HomeEmployee ExperienceHR StrategyEmployees hold the key to the future of work

Employees hold the key to the future of work

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Employees are shaping the future of work, and it’s time that businesses took notice. An employee experience that is shaped around life can no longer be a ‘nice to have’ for organizations looking to succeed.

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The pandemic changed many aspects of our lives, but none more so than our approach to work. Employees now have the power to demand when, where and how they work, longing for greater levels of autonomy and flexibility, especially in the current hot employment market. Improving employee experience has become vital to ensure staff are retained and needs to be central to the strategy of business leaders.

In knowledge-based industries, flexible working has become the default option. In this new flexible world, employers hoping to attract and retain their top talent will find themselves moving further and further away from ‘traditional’ working practices and top-down management styles, with technology laying the foundations for new approaches to working, built on one key ingredient: trust. Employers may find themselves embracing ideas such as meeting-free days, or asynchronous working, or even a four-day working week.

Research conducted at Zoom has highlighted that employees favor the more flexible approach to work that many of us are taking. It found that 69% of respondents wanted to decide where and how they worked. That figure rose to 85% among those who are already working remotely. For any employers keen to return to old working styles, they may be in for a shock – 45% of employees said that they would look for a new job if they could not work where they want, rising to 55% among those already working from home.

Introducing asynchronous working

When it comes to delivering flexibility for employees, when they work could be just as important as where they work, with asynchronous working already high on the menu of employee desires. In a study conducted with 10,000 knowledge workers, more employees (93%) said they wanted flexibility in when they worked than wanted flexibility in where they worked (76%). The pandemic made employees realize that location wasn’t the secret ingredient that made them productive – and increasingly employees are realizing that productivity doesn’t have to happen to a particular schedule either.

Asynchronous work is already becoming a reality in knowledge-based industries around the world. Technology is a key enabler of this, with meeting software allowing people to replay meetings after the fact, and offer input at that point. Going forward, technology will increasingly incorporate functions to allow teams to work together effectively, regardless of how separated they are by distance or time.

It’s also about company culture. In the early months of the pandemic, employees had to take the reins in a way they never had before. So it’s understandable that employees now expect greater autonomy, and to be trusted to keep that hand on the reins. Asynchronous work allows employers to be more inclusive of people with families, people with caring responsibilities and people who have to travel abroad. Business leaders need to learn trust: rather than using monitoring tools to assess productivity, they need to listen to employees, ensuring that managers understand what they are doing and what they need, using surveys and town hall sessions to gauge employee happiness throughout the organization.

Time to focus: meeting free days

Listening to employees has never been more important. Employees throw up useful and interesting ideas, such as having days without meetings to boost productivity. At Zoom, we found in one company survey that our colleagues wanted more meeting-free time to focus and plan: hence we introduced ‘Meeting-Free’ Wednesdays, giving everyone one day with no internal meetings.

Research found that one meeting-free day per week can boost productivity by more than 35%. It certainly seems to make people happier, too. In a follow-up engagement survey, we found that 84% of us wanted to continue having meeting-free days.

We encourage teams to only have meetings where strictly necessary: for instance, for the start of a project, or for the discussion of sensitive information. We also follow the ‘Triple-A approach’, paying close attention to agenda, attendees and action items. Have a clear agenda for the meeting, ensure it’s only attended by people who need to be there, and aim throughout to create and assign action items, to minimize wasted time.

The four-day working week experiment

An employee-led approach to how people want to work has been shown to be highly effective. Workers who are able to choose whether they want to work in the office, from home, or somewhere in between are happier, and more productive. In the future, could we all be embarking on a four-day working week?

Last year Britain was host to the world’s largest experiment in the four-day working week, with more than 3,300 workers at 70 companies working just four days a week, on the same pay. Will the idea take hold? If employees demand it, there’s a reasonable prospect that a four-day week may become a reality at many companies – although research this year has shown that while employees like the idea, flexible working is actually more important to them than having a shorter working week, with 45% saying they would choose a job which advertised flexible working, compared to 40% for a four-day week.

The power is in employees’ hands

Employees are shaping the future of work, and it’s time that businesses took notice. An employee experience that is shaped around life can no longer be a ‘nice to have’ for organizations looking to succeed.

Competition in the job market is rife, which means that it’s never been more important for a business to get their approach to work right. By providing a flexible working culture built on trust, with technology that supports employees at its core, businesses can retain and attract the top talent, and set the standard for how employees want to work.



Magnus Falk, CIO Advisor at Zoom

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