Early morning 6am and the news feeds are pinging with yet another HR buzz phrase.
Ping: ‘Lean in!’
Ping: ‘Quiet quitting!’
Ping: ‘Paranoid Productivity!’
Ping: ‘The Great Resignation!’
Ping: ‘Remote working regression!’
Ping: ‘Act your wage!” Reading through bleary eyes, before the caffeine has even made it to the mug, it would seem the biggest pings of all in recent months have been centered on “The Great Location debate”. I’m talking Remote vs Office vs Hybrid, and whether the business world will fall apart if we continue to allow such “freedoms”. Pinnnnnnnng!
The human resources landscape these days has more trends and phases than an early childhood blog, and is just as infantised.
As a leader, it is hard to keep up with the terminology, and to decipher whether the latest headline is an actual trend, or a media hook as we all continue to emerge battle weary, craving a little trust, kindness, respect and … more freedom to work when we want, where we want, and how we want.
Research says it’s so
Fundamentally nothing has changed in the workplace pre or post COVID. Employees want to be valued and trusted and employers want valuable employees to be trustworthy.
However, research from a survey by Gallup of over 140,000 participants, on their preference of workplace environment, 59% said they preferred a hybrid option, which is higher than any other singular model. Only 9% opted for working full time in the office and 32% wanted a completely remote or work from home possibility.
But it’s not rocket science is it? Given all employees are humans, is it really any wonder they are seeking a ‘life centered approach’ meaning they can define what is important to them and how work impacts on their ability to do what matters, whether that be working out in the morning or afternoon, picking up kids from the daycare or school queue or doing a few hours in the evening instead of their old 9-5.
So if this is the case, isn’t the answer to being an employer of choice in the post COVID era simply treating employees as the adults that they are?
Thankfully for me, working for The Creative Collective (a full service marketing agency) who don’t just say their values are kindness, respect and trust but who actually live them, I can see the benefit in giving our employees KPIs, expectations, timeframes and the right systems, then allowing them to make their own decisions about where they do their work, and a flexible hybrid policy which means mutual respect. In short, it goes both ways. We may ask them to come in for a special meeting on a day they may not usually come in, they may ask to leave early to attend an appointment. After all, life can be complicated and working around it shouldn’t be. To achieve this I believe you need to hire the right people who share your values, take an interest in what makes the employee happy, show you care (repetitively) and you will generally be rewarded with positivity, performance, longevity, and a proactive and productive culture.
Thinking back to my first mentor
I was 22 years old, when I simultaneously experienced my first real heartbreak, and my first management mentor.
Prior to working with my mentor Warren, (a positive thinking, highly knowledgeable art director who happened to be confined to a wheelchair after an accident left him paraplegic) I had never experienced leadership that wasn’t utilitarian or dictatorial. Warren was refreshingly a kind man with an open ear, and one of his strongest leadership skills was his compassion.
In my second week in the job, my long term relationship came to a life altering and brake screeching halt, leading me to cry a lot, anywhere, about anything, particularly at work.
Warren pulled me into a meeting room one day and asked me what was happening. When I confided, Warren let out a big sigh and just when I expected that Warren would say “there is no place in the workplace for personal issues”, he instead said;
“I am really sorry that this has happened in your life, I truly am. Listen now, when I tell you that when it comes to your work and matters of the heart, there is no greater importance. Please go home, and take the time you need to grieve.”
And so I did, and when I returned, I worked harder than I had worked for anyone before.
Warren had put my life first, and I had felt heard and cared for. It’s a simple lesson, but an extremely important one.
Flexibility is key
There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to managing a team, but there is always an opportunity to listen to an individual’s needs, and be malleable in your approach to helping any given employee find their work-life balance. Always seeking to understand an individual’s point of view without making assumptions, and leading, always, with kindness and compassion, in my experience is the best guide to “getting it done”.
As a leader I fully embrace our company values of Kindness, Trust and Respect. To be honest I haven’t heard any more common sense values than this in my years of working.
Because if you are always kind, you will get kindness in return.
You have to earn respect and you can get it by giving a little trust.
I am of the belief that employers can embrace the rise of the nonlinear work day (meaning employees may no longer work from 9am – 5pm), and a flexible hybrid model that gives their team the choice and movement to flow between home and office, hinged on trust, and that it can work. It certainly does for us, and I’d be happy to share more with anyone who is still on the fence about how to achieve it in practical terms.
After all, we are social creatures, and we crave solitude at times, and interaction at others. Not all of us will become untrustworthy, hermits with low productivity unless we feel unheard, unclear on our directive, and misunderstood. As a leader you need to trust that people will be largely conscientious, regardless of location, and trust that you’ve hired well.
What our team think of flexible-hybrid
Andrea, a 27-year-old employee of The Creative Collective has used the flexible hybrid work policy to balance a long distance relationship, whilst building her career.
“The flexible-hybrid policy helps me balance the logistics (and emotions) of a long distance relationship, and relieves the pressures of constant travel and being tied to the same desk at the same location every day,” she says.
“I am able to work from the train, local libraries and two different work offices while remaining productive and connected to my team and my partner. It’s helped me achieve a fulfilling personal and professional life.”
Co-owner, Katrina Lees offers another perspective from a both management and employee standpoint:
“I may be a Director and therefore a leader in the organisation, but I’m also a member of the team and a human being wanting all the same things that a Flexible-Hybrid Policy brings. The opportunity to flex my days in the office means I can personally feel like I have more balance in my week. I plan my WFH days around being able to walk my son to school or pick him up, throwing washing on so I can get it done ahead of the weekend, or simply being able to bang out a piece of work without office distractions,”
“The flexible hybrid policy works as well for me as I hope it works for our team, and I also think that it’s important that as leaders we lead by example. I therefore ensure I balance working from home with working in the office three days a week, and I find this time really valuable too. Not just on the work front, but the social front too,” she says.
Like the idea of a flexible-hybrid workplace? Let’s talk!
I am always looking for new talent, and conducting interviews. If you’d like to hear more, depending on the day, we could meet in the office, or at a cafe, or I might dial in on my daily walk, or from my couch, but rest assured wherever I am, I am working.