Here at The Find Your Flex group we talk a lot about flexible working, it is after all the bread and butter of what we do! But, recently we’ve also been talking a lot about output models of work too. Over the years our thoughts around flexible working have evolved. We really feel output based working is the key to TRUE flexible working. We’d love to see employers embrace judging an employee on their output over how, when and where they work.
We know organisations are at various stages of implementing change when it comes to the way we work. It’s no secret that the pandemic has forced many into implementing changes quicker than expected. It’s also clear that those who already worked flexibly adapted much quicker.
As with any major change in culture and behaviours, all stakeholders need to be committed if it is to be a success. Therefore employers and managers need to be able to adopt, drive, support and manage the change. But we feel employees also have a responsibility.
Who is really responsible for making this work?
There are endless reports, articles, blogs and opinion pieces about what the future holds – what do employees want? Back to the office? Home-working? A hybrid model? The focus is endlessly on what employers are doing to respond to ensure a better work model for their employees, with the core focus on location of work and it’s flexibility. We understand driving organisational cultural change is multifactorial and a hugely studied area. Of course strong and ethical leadership is key to driving positive change. But, We wanted to explore the responsibility of the employee too.
What responsibility do employees have in making any such future models a success? What can we do as employees to ensure the result is a success. Perhaps it’s the way we engage.
Engagement and wellbeing is a collective responsibility!
Employers have a responsibility to provide the tools, the tech and the trust, but we must be the adopters and change agents to ensure a culture that is a success. If we wish to be trusted, we must also trust – our employers and our colleagues. We must be transparent in what is and isn’t working for us and in sharing and communicating with others. If we are leaders ourselves, ensuring we engage our teams is critical.
The organisations who prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing – and who have the workforce that embed this into their culture – will be the winners, and so will their employees. Allowing people the time and tech to work remotely is a minute part of the journey we are on. For an output model to work we need to engage in ways that may be unfamiliar to regular working practices. It will be the way we engage new joiners. The way we empower teamwork. How we lead by example and foster a culture of inclusivity and engagement like never before.
For many employees, an output model may be the ideal to flex around our lives. But, there still exists the real danger of burnout and exhaustion. For example if home-working forms a part of this, boundaries are blurred. The work-day is often extended and mental well-being can be affected when the commute time, often used to transition from work to home mentally, is erased.
If output is the pure focus, could there be danger of over-working to achieve these outputs – not speaking out if the load is too high? Employers need to provide space for employees to use their voice, but employees need to then respond. Employees will have a period of time in which they need to adapt. To have conscious boundaries and strategies to look after their wellbeing. When we are not in the office it is harder for colleagues to notice changes in mood and overload. Again, we are collectively responsible for creating the culture of a team whilst not necessarily being in the same location at the same time.
Office dynamics – the invisible employees
Several people I have spoken to recently, who previously were all for at least a hybrid model, if not 100% remote, are already seeing a shift in dynamics. One mum shared recently when she went to the office for the first time in a year, the dynamic was entirely different. There were a much larger proportion of men present plus younger colleagues who do not have family commitments nor the space to work easily from home.
On the one hand it was great to see those that needed to be in could be, but she shared fears mums disappearing and this turning round to bite us on the bum. If output is the focus, the output of those that choose to not be visibly present in the office must be recognised. Mums have been the most impacted group of the workforce due to the pandemic. There is clearly a need to ensure a divide is not upon us – mums at home, men and younger people in the office resulting in an “out of sight, out of mind” issue that in turn affects perceived output and involvement in decisions.
Engage and remain engaged
To me this all shows the key thing is choices and well-thought out decisions by both employers and employees. We need to find ways to engage but also take responsibility to remain engaged. To demonstrate our output positively. To not slip from a presenteeism culture for all pre-pandemic, to recognition for presenteeism, within groups that choose to be office based, post-pandemic.
A truly flexible, output model must be based on trust. Maybe the next steps in this new world should see employees measured on a whole host of success markers that did not exist in the working world pre-Covid. Imagine if we could be measured not only on results, but on engagement of ourselves in our hybrid world and engagement of others; on wellbeing metrics to ensure we are able to perform healthily which in turn makes for better output.
The positives are clear – we have many choices opening up to us. We may decide to live somewhere else as we don’t need to commute to the office everyday. We hopefully will have a degree of choice of how working hours fit into our lives – as long as we get the results needed. What is also clear is this cannot be to the detriment of our mental health where we all become islands of solo workers allowing loneliness and burnout to creep in. We all have a responsibility to make this work for ourselves and those around us.
Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Rebecca can be found via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.