Now Entering the Era of Flexibility

While the pandemic highlighted the importance of the employee experience, the “Great Resignation” has only catalyzed it. As millions of burned-out and dissatisfied workers quit their jobs in search of purpose and passion, it’s drummed up an important question: when did work become the antithesis of that? 

The workforce is not accepting pre-pandemic workplace relics anymore — they expect greater flexibility and autonomy in terms of how they use their time and where they work. They are asking for a hand on the steering wheel, resulting in a new era of work defined by employees’ ability to do their best work from anywhere.

The era of flexibility is here. Are you ready for it? 

What the Great Resignation teaches us about employee experience

The Great Resignation” sees overworked and disillusioned employees leaving their current roles, with 4.4 million people quitting their job in September of last year alone. There are more jobs than there are people, in part due to a new demand for flexibility.

According to Bloomberg, almost 39% of workers would rather leave their job if it does not offer them the flexible work that they now require, and that number climbs to 49% for Millennials and Gen Z employees. Those required to return to offices, or who do not get value or inspiration out of it, can easily find their preferred work environment elsewhere. 

People want to tailor their working style and schedule to their needs — whether that’s to better support their kids, adjust operations for regions they support, or just spend more time with long-distance loved ones. For instance, flexible work permitted my Qatar-based son to visit home in New York and work while he sees us. Asynchronous work is proving to be ever-present for every industry in every geography. 

Flexibility in where, when, and how people work is fundamental for creating a desirable organization. And leaders should tailor their management style accordingly. In-office supervision is no longer the norm, so leaders need to focus on how employees achieve outcomes and provide contributions. If somebody gets up at 5:00 a.m., met their objectives for the day by 1:00 p.m., and then went surfing, should we care? Focus on the outcome and objective employees achieve, rather than having them work at a certain time and location.

And remember to trust your workforce. People never wake up and do things deliberately wrong or make bad decisions. They may do things differently and it may not quite work out as expected, but that’s OK — employees are learning and will ultimately be successful. Businesses that make trust a touchstone will recruit and retain the right talent, while those that fail to do so may see a few more resignations.

What flexibility really means (and looks like)

When you tear away the four walls of an office, what are the real building blocks that make a successful working environment? 

One guiding pillar: positive employee sentiment. Employees should work where and how they feel happy, safe, and successful in serving a customer base and growing a business. In the era of flexibility, work is no longer defined as a place, it’s a space with processes and technology tailored to employee needs. 

This technology can’t just be any solution, employees need to find it engaging and flexible. Ask yourself: what technology do workers use the most? What are they comfortable with? What’s essential for achieving their ideal way of working? People want to be productive, and it’s up to leaders to provide tools that enable efficiency — another essential for retaining the right talent.

Widespread remote work has heightened our collective technology literacy. People know what they want to use, so listen to what your employees advocate for and feel is necessary for their job function. Remember, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach — the solutions that work for finance may not always work for sales, for example. 

Gauging success in this new era

The era of flexibility requires leadership to remain agile too, particularly in how they benchmark success. 

Every company in every industry has always had a focus on client satisfaction, as it helps direct business decisions and creates a constructive feedback loop that’s fostered more intentional innovation. 

The same logic can (and should) be applied to workers, as employee satisfaction needs to hold equal weight when it comes to the way we look at success. While monitoring tools can be useful for gauging productivity and efficiency across a distributed workforce, sentiment-based metrics may help leaders get a more nuanced view of performance and preferences.

Whether it’s through regular surveys, manager one-on-ones, skip levels across functions, or town hall sessions, open up a dialogue to identify what your employees need from this next phase of work. Show you value their opinion, understand their concerns, and let them guide your approach.

Be open to the fact that you may not get it right the first time. The era of flexibility gets its name because everyone — leadership included — is allowed to adapt plans to meet shifting needs, change preferences, and learn new things along the way. 

Get comfortable with the concept of adjusting what success looks like as you go, using employee satisfaction as the defining metric for your decision-making. 

Rely on the right partner

Ready or not, the era of flexibility is here. Embrace the change and find the right partners to support you along the way — ones that design solutions with this new reality in mind.

At Zoom, we build experience-first solutions optimized for this new flexible future. Just take Zoom Rooms Smart Gallery for example, which is designed to create an inclusive experience that promotes equality for both in-person and remote workers through the strategic application of AI technology. Couple this with our real-time language transcription to truly bring people together, enabling employees to work globally while feeling heard, connected, included, and equal.

Through reliable connection, real-time collaboration, and relentless innovation, Zoom helps foster the mutual sense of trust critical for teams to do their best work from anywhere. 

For more insights on the future of work and the impact of employee experience, read our 2022 predictions piece.

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