“First of all, when we talk about flexibility, we’re not talking about working less. We’re talking about an everyday thing; working in and around people’s lives and how to make that easier and make work much more sustainable. People don’t want to put their lives on hold for work, or their work on hold for their lives — it all starts running together, so if we can manage this effectively, it’s better for our company, and for our people,” she says.
PwC started introducing more flexibility by relaxing its dress code over one summer, and gradually added more elements like flexible start and departure times, flexible schedules and remote work, says Donovan, and continues evaluating other options as trust is built.
“We started this in the summer, because it’s easier to do when people are already working differently. It started as ‘you can wear khakis or more casual attire on Fridays,’ and then became ‘Flex Fridays’ in the summer. And it’s a journey, one that’s build on trust. Trust that your employees can get done what they need to without these arbitrary constraints of time and location. We still work really, really hard, but no one has time to be micromanaged! If you think your workforce needs you looking over their shoulders to get things done, you have a far more serious problem,” she says.
Different strokes for different folks
What are some other manifestations of flexibility? There are a number of forms it can take, says ManpowerGroup’s Kate Donovan.
“Flexibility goes well beyond just having flexible start and departure times, though those are factors. In our survey, we’ve also seen organizations that measure performance based on outcomes; companies offering unlimited PTO and/or vacation time; the opportunity to take sabbaticals or extended leave over the course of their career; seasonal flexibility for industries like retail where demand shifts,” Donovan says. Other ways to incorporate flexibility include the ability to work from home and, for working parents, the ability to work ‘split shifts,’ she says.
“A lot of working parents we’ve seen have had great success with a ‘split shift,’ where they’ll work for the time their children are in school, and then log back in for a few more hours later at night once their kids are in bed. They get that critical chunk of time in the middle of the day to be there for their family,” she says.
In a very real war for talent, flexibility is the key lever, and keeping that talent engaged, motivated and loyal to your organization is the driving force behind many organizations’ push for flexibility, says Donovan. It’s certainly worked for PwC.
“We’ve been doing this for seven years now, and we have the highest internal satisfaction, motivation and engagement scores we’ve ever had. You can’t change things overnight, but you can start these small changes and eventually get to where you want to be — it’s a journey. And, you know, the saying goes that ‘a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,’” she says.
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