We’ve learned a lot about the importance of flexible work over the past 18 months, allowing many workers to effectively do their jobs while juggling childcare, school and more during the pandemic. Even as organizations begin to reopen their offices, many believe flexible work policies should be here to stay. In fact, according to our recent Flex Study, 75% of workers believe a flexible remote work policy should be an essential part of an organization's strategy going forward, rather than an extra benefit.
While many offices have already begun to reopen this summer with a hybrid work model, a new factor has entered the “return to office” equation, and is quickly putting flexible work policies to the test. We’ve all seen the headlines — the COVID-19 Delta variant is running rampant around the world with resurgent outbreaks, even among fully vaccinated people. Recent projections show that the current coronavirus surge will accelerate through the summer and fall, not only directly clashing with many companies that have already targeted these months to bring workers back to the office, but also school reopenings. This has the potential to derail organizations’ office reopening plans, and we’re already seeing tech giants such as Apple and Google delaying their office returns as the Delta variant spreads.
While there’s no way to know exactly how the next few months will play out, it will be critical for organizations to remain vigilant in their flexible work policies. Here are a few ways leaders can embrace flexible work strategies during this time of uncertainty over the next few months:
Have the right technology in place.
Since the onset of the pandemic, many organizations have had to digitally transform at a record pace to support a distributed workforce. With some workers returning to the office in recent months, this demand on technology has not eased up. Organizations continue to rely on flexible and seamless communications solutions that enable their employees to work and collaborate in a hybrid setting now more than ever. And with the uncertainty surrounding return to office plans in the coming months, leaders will need to continue to invest in reliable communications tools to meet both remote and in-office worker demands.
Be an intentional laggard when it comes to returning to the office.
This is no time to rush things. Despite pre-established return to office plans, leaders must remain agile in their thinking and planning. Being an ‘intentional laggard’ and flexible in returning to the office will not only help keep employees safe, but will also ensure that you are being thoughtful about their attitudes around returning to the office during this time.
Trust your employees to set their own schedules.
A key takeaway from our recent Flex Study is that it takes trust for flexible workforces to thrive. We’ve seen how COVID-19 lockdowns drastically impacted virtually every aspect of our everyday lives including working from home, remote school, and transportation. With the potential for more upheaval over the next few months, employers must give workers the flexibility they need to plan their schedules and adjust them as necessary. At Fuze, we’ve consistently encouraged employees to embrace flexible work schedules so colleagues can continue to be their best at home and at work.
Lead with transparency and empathy.
Understanding that employees are often managing other responsibilities outside of work, it’s important to remember to be open and empathetic to one another and considerate of flexible schedules and workloads. As a leader, lead with transparency and empathy in your communications and planning and your employees will likely respond with their loyalty during difficult times. Over the past year at Fuze, we’ve held regular virtual “ask-me-anything” sessions to have a channel for open communication and transparency to the entire company. Remember, we’re all in this together.
It has never been more important for leaders to continue to be agile and flexible when it comes to the future of work for their companies. The future is always unpredictable, so it’s good practice to always plan for the unknown while putting the needs of your employees first. And a big part of this over the next few months will be giving them the flexibility they need to be the best versions of themselves both personally and professionally.