Employees expect flexibility in the future of work: How can we deliver?
- 5 Min Read
Kate Philpot, Senior Director of Global Sales Enablement at Getty Images and iStock, offers several steps for achieving flexibility that keeps employees engaged, retained, and able to bring their full selves to work.
Businesses are wrestling with the need to cater to employees whose priorities have changed over the past few years and, as a result, are approaching work differently. Many of us have emphasized the need to create environments where people can bring their “full selves” to work. The question therefore arises: As people prioritize themselves and redefine their ideas of success in life to be more inclusive of overall health, well-being, and balance, how can we create the flexibility they need?
Establish support by formalizing flexibility
The future of work is flexible, digital, and purposeful. As well as being productive at work, wherever that takes place, people must also feel that they can balance the demands of their home life, whether that’s raising children, managing their well-being, or caring for sick or elderly relatives. In short, organizations must support employees by giving them the flexibility they need.
Getty Images and iStock’s VisualGPS research shows the rising importance of visualizing “support” in the workplace over the last three years. According to the latest data, having a work-life balance is the most important life priority for Brits, while 7 in 10 are more likely to think of businesses favourably when they acknowledge the challenges they face outside of work, whatever those are.
At Getty Images and iStock, our employees can choose to be fully office-based, fully remote, or hybrid, and can tailor their working preference – from one day a week in the office to once a month. Our global leadership team has listened to what employees want and has provided it, with employees returning the trust with high performance and engagement. We believe employees should feel empowered to do their best work in a setting that works best for them, and this sentiment is evident in our latest annual Employee Engagement Survey scores, which are the highest we have seen.
Hybrid working has also empowered people in minority groups, including neurodivergent or introverted people, to bring their true selves to work. Being on Zoom or Slack huddles has enabled a levelling of the playing field in communication. For example, during our Multiculture Network Employee Resource Group (ERG) meetings, we found that you can’t miss the “watercooler” moments if you were not part of the conversation in the first place.
Meet people where they are
Businesses must invest effort in ensuring that employees can access the right person at the right time, the goal being both to share and acquire knowledge, to build understanding, to further inclusion and to solve problems that improve business outcomes and the experience of their employees.
Our flexible working principles have facilitated a culture of connectivity independent of our employees’ physical working location. As an example, moving to a video conference-first approach has enabled our sales trainers to bring together people from all over the world, and has created a vastly improved experience versus the one where a couple of remotely based employees would dial in to watch a group of people discussing in a meeting room.
Motivating a workforce is a joint responsibility, where organizations lay the groundwork for employees to invest in their professional and personal development and, ideally, employees are self-motivated. When it comes to training, the principles of adult learning apply and that means treating people like grown-ups and expecting that they commit to their development. On the flip side, organizations should commit to creating training that is engaging, involving, and practical, to help employees execute their jobs effectively. As a visual company, we are also very conscious with our internal communications and training to include images and videos which are diverse and inclusive to ensure ALL our people feel seen.
Understand expectations for flexibility by giving people a voice
Employees want to work for organizations that cultivate a culture of belonging and where they can bring their full talent, skills, and experiences. As leaders, it’s important to show flexibility and empathy to the workforce by ensuring they feel seen, heard, and accepted.
It is one thing for businesses to commit to creating a culture where people can come to work as themselves and have access to equal opportunities. But, to be credible, they need to back up their words with actions, for example, by creating spaces where colleagues can connect.
We have several voluntary, self-organized Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) where colleagues have created a safe space to share their lived experience across the full spectrum of DE&I which include, but are not limited to, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, disability, and more. I co-chair the Multicultural Network (MCN) ERG, a community for people from traditionally under-represented or under-served ethnicities and cultures. The MCN was born out of the events of George Floyd’s murder, an event which added additional trauma to communities already disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. It prompted a conversation about equity that moved from outside to inside the organization and resulted in discussions with senior leaders to articulate and define what equity means at all levels of our business.
Establish employee assistance
People are increasingly turning to their employers for resources to address life’s challenges and to allow them to do their best work. According to our research, 9 in 10 Brits would like to see more support for those with mental health issues, and this sentiment is consistent across all generations.
While resources such as our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) are available for people to deal confidentially with work-life stresses, we take a multi-layered approach to educating employees and managers about the importance of taking care, whether that’s through webinars, our communications channels, or 1:1 coaching, to help people feel less isolated in their time of need.