Embracing communication and flexibility are two necessities for businesses trying to find a strategic answer to the future of work question.
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Over the past year, business leaders have learned that the shift to remote work bucked the conventions of workplace culture and challenged our notions of what productivity looks like. As we adapt to a new future of work, flexibility will be key at all levels. Statistics show that employees’ ability to go with the flow while working from home actually increased productivity, efficiency and job satisfaction. Leaders today must meet that flexibility in order to succeed.
Finding the right fit will make your employees happier and help you keep your employees, many of whom say they won’t work for companies that don’t offer remote flexibility. When considering what type of workplace model will work best for your business, it is vital that you start with the needs of your most valuable asset: people.
1. Start by talking to your teams
Just like there’s no one right way to hold a meeting, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach for how a workplace should look post-pandemic. The key to embracing the future of work begins with figuring out the needs and preferences of your workers. Talk to your teams and find out how they are feeling about their current situation. What do they like? What do they dislike? This will give you a full picture of how work gets done across your organization and help you find the best model to level up your operations in the future.
Talking to your teams while remote can be difficult. At ClickUp, we sent surveys to everyone to find out where and how they want to work. This showed us that our creative team prefers to return to the office at least some days in order to take advantage of an in-person, collaborative environment. Other teams expressed a preference to stay remote. This type of direct feedback has been invaluable as we form our new flexible workplace model.
2. Be flexible in your decisions (and your model)
Once you’ve gathered all the information you need, it’s time to make a decision on which model to build. This is where flexibility is key. Employees have made it clear they want flexibility in where they work. In fact, research shows that the majority of employees (54%) won’t work for a company that doesn’t offer the flexibility of working remotely at least some of the time. But flexibility shouldn’t end there.
It is also important to offer your employees and teams flexible ways to work and collaborate. This is where technology can help. If your company relied on piecemeal software solutions to get through the pandemic, now is a great time to move towards consolidating work into one flexible platform. This will help all your teams work the way they want while staying connected.
You also need to be able to make flexible decisions that evolve as you learn and grow. Leaders must adapt based on what is best for both their teams and their business. These decisions can be daunting. It helps to keep in mind that decisions don’t have to be final. Being flexible can enable you to focus on progress towards perfection and lead to a faster and more sustainable shift that benefits your employees and your business in the long run.
3. Use communication (and tech) to break down barriers
No model will work unless your teams understand it and adopt it. To help your teams in this transition, it is vital that you communicate with them throughout the process. Share information on why certain decisions are made. Highlight how operations will evolve based on what is learned. This will make both you and your employees more comfortable.
You also need to enable easy communication amongst teams, especially as you begin implementing new models. Many businesses struggle with siloed information and siloed communication. This usually happens because they are using too many different tools across too many different teams. Your employees should be able to easily connect with each other and know what is being worked on, regardless of their team or location. The more seamless you can make this process, the more productive your teams will be.
4. Iterate and remove friction
After you begin to see what works and what doesn’t, you’ll be able to make changes that optimize your new workplace model. The best place to start is by looking at what employees in each team are spending the most time on each day. What types of projects add the most value? What pain points are leading to a drain of resources and morale? During the pandemic for example, about half (51%) of employees said they lose at least one hour per day being inefficient and the same amount of people (50%) feel that having to check emails throughout the day eats away at their productivity on tasks.
If you have embraced a workplace platform that breaks down barriers on information and communication, you should have full transparency into all these areas and more. Then you’ll be able to iterate in real-time and stop employee pain before it causes greater issues. Not only will this improve productivity, but will also help promote a positive and supportive culture for your teams.
Flex that flexibility
As the last year has shown, people are incredibly adaptable. But businesses still need to provide their workers with the support they need to be their best selves. Identifying and prioritizing the needs of your employees, understanding the areas that cause them pain and strategically investing in flexible models will allow you and your entire workforce to adapt brilliantly to the future of work.