The hybrid workplace is here to stay. Workers want it but leaders fear it.
But merely offering workers choices in whether to come to the office is not enough, said Manar Morales, president and CEO of Diversity and Flexibility Alliance. In order to have a successful and flexible workplace, leaders must be intentional and inclusive about how they implement hybrid work while letting go of their fear of losing the Five C’s.
Morales spoke about the common fears that leaders have about flexible work during the American Council of Life Insurers annual conference.
Many leaders have avoided implementing flexible work because they fear what Morales called the Five C’s. They are:
Control. How will I know people are working?
Culture. How can we maintain culture if we have a system where workers are not in the same place? “Work is not a place, and culture is not dependent on location,” Morales said. “Culture is based on behavior.”
Collaboration. How can we have innovation when we’re not in person? Morales cautioned business leaders against designating spaces as collaboration spaces. “Collaboration happens all the time!” she said. “You can do it virtually or in person but you must figure out best way to collaborate depending on the circumstances.”
Contribution. How will we measure our employees’ work if we don’t see them every day? “Face time is not an indicator of performance; performance is an indicator of performance,” she said.
Connection. How will we connect with others if everyone is working in a hybrid or virtual format? Morales recommended creating “choreographed connections” in meetings and calls.
Business leaders are right to be concerned about the Five C’s, Morales said. “But you can design for them.”
She said leaders’ biggest fear in forcing people to back to the office is losing talent. “But the biggest risk is losing talent,” she said, pointing to a Gartner study that revealed that if an organization were to go back to fully onsite, it risks losing 39% of its workforce.
Leaders also are concerned about losing productivity in a remote or hybrid work environment, she added. “But you don’t have to lose productivity,” she said. “Your biggest fear should be that you lose talent by going back to in-person work because that’s hard to unwind.”
Morales called for creating a culture of flex success by aligning the organization’s principles, policies, practices and people.
Principles. Embracing hybrid or remote work as a complete mindset shift, she said. Flexibility is not a tradeoff for performance or commitment. “Why is it important that we adopt a different view on the way we work? Because it’s an important recruitment or retention tool,” she said.
Policies. Another form of flexibility is not only letting people determine where they work but determine when they work. She called for business leaders to establish core hours when everyone works but allowing for fringe hours where people can be flexible with their work schedules.
Practices. Leaders must determine how they will build connection practices. An example is deciding whether meetings will be virtual or in person. When is messaging appropriate as opposed to a phone call? Morales called for leaders to create an ROE – return on experience. “If you want people to return to the office, you must give them an experience that’s worth coming in for,” she said.
People. Leaders must determine how workers have what they need to be successful, no matter where they choose to work. Morales also cautioned against what she called proximity bias. “We tend to defer to those who are in person,” she said.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.