In the previous chapters, we’ve ventured through the transformative potential of flexible work. Yet, as we revel in its promises, we confront a significant hiccup: the murkiness of not knowing ‘who’s where?’ and ‘who’s doing what?’. This chapter is our dive into the power of visibility and how it anchors the ship of flexibility.
A common misconception is that flexibility equals disorder. Some imagine a scene of employees working in isolation, reduced serendipitous interactions, and being unaware of where their teammates are. But flexibility isn’t the culprit here—lack of visibility is.
When I started helping companies transition to flexible work, the number 1 problem we faced was making sure employees met up in person. Employees reported fleeing isolated, and our clients felt in-person collaboration, relationships, and the company’s overall culture were dwindling.
Often, the knee-jerk reaction was to impose forced office mandates. But we knew how they could blow up in your face. So, we embarked on a fact-finding mission, speaking with as many employees as we could. And we had a remarkable discovery: when asked why they weren’t coming into the office, many employees replied that they wanted to come into the office more than they actually were! They said the problem was that they didn’t know who would be in the office, if anyone at all, so they didn’t want to risk the commute.
This makes sense; why would you spend an hour on public transport or driving in rush hour traffic only to find you are the only one in the office? You might as well have stayed home. This is called commute regret.
This helped us land on the cornerstone of our flexible work strategy: Working Location Visibility.
84% of employees would be motivated to go into the office more by the promise of socializing with co-workers, while 85% would be motivated by rebuilding team bonds. Employees also report that they would go to the office more frequently if they knew their direct team members would be there (73%) or if their work friends were there (74%).
Microsoft Hybrid Work Study
Clear Visibility, Clear Benefits
As soon as employees get visibility of who is working where each day, office attendance soars. And in doing so, so does in-person collaboration and relationship building, and the office refinds its ‘buzz’.
Visibility doesn’t just help office attendance. It also helps your teams get back in sync. When we were all working from the office five days a week, we knew if someone was available by just looking over to their desk. But now, colleagues can be anywhere. They could be working from home, visiting a client, travelling for work or off on vacation. This breakdown in knowing teammates’ availability can cause huge inefficiencies in the output of your employees. Get them back in sync.
The benefits of visibility:
- Fostering Collaboration: When you know your marketing expert is working from the downtown hub, you can join them for a brainstorming session.
- Building Relationships: When employees can see that their team and work friends are in the office on Wednesday, they are excited to go in and not miss out on the fun.
- Avoiding Commute Regret: Your employees aren’t going to risk commuting into the office only to find they are the only ones in. Visibility encourages higher office attendance.
- Strengthening Culture: Celebrating a teammate’s birthday or a project milestone? With visibility, spontaneous meetups or celebrations become easier to organize, making everyone feel involved and valued.
- Efficient Resource Allocation: Need a meeting room or desk? Knowing who’s where helps optimize resource usage, ensuring no double bookings or resource clashes.
“Visibility is key. If everyone knows where everyone is working, your team can be intentional about meeting up to build relationships and to collaborate. We show our working location in our Slack Status and in our calendar. Officely is great for this.”
Freya McDonnell, People Operations Manager, nPlan
Predictability in Flexibility: The Power of Forecasting
Flexibility comes with patterns, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt. Discerning these patterns allows teams and managers to anticipate needs, ensuring seamless operations. Recognizing when the office buzzes with energy versus when remote collaborations peak can guide various decisions, such as:
- Streamlining resource distribution, ensuring offices and resources aren’t overwhelmed.
- Organizing team-building or training sessions when most members prefer an in-office setting.
- Adjusting support staff and resources based on predicted office attendance.
The Trust Factor: Empowering Without Micromanaging
True empowerment lies in trusting employees to make the best decisions for themselves and the company.
Visibility tools aren’t surveillance mechanisms but trust enablers. By granting employees the freedom to choose and having systems that transparently reflect those choices, companies create an environment of mutual respect. Such a setting yields benefits like:
- Enhanced job satisfaction as employees feel valued and trusted.
- A self-motivated workforce keen on proving their commitment.
- Reduced friction between management and teams, fostering a more cohesive working environment.
“It makes me feel like my company respects us as adults, and is not being too restrictive. Makes for a more positive working environment.”
Jack Bower, One Fine Stay
Beyond the Now: Using Visibility for Future Growth
Visibility isn’t just a momentary glimpse but a continuous story, hinting at broader trends and possibilities. By paying attention to these patterns, companies can:
- Foresee and act upon emerging work trends before they become mainstream.
- Strategically expand, choosing new locations or remote hubs based on consistent data.
- Refine and evolve their flexibility models to cater to future workforce needs.
Tools for Enhanced Visibility
To truly embrace flexible work, companies need to invest in tools that provide this crucial visibility. It’s not about tracking or micromanaging—it’s about understanding team dynamics in real-time, ensuring everyone is in sync.
The Future is Visible
As we propel forward in this era of flexible work, visibility will be the anchor that ensures fluidity doesn’t turn into chaos. It’s the key to unlocking the true potential of a flexible, modern workspace.
Remember: Flexibility doesn’t mean working in the dark. It’s about shining a light on where and how we work best.
“When we asked our team what would make them want to come into the office more, they said just knowing who else would be there.”
Nina Gordon, Culture and Communications Lead, Pleo
Up next: Flexibility is Not Chaos