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How Flexible is your work environment ?

Flexibility is one key to a sustainable culture future

Continuing with the theme of the last few articles and blogs which are centered around the idea that “the future of culture is the future of work”.

This article considers the need for the cultures of the future to be fundamentally focused on creating flexible working environments. This is not around the bean bags in the meeting rooms or the table tennis tables and most certainly not about hot desking and open plan offices.

A culture of flexibility goes far deeper than the material artefacts.  In fact, it goes to the core ingredients of employee experience and engagement.

Let me share some examples.

Over the last 18 months I have interviewed in excess of 80 companies spanning 25 countries around their current and future cultures.  I wanted to revisit part of one interview that I have previously highlighted in my blog.  

During the interview with a manager of an engineering and construction business he described the employer as “inclusive and knowledge sharing”. He said that they have an attitude of “There you go, we’ve employed you because you’re good enough, here are the tools. Go and do what you need to do. Come back to me when and if you’ve got a problem.”

The part of the interview that really resonated with this theme of was around life work balance and flexibility. The manager commented “The CEO gives people that freedom. He believes in work-life balance”. This CEO told most of the workforce that in the period heading to the Xmas holidays that he trusted them take time off to attend their children’s concerts and sports days and were not expected to take leave for a few hours off. The implied and explicit counter side to that is that the employees would not abuse the system and would still deliver on whatever their role required.

There have been several articles written lately discussing generational attitudes to work and work environments and how the millennials are the most outspoken group in this regard. One summary of the millennial work culture was paraphrased as

“They will join your organization, and work like a trojan for a few years. They will want to start work at 10am after gym and breakfast and work till 8pm. But after a few years they will leave for another job, not for any other reason than needing a new experience”.

This is where the more flexible environments will capture the hearts and minds of the next generation of workforce.

Until recently, I had always assumed that in the call centre environment, particularly in Asian sub-continent (where many call centres are located) there was very little flexibility in terms of work hours and conditions.

A recent trip to the region was quite eye opening and managed to knock my preconceived notions out of the park. There are still many call centres where the employees are expected to be at their desks during specific times of the day. (These are often the calls we receive when you can hear a hive of activity in the background)

However, the rise of high-speed reliable internet connections has allowed many of these employees to now work from home or other environments. The power of technology has created a new dimension of flexibility that for a long time was reserved for executives and managers.

All these examples that are being used daily by companies, are leaning to the flexible workforce and place of the future. All these ideas reinforce the idea that “the future of culture is the future of work”

The image above represents the ultimate idea of flexibility (yoga) combined with the idea that yoga is a never ending search for perfection and continuous improvement

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