During the pandemic, many Australians experienced “working from home” for the very first time and the flexibility and freedoms that come with this, writes Isa Notermans, the Global Head of People and Culture at Aussie social tech company Linktree.
Employees realised they could still perform and be as productive as they usually would without being in the office and sticking to the traditional 9 am to 5 pm working hours they’ve always met. They could start earlier or finish later, cut down on travel and have more time for family and friends — and still get all their work done each week.
The future of flexible work
As life goes back to normal, many employees want these flexible conditions to stay. In fact, new research shows almost 40 per cent of Australian employees will go and find a new job in the next 12 months if their current employers can’t provide them with this flexibility.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned navigating lockdowns, it’s that flexible working is much more than just WFH. There are many ways employers can build a connected and empowered workforce while embracing flexibility and remote working policies. Here are some of my top tips to help employees get started.
Embrace flexibility in all aspects of your business
Flexibility is more than just allowing employees to work from home. Companies should go beyond this and explore encouraging employees to take regular breaks so they can watch their kid’s basketball game or work from a local cafe if they feel more productive there. Allowing employees to choose when they work and where so they don’t miss out on special family moments or other self-care activities, whether it’s going to the gym or a painting class, is super important and will only boost morale in the workplace. We all know life can be busy and unpredictable and having this kind of flexibility is extremely beneficial.
Encourage social activities and downtime at work
Break up those busy working weeks with extended team lunches during traditional working hours, offer team yoga sessions or organise walking groups in the afternoon for those needing some fresh air and time to reset. By creating intentional and enjoyable moments for employees so they can come together, take a break and clear their heads, you’ll have a much more engaged, happy and productive workforce. At Linktree we offer daily meditation and stretching classes for example and always encourage our teams to take breaks throughout the day so they can do whatever it is that refreshes them — as we know this is different for everyone.
Put internal communication to work
With employees working remotely or alternative hours, it can often be difficult to keep teams connected and communicating. To avoid employees feeling distant, make sure there are regular opportunities throughout the working week for employees to come together and connect whether it be over virtual drinks, a daily company or team WIP call, one on one catch ups with managers or even a watercooler style Slack channel for your teams to use when they feel like having a casual conversation with a teammate. This will look different for every company but is something that must be considered to keep employees feeling connected to their teams and the work they are doing.
Be progressive with your employer policies
In the last year, we’ve seen more companies introducing progressive policies around parental leave, domestic violence support, mental health initiatives and “work from anywhere” options. Offering these kinds of policies has never been more important when it comes to attaining and retaining talent.
Some companies are embracing a four day work week. This has been trialled in some countries such as New Zealand and Ireland with experts claiming the extra day gives employees a chance to recharge and come back to work feeling refreshed and ready to get stuck in. Others are trying a ‘slow week’ instead, where there are minimal external and internal meetings so employees have more time to focus on their work (rather than a million zoom calls to get through).
While all this talk of “The Great Resignation” may seem quite daunting for employers, there is no need to fret. Keep focusing on the health and wellbeing of your employees, embrace and encourage flexibility across all areas of your business. Listen to your teams and address their needs with progressive policies and initiatives to support them the best you can.
Here are a few other initiatives that we’ve recently introduced at Linktree that might trigger some ideas for your workplace too:
Acknowledge mental health, and don’t shy away from it
Alongside providing access to resources like Smiling Mind and Uprise, we assigned two mental health days for our team, aimed not only at providing additional time to recharge, but to normalise prioritising one’s mental health and wellbeing. We will continue to do this when we feel our team needs it.
No-meetings “time zones”
Meetings can get excessive during WFH. Make it a policy to have some time off Zoom – for us, setting regular meeting-free periods not only supports productivity, but also gives teams much-needed time to recharge and focus.
Create daily routines
At Linktree, it’s daily stretching and meditation, offered as an optional activity to the team. For your team, it might be different – don’t decide for them; ask them what can help them most, and then make that happen.
We recently offered parents a week of meal plans to help ease the stress. Look at your employees’ day as a whole, not just on the “work part” of it – what can be done to ease the load? What can be done to improve how they feel, overall?
Actively encourage employees to take breaks
Last year, our leadership team sent a memo actively encouraging kids to be seen on screen. We’ve also created fitness and movement activities meant to be completed during what is traditionally referred to as “work hours”. Encourage employees to allow their world to “slip into” work and create intentional moments to clear their head, reset and refresh.
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