Moving Towards Flexible Work Cultures
A few years ago, I met with a manager at a Canadian telecommunications company. She was almost a year into her role and had not met the majority of her team members in person. Her direct reports were spread across Canada and communicated virtually – yet they maintained communication on a nearly daily basis. This company promoted a flexible work culture as a means to achieve not only increased employee engagement, but also exceptional customer service, operational efficiency and reduced carbon dioxide emissions (from employee commuting). I found their approach to employee engagement very different from MacPhie’s, yet still flexible and productive.
Here at MacPhie, our team is most engaged when we’re all gathered around a whiteboard, collaborating and building upon each other’s ideas. We believe in the power of face-to-face interaction and insist upon it with our partners and clients. That’s not to say we don’t encourage virtual communication or remote work – there will be days when team members work from home to be more focused, or at a coffee shop to find inspiration (which I am doing as I write this blog). With that being said, the strength of our culture and MacPhie Way is a function of our emphasis on live communication and collaboration.
Determining which approach is best – live vs. remote – is a function of the nature of the work and needs of employees. There may be times where live work could be critical to building more rapport and collaboration between employees. Similarly, remote work may be advantageous when employees require a greater work-life balance or project teams are serving diverse geographies. Several factors could contribute to the approach ultimately adopted and at MacPhie we encourage organizations to be flexible and take creative approaches to balancing remote and on-site work. Let’s take a deeper dive into how flexible cultures can drive high performance:
Increasing employee productivity – Flexible work cultures provide flexibility not only in terms of location, but also in terms of hours. Everyone has their own approach to productivity, which may depend on the time of day or their surroundings. For instance, I aim to analyze research and write reports in the morning and within quiet, isolated spaces because that’s when I find I can be most focused. Flexible work cultures empower employees to find the atmosphere where they can be most high-performing, whether that’s gathering live to collaborate or working remotely to focus.
Engaging employees in creative ways – Technology has transformed not only businesses, but also how we interact with one another. Innovations in digital communications have introduced new ways of collaborating, which in turn have paved the way for increasingly effective approaches to working remotely. An organization that does this well is Actionable – spread across three countries and five time zones but highly collaborative through tools like Slack and Zoom. Since working with them, we’ve began adopting some of the same tools. Communications tools have enabled organizations to go beyond traditional approaches – such as all-staff memos and town halls – to connect and engage employees.
Access to a larger talent pool – When you no longer require your employees to come into the office on a regular basis, you have the opportunity to remove geographic and other personal barriers that come with recruiting talent. Depending on your context, remote work can allow you to access and include talent from other provinces, states, or even countries. This is also helpful in achieving greater diversity among your team.
These are a few of the many ways flexible work cultures can drive high performance in organizations. While the degree of flexibility is unique to an organization’s particular context, there is opportunity for all organizations to consider how workplace culture is evolving and seek to address barriers to attracting the best talent for them.
By: Srusti Pandya
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