Article: Empower, engage, succeed: Harnessing the power of equitable flexibility

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Empower, engage, succeed: Harnessing the power of equitable flexibility

In this latest webcast in partnership with O.C. Tanner, we get actionable takeaways on how to integrate equity in workplace flexibility and make it work for everyone.
Empower, engage, succeed: Harnessing the power of equitable flexibility

Equitable flexibility at the workplace is here to stay. 

That’s the most prominent inference from O.C. Tanner’s Global Culture Report 2024, as more than 68% of employees feel flexibility should be available to every employee regardless of role. And most importantly, when flexibility is equitable, talent is 8x more likely to stay on another year.

But what does it mean to establish equitably flexibility? How can CHROs and managers balance autonomy with productivity? How does flexibility impact the employee experience and how can it influence business outcomes? And finally, what do these changes mean for the future of work?

To find answers to these questions, we partnered with O.C. Tanner for an insightful webcast to discuss how to build practices centred around making flexibility equitable for everyone. The speakers for the session were Candy Fernandez, Director-People & Great Work - Middle East, Africa & South Asia O.C. Tanner and Shirin Sehgal, Chief People Officer, PwC India

Here are some key takeaways from the conversation.

Understanding equitable flexibility and its implications

The sweeping business and workplace changes of the last few years have forced organisations across industries to explore flexibility in creative ways. This has made work, the employee experience and collaboration more flexible, with obvious benefits for people. However, with the rise of flexibility, there has been a rise in the sentiment that expects employees to be available at all times. According to O.C. Tanner's latest research, this inability to accommodate personal preferences makes people feel unappreciated. Furthermore, the study indicates that people are very well aware of how much flexibility they can accrue in their existing role, and most aren’t seeking the same equality or autonomy offered to their peers. Instead, they expect a fair acceptance of personal choices, primarily for caring for personal and domestic needs. Candy says that understanding this sentiment can help leaders and managers grasp the concept of equitable flexibility, acknowledge employee expectations and balance them with empathy.

By displaying trust in people, organisations can send a clear message that relays value, as the report shows that a higher sense of flexibility increases the feeling of appreciation by 12 times. To build a culture of equitable flexibility, the impetus must come from the top leadership. An organisation that values autonomy, empowerment and transparency can implement adequately flexible policies based on team needs, leading to stronger governance. The report shows that while flexibility may mean different things to different people, at its core, it brings comfort and happiness to employees, increasing engagement, retention and loyalty.

Meeting people at the point of their need can increase job satisfaction by 385% and enhance the desire to stay for another year by 679%.

Shirin adds that balancing flexibility with accountability to get the best productivity from people is something that all organisations need help with. While many employers are against having a fully remote workforce, most of them are willing to have a hybrid setup, so much so that they are linking rewards and recognition to spending time in the workplace. On the other hand, many employees overwhelmingly favour higher flexibility and want to structure their time with greater autonomy. 

Designing policies and processes that fulfil both these agendas is undoubtedly challenging, but organisations are finding their own space while leaving rigid work diktats of the past. That’s why you see a lot of employers focusing on building microcosms of cultures where flexibility is just a part of the overall draw. Operating in a dynamic and volatile business environment requires prioritising employee experience to ensure that you attract and retain top talent, and equitable flexibility is a critical ingredient for success.

Implementing equitable flexibility: Getting started and best practices

Candy says that you should start by learning the unique needs of your employees to understand what works for different people. This identification can help you design work processes and policies that better cater to workforce expectations. Next, detaching the concept of flexibility with just time and work schedules is critical to creating meaningful change and implementing effective policies. Shirin lists some specific best practices you can consider while integrating equitable flexibility and cohesion in your workplace:

  • Change mindsets: While the exact blueprint of what works varies across industries, the first step is changing the mindset to rule out blanket mandates and replace them with voluntary choices.
  • Revise KPIs to focus on outcomes: Tying delivery and outcomes with rewards can make it easier for people to achieve targets according to their choice. Additionally, this can help you leverage gig workers effectively.
  • Give people room: Granting people the time and space to work on passion projects or hobbies is essential to attain equitable flexibility. It’s also important to factor in people's social, mental and physical well-being while designing workflows.
  • Define what purpose physical presence serves: Have a clear answer as to why you want people to be present in the workplace. This can help you dodge the pitfall of mandating weekly or monthly quotas and allowing people to come together for special moments, collaborations, and work.
  • Build flexibility at the team level: For large organisations, having overarching policies may not be suitable as people will most certainly have different needs. So, empowering middle managers to master equitable flexibility at their level can give room for more autonomy and creativity.
  • Use technology to create centralised experiences: Using tools and applications to create environments that standardise workflows and experiences can help fill the remote and hybrid gap.
  • Design inviting workplaces: Ergonomically designed offices that offer a variety of benefits, like childcare assistance or nutritional meals, and are conducive to higher productivity will naturally attract people who value these perks.

Equitable flexibility: The impact on business outcomes

Shirin states that the foundation of how businesses drive the flexibility discourse heavily depends on costs, skills, predictability and bottom lines. There is a misalignment in identifying which roles can be 100% remote, hybrid and on-site, as the needs and priorities of every organisation are unique. The perception and appetite for an organisation to regard any role as on-site or hybrid helps people define their own methods to collaborate and achieve goals. More than business outcomes, this can help people want to come to the office organically, alongside addressing productivity concerns. 

Focusing on key values like cohesion, collaboration and objectivity can validate self-oriented and self-driven employees. Similarly, mentorship becomes vital to ensure a healthy connection between people and leaders while promoting the behaviour and actions you expect from remote teams to achieve common goals. Having the necessary resources to achieve a unified strategic goal can bolster equitable flexibility, leading to higher retention, better productivity and seamless collaboration.

Translating equitable flexibility into higher retention is a long-term goal, and a pre-requisite is making your employees feel seen and valued, Candy adds. This demonstration can increase employee ownership and accountability, positively impacting productivity and business outcomes. Since we are all trying new models and approaches, establishing an ROI formula may take some time because no one solution fits every organisation or industry.

Creating equitable flexibility is a continuous journey that requires communication, embracing employee perspectives, gathering feedback and putting trust in people. Flexibility is the new workplace currency, and putting together a framework that goes beyond hybrid work arrangements can help employers use this new-found capital to align business goals and values with people's expectations.

Watch the recorded webcast to learn more about actionable strategies and best practices for strengthening equitable flexibility. To dive deeper and learn more about the rising demand for equitable flexibility and how it impacts culture and business outcomes, please visit


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Topics: Culture, Strategic HR, #Flexibility

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