As we try to navigate this new normal and will likely have an ebb and flow of easing and imposing stay-at-home restrictions, we need to start thinking about a better way of working.
Before lockdowns, some organizations allowed for flexible work arrangements or accommodated certain individuals to work remotely. However, these programs can sometimes have unintended consequences. For example, those who take leave or work from home have been shown to have slower wage growth and earn fewer promotions because they are seen as less motivated or dedicated.
As we are seeing now, individuals can be just as, if not more, productive at home by working hours that work for them.
So how can we utilize our new insights about working from home and redesign the way we do work. Two examples of how some companies have done this already include redesigning work through a person-centred approach or a results-centred approach.
The People-Centered Approach
(also known as the Predictability, Teaming, & Open Communication approach)
In this approach, you, as a manager or as a department, state that you have a collective goal of ensuring every team member's personal interests and needs are met. That is, ensuring both professional and personal goals are met for each team member.
Each team member states what their needs and goals are for the week and the team re-works the work schedule and priorities to ensure both personal and professional goals are met. This process adds time, especially in the beginning. It will usually add about 30 minutes to weekly team meetings and it will take a few months for people to build psychological safety and trust to be transparent in what their needs are. The leader setting the example will go a long way in this approach.
The people-centred approach helps enhance communication, build team cohesion, and helps achieve team goals. Teams create innovative ways of not only completing work but prioritizing work by eliminating unnecessary processes or initiatives. This approach had been found to make teams 2x more efficient, 1.5x more effective, and increase client value by 15%.
For individuals, twice as many people will feel more comfortable taking time off for work, satisfaction with work-life balance increases by 24%, and intent to stay increases by 29%.
The Results-Centered Approach
(also known as the Results-Only Work Environment)
In this approach, as a manager or as a department, state that you have a goal of 'gettin' 'er done'. That is, people should be free to do what they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. The purpose of this approach is to allow people to be more focused, productive, and efficient based on their own style.
Weekly team meetings will be required in the beginning to help bring transparency and clarity to the process. Employees will discuss how they would change their work practices if they could choose their hours/location/etc. This allows the team to have a better understanding of who is available when.
Employees are then empowered to experiment with their own productivity. After two months, the manager should do a check-in and discuss what changes are needed, share success stories and problem-solve any barriers. Additionally, it takes a bit of sophistication on the manager's part to understand what is a fair workload and what will achieve the strategy rather than 'fill the days'. Parameters also need to be set up about what constitutes good work. For example, it's not just that the task was done, but the task was done after consultation and collaboration with stakeholders.
The results-centred approach has been found to reduce turnover to 6% compared to 11%, increase schedule control and decreased work-family conflict, increased sleep, energy and self-reported health and exercise, reduce smoking and drinking and increased family meals.
As you can see, both of these approaches are not HR-led, but leader-led. However, which you choose depends on your company values and strategy (e.g., respect & caring vs. excellence and results). People-centred is more about a philosophy shift about the nature of work and creating team cohesion, collaboration, and team 'wins'. Versus, a results-centred approach is more individualistic and about business strategy achievement. Regardless, they are still both business strategies for goal achievement, rather than work-life balance initiatives.
Both require a significant amount of energy, especially in the early stages, but the benefits outweigh the costs. Regardless of which you may choose, here are some tips to help you ensure a successful implementation: