If I went back in time and told my younger professional self that the very definition of workplace would undergo a sea change, it would have sounded ridiculous. But things did change. And the way it happened was brave and new. This disruption of the mental image of today’s workplace has pushed us for a mindset shift and has made the flexi-work model, a widely adopted reality.
We are a generation of digital natives who believe in leveraging technology to break the barriers of geographies. Just as employees are embracing the idea of remote or hybrid workplaces, employers have also grown people-centric and are making flexibility a viable option. However, the challenge lies in how to build that trust bubble where flexibility and accountability balance each other out. Otherwise, an employee and an employer will be trapped in a perpetual seesaw of orthogonal wish lists.
Stabilize the flexibility-accountability seesaw
Today’s employees are more self-aware. For them, flexibility is a combination of schedules they follow, hours they invest in learning, locations they work from, the kind of ownership of projects they enjoy, and the frequency with which they would want to interact and engage with their teammates, customers, and supervisors. All this, while maintaining a good work-life balance. And the encouraging news is that employers are empathetically responding to this need for flexibility to ensure higher retention and talent growth.
I feel, given the evolving times and the constraints that we have been exposed to over the last couple of years, a symbiotic relationship between an employee and an employer is non-negotiable. Enterprises must transform and customize the workplace models to build a culture of accountability while allowing employees to ‘work from anywhere, anytime’, provided this fosters team collaboration and solves customer problems with desired service levels and quality.
Accountability is not about meeting certain goals about hours or work deliverables. It is about ensuring the quality of output, response and turnaround time while assuring complete security of data and networks. To help employees function in a safe environment and to lay the foundation of a strong flexi-workplace strategy, it is critical to establish clarity of purpose. Unless an employee understands the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’, it is not fair to expect desired outcomes. Clear communication always improves productivity and encourages task ownership.
Remote working could at times get lonely. A few possible ways to combat this would be to infuse positivity by setting up interactive workshops with peers and leaders, fostering cultural cohesiveness through water-cooler sessions, and scheduling in-person brainstorming meetings to help each other grow.
The success of a flexible workplace would depend on how outcome-driven the framework is. Continuous monitoring will help breed confidence and streamline work stacks. However, there is a fine line between micromanaging and guiding. A manager should be able to work with assigned team members to set goals and help them achieve those objects and key results (OKRs). After carefully weighing the trade-offs, both could arrive at a turnaround time estimate. If there is an overspill, hurdles should be resolved collaboratively.
One of the primary concerns of such a workplace is the security of data and networks. Customer-sensitive information is not something to be dealt with lightly. We live in a world where breaches of data privacy and compliance regulations can cost us beyond measures. It is mission-critical to set up secure networks, be mindful of customer and employer data, respect customer conversation confidentiality and follow locale-specific compliances to protect such a model from breaking down.
Self-driven accountability will ensure the success of workplace flexibility
It will take time to guarantee the seamless operation of a flexi-workplace. But I have seen some organizations practice this for years even before necessity demanded and there is no reason why such a model cannot be scaled up industry-wide. The moment we focus on unifying ideas and nurturing that culture where mutual trust, collaboration, and accountability can breathe uninhibited, workplace flexibility will become the norm.