The latest research from The Gallop State of the American Workplace survey shows that 51% of people would change jobs for a flexible work arrangement (allowing them to choose where and when to work.) Accommodating this demand has dramatic implications for the future of work, completely changes the way managers will interact with their staff, and alters what companies will need from their office space.
For the employees: Allowing employees to work at a location of their choosing requires a shift in the way people think about communicating, collaborating, and achieving objectives. Employees have to get used to providing real time updates, working in a transparent way, and constantly demonstrating results. They can no longer hope that they will get credit for time served and will instead be measured solely on their results. There is less opportunity for politics, more emphasis on demonstrating value. Employees need to work hard to stay engaged, focused, and on-task.
For the manager: When everybody was in one location, it was easy for the boss to change direction or chase a new idea. He had to stick his head out of the office and and tell people what he wanted. With distributed employees there has to be clear goal-setting, constant engagement, and an enormous focus on building camaraderie digitally. This is hard stuff. It requires spending a lot of up-front time establishing objectives because changing direction with a distributed workforce is incredibly difficult. The success or failure of a geographically distributed team depends on the effectiveness of the leader’s vision and communication.
For the Company: According to the survey, only 33% of employees consider themselves “engaged.” Those disengaged workers? They are under-productive and are likely looking for a new job. Companies need to make sure they are creating a brand that helps their employees find meaning and connection with their work while also providing opportunities go grow within their positions. Companies need to be authentic with both their employees and customers, and ensure that the message is consistent across the organization.
The impact on real estate: A well thought-out facility should offer opportunities for engagement and be specifically designed to create that effect. According to Gallup:
Employees who say they can move around to different areas while working are 1.3 times more likely to be engaged than other employees. And those who say they have a space that helps them connect with coworkers are 1.5 times more likely to be engaged.
When employees come into the office, they should be given opportunities to engage and connect with their team and organization organically. That means designing space that allows teams to assemble as they choose, whether it’s in the cafeteria over lunch, at a conference room table, in cubes, or some other open environment. Bringing people into the office should create strong connections to the company and team members.