Karen Kelly provides expertise in the design, development, and implementation of flex and mobile work programs with a focus on policy and procedure development and program design and management. Emily Klein helps companies achieve success by designing strategic workforce initiatives that strengthen mobility across the enterprise, achieve cost avoidance and build high performance teams.
EBS: Of the companies that implement mobile workplace strategy and design well, what’s their secret (and the outcome)?
KK & EK: It takes a well-thought-out plan, buy-in from all (including senior leadership as we mentioned in Part I) and a strong, institutionalized corporate culture to support it. Understanding a need to shift culture and what it takes to do so is an important first step. Next, decide who will drive the initiative. Cutting administrative costs can be a driver for finance, or those in charge of real estate might be driven to maximize office space; yet workplace flexibility gives HR a competitive advantage in hiring and retaining top talent.
Regardless of the business area driving a mobile workplace strategy, a champion needs to lead the effort and leverage supporting capabilities of a cross-functional team to design and implement. Companies that do this well have a consistent approach to managing a culture of flexibility throughout the organization while maintaining parity for all. Leaders build competencies to lead distributed teams through training and mentoring and employees are provided parameters through policies and procedures. Successful outcomes are measured through metrics that are integrated at the executive level for senior leaders to determine business impact and results. These outcomes can be financial, increased productivity and higher scores for employee engagement and satisfaction.
EBS: What organizations have you seen do this well?
KK & EK: We’ve worked with a number of clients who have done this well including a leading managed care organization in New England that was, at the time, seeking to cut $3M of annual administrative expenses related to real estate costs while implementing an enterprise-wide remote workforce initiative. As a result, 20% of their workforce became remote workers and the organization achieved cost efficiencies by reducing space and occupancy expenses per employee.
While strong executive commitment existed to create a corporate-supported remote work program, this client also wanted to ensure changes did not diminish unique attributes of the existing corporate culture – ones that had been recognized in the community over multiple years as a Best of Boston Great Place to Work. We partnered with a team of senior leaders across HR, Operations, IT and Real Estate to apply a strategic, integrated approach and roadmap to the design and implementation of consolidating real estate and formalizing a remote work initiative that aligned with a planned remote work pilot roll-out across lines of business. FWG brought the executive team on site visits to view redesigned open workspaces at regional employers undergoing similar changes, designed and conducted a workforce assessment to establish quality of experience data and performed an audit of multiple policies to create an updated formalized corporate policy on remote work. FWG also delivered training programs to leaders and employees on Leading and Managing High Performing Remote Work Teams and the Virtual Workplace: An Employee Roadmap – these two training modules were integrated into the clients’ learning and development curriculum.
Jet Blue, a pioneer in adopting a remote workforce has been doing this for over 10 years with their customer service team. Recently, Apple and Disney have been promoting work from home options as well. Strategic and progressive companies understand the importance of flexibility and choice.
EBS: What do you think is the biggest missed opportunity for organizations who don’t embrace mobile workplace environments?
KK & EK: We find the biggest missed opportunity is ensuring employees can accomplish work when and where it best meets employee and company needs. The desire for choice is a strong driver behind flexibility and is critical for today’s workforce. Whether a side gig, family commitment, hobby or just a long commute, employees are more productive, engaged and loyal when they can balance their personal and professional commitments.
Another missed opportunity is not formalizing workplace flexibility. When flexibility is allowed informally, often at leader/manager discretion, a lack of consistency can lead to a lack of parity and conflict, creating an HR issue and a misuse of space. When employer expectations of full-time, on site employees migrate toward informal flexibility, vacant seats lead to underutilized space and rising expenses that go along with it.
EBS: What’s your best advice to leaders considering implementing mobile-centric / workplace flex programs?
KK & EK: Take your time and do it correctly. Evaluate your corporate culture and decide where it needs to be to embrace a workplace strategy within your company. Completing a workforce assessment can establish baseline data to shape a plan for moving forward. Evaluate leader and employee competencies and train those who might need help leading or working in distributed teams as leading employees who work remotely might be a challenge for managers who are co-located with their team in the office on a daily basis.
Employees joining distributed teams – teams with members in the office and working remotely – may need help with communications and processes if they’ve been working in-house for a period of time. This is even more important if all employees have routinely come into the office to work and no informal flexibility exists.
Establishing a champion is essential. The champion will oversee the initiative, plan and execute it with cross-functional team leaders. This team develops policies and procedures to ensure consistencies and acts as a guide for leaders and employees. Formal agreements between leaders and employees set expectations to ensure clarity and enable trust, while handbooks help employees navigate remotely. The development of a communication plan keeps distributed teams cohesive. And finally, having the right metrics ensures a flexible workplace stays on track to ensure goals and projected financial savings are being realized.
Many organizations are not equipped with in-house expertise to successfully lead such a transformational initiative. Don’t be afraid to reach out to external experts and specialists to ensure a smooth transition and maximize the benefits. Although this may seem like a daunting task, when executed properly, success is pretty much guaranteed.
Flexwork Global partners with companies to transform how and where people work by bringing innovative thinking and best practices to meet the needs of a growing mobile workforce. Their products and services help companies design, implement and manage a flexible work strategy and workforce around four pillars of workplace transformation: strategy, policy, training and engagement.