Before COVID-19 incited a worldwide remote work experiment, many industries were already seeing a rise in employee desire for more flexible work schedules. Now, as companies around the world look toward the future of business-as-usual with 1 in 2 people saying that they won’t return to jobs that don’t offer remote work after COVID-19, flexible employees are the new face of the modern workforce.
As organizations begin their return to the office—or extend their remote work policies indefinitely—many are finding themselves to be facing a new challenge: restructuring the workplace in order to accommodate employees of various working situations. Whether your teams are made up of fully remote, hybrid, or flexible employees, your workplace should reflect their needs and be set up to prioritize their safety and productivity.
COVID-19 has stimulated a rapid shift in employee needs and expectations. Regardless of if your employees have found themselves to be working from their home offices or your company’s office, they have new needs that reflect the effects of the pandemic.
Whether your workforce was largely remote before the pandemic or your employees are new to the work from home lifestyle, it is your responsibility to support your remote employees by becoming attune to their needs. Your remote workers themselves are your greatest resource, start by running a remote survey or conducting one-on-one meetings to directly ask your remote teams how you can best support them.
To best support employees that are working on-site any amount of time, start by setting up your workplace in accordance with the most recent CDC workplace guidelines. Your on-site employees won’t be able to work at their full potential if they feel unsafe in the workplace. To ensure that they do—and that they are only working on-site when they are in top health— instill a flexible work policy that encourages your employees to prioritize the safety of themselves and their coworkers.
As your teams become more fluid—with employee schedules ranging from completely on-site to fully remote and every hybrid schedule in-between—it is essential that your workspaces are flexible enough to accommodate their needs. To make workplaces as functional as possible for the flexible employee, many businesses are adopting open office plans or designating huddle rooms for hybrid teams. However, neither of these techniques account for what to do with the desk of a flexible employee on days when they are working remotely.
So, how do you ensure your workplace is equipped to support flexible workers when they are on-site and uses their space effectively when they are remote?
Flex-desking is a system to support companies with a significant population of flexible or hybrid workers. With flex-desking each employee books a desk to work at on days when they will be on-site. This way, desks are only being occupied by employees who need them and workplace resources are maximized due to a decrease in unused office space. With flex-desking, you no longer need a desk for every employee and instead only need enough to accommodate those in the office at a given time.
Flexible employees who lean heavily toward remote work run the risk of not feeling completely comfortable when they work on-site. To ease their adjustment from their home office to the company office, create an interactive map that is easily accessible to all employees. With the help of your interactive map, flexible employees can find all the resources and people they need without interrupting their workflow. Additionally, your interactive map can show flexible employees what rooms, spaces, and desks are occupied and which ones they are welcome to work from, to help them feel right at home when they are on-site.
Flexible workers excel at just that: being flexible. Once you expand your idea of a workspace past the one desk assigned to an employee you will open yourself up to see the full potential of your office space. Flexible workers can use a desk to dive into their solo workflow and use their asynchronous communication tools, then head into a conference room for an on-site or hybrid team meeting, and pop into a huddle room for some one-on-one synchronous collaboration. When your office is equipped with a variety of different workspaces, your employees will be able to reach the full potential of their flexibility.
With an increase in flexible work comes an increase in hybrid teams, when you design your workplace with remote workers in mind you are in-turn creating a work environment that prioritizes the productivity of your hybrid teams and flexible workers. Half of supporting remote workers is ensuring they have the support they need as they work from anywhere, the other half is supporting their on-site team members to make certain they can collaborate effectively from a distance. To design your workplace with remote work in mind, redesign your office to accommodate these adjustments:
When reorganizing your workspace to fit the ever changing needs of flexible employees, start by designating areas—such as huddle spaces or call booths—specifically for on-site workers to have one-on-one conversations with their remote teammates. When you prioritize providing spaces dedicated to helping hybrid teams easily communicate and collaborate with one another, you are investing in the success of your remote and flexible employees.
The more flexible your workspace is, the more systems you will need to put in place to ensure it runs smoothly for all on-site and hybrid employees. To avoid any confusion about who is using which workspace or double booking, utilize a room booking system for all on-site employees. With a room booking system, on-site members of hybrid teams can ensure that they have a private and productive space in which to call their remote team members, so hybrid teams don’t waste their time before or during virtual meetings.
Speaking of virtual meetings, the best way to prioritize your remote employees is to invest in video conferencing tools for all of your workers. Whether they are fully remote, fully on-site, or work as part of a hybrid or flexible schedule, all of your employees need access to high-functioning video conferencing tools in order to stay connected with their teammates. For remote and hybrid teams, video conferencing is the most efficient form of communication and therefore investing in a video conferencing platform is a fundamental aspect of supporting your flexible employees.
If your organization is new to flexible work, start by creating a remote work, work from home, or flexible schedule policy for your employees with one of Owl Labs’ free policy templates.