.

We are in a rapidly evolving environment – there is no rule book for the set of circumstances we find ourselves in.  This is merely a snapshot in time based on conversations in lockdown with a wide variety of businesses, and an attempt to offer up a first draft of a framework based on months of debate.

It is a provocation – there for people to muse upon, challenge and dissect.

Nobody is certain what the future will look like. But what is clear is there are plenty of good people having meaningful conversations to ensure their businesses are kinder, greener and fairer places to work after the pandemic.

And that, for once, is good news.

Bobbie Hough