Long working hours, unclear job roles, and minimal benefits and pay; these phrases might sum up the working experiences of many individuals. While it may be true that creativity and innovation know no timings, humans and their circadian rhythms certainly do. With an increasing focus on work-life integration, employee engagement and employee experience, organizations across industries have finally woken up to the needs of the people. Unsurprisingly, according to the 2019 LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report, 72 percent of professionals seek workplace flexibility. The importance of this need has been felt so profoundly that there has actually been a 78 percent increase in job posts mentioning “workplace flexibility.”
The crux of it
The time has come for a paradigm shift in the general work culture. While ‘flexitime’ is an essential part of this, so is the employee experience at the workplace. The active involvement of the HR team in everyday functions and a constant appraisal of professional conditions is also must. Policies are set in place across organizations, be it work-from-home, leave, or even POSH policies. However, how often are these re-examined and revised according to employee response and effectiveness?
Right from the on-boarding of an employee to their everyday activities and tasks, are we adequately offering the Employee Value Proposition? So thus, each of these aspects of the workplace needs to evolve; with time, and with changes in employee demographics like age and gender.
The trust factor
A survey by Shine cites that 60 percent of millennials seek out job opportunities that promise them flexible working hours. With well-defined deliverables and technology-based attendance tracking, the basics of flexible working policies can be taken care of. However, many say that flexibility can be abused. And thus, the importance of trust, and the fact that employee contributions must be measured in terms of results delivered and targets achieved, rather than in terms of the number of hours spent at work.
Today’s business environment is volatile; competition is fierce, technology is giving everyone leverage, and yet only those who possess the element of human creativity have an edge. Millennials are becoming an integral part of the workforce, but they are also a generation that changes their job every 2-3 years. With so many disruptions, there are several factors to balance:
- Staying competitive while providing a healthy employee experience
- Retaining employees while tapping their full potential
- Consistently churning out results while focusing on work-life integration
- It’s a time of paradoxes, but with trust, they’re not impossible to address.
How can we build trust?
It takes time and effort, but trust can become an integral part of the workplace culture. Here’s how to go about it:
- Constant updating of employees on policy changes
- Inclusion of employees across hierarchies in policy-making committees, voluntarily
- Approachability on the part of leaders
- Empowerment of employees to make decisions
- Creation of a periodic question forum for employees to raise queries with the leadership
The fluidity of it all
Several companies argue that the nature of work in their industry is such that it demands to stay overtime almost every day. However, it is important to remember that Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is of utmost importance to your creativity. As per Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., sleeping only in short bursts or not sleeping enough can affect REM sleep and lead to impaired creativity. Additionally, downtime and time with family and friends are all crucial factors in mental well-being and stress relief. Moreover, an overwrought and stressed mind cannot work to its optimum efficiency.
Perhaps it’s time to de-romanticize the idea of exhausted, sleep-deprived geniuses because while great ideas may strike at midnight, execution is best done during working hours. But, when long working hours are unavoidable, and a team is going home at 2 AM, it is advisable to let them either come in late or give them the next day off. The discretion to allow such project-specific flexibilities can be developed only when managers are fully aware of their team’s functioning. From commitment at work to fulfillment of KRAs – the better a leader knows the team, the higher the level of faith, and ultimately, the more space there is for flexibility and change.
Essentially, it all boils down to the fact that we need to consciously change the deeply ingrained work culture and the work environment that has been created over the decades. Things cannot change over-night, but the change can undoubtedly be set in motion. So, the next time you feel like going home on time, simply to bake a cake, read a book or be with your family, cast aside that sense of guilt that we have been taught to feel. With each of us cutting ourselves some slack and being flexible individually, hopefully, organizational flexibility will also jump from policy papers into reality.