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Managers should let employees work from home or risk losing — and not attracting — top money-making talent

As the inventory market contracts and the tech trade seemingly faces a downturn and belt-tightening, there’s some predictable chatter that employees working from home or hybrid may suffer. But any chief who penalizes or rolls again versatile work insurance policies at this second is making an enormous mistake. In unsure instances, it’s worthwhile to maintain prime expertise — these days which means offering flexibility not solely in the place folks work, however when. 

I’ve led firms over the last two downturns: the dot-com bust of 2000 and the larger drop in 2008-09. There was quite a lot of churn and alter, however nice engineers, entrepreneurs, gross sales folks, finance wizards and folks leaders are all the time in excessive demand, particularly throughout making an attempt instances. 

According to the newest Future Forum Pulse, 79% of individuals polled need flexibility in the place they work, and 94% need flexibility in after they work. Giving folks the choice to work at home, but additionally offering time within the conventional 9-5 workday reserved for focus or different obligations as a substitute of conferences is vital, and it’s a vital retention instrument. People who’re dissatisfied with their degree of flexibility at work are thrice extra prone to be “definitely” searching for a brand new job.

This isn’t shocking. Our analysis reveals employees with flexibility higher handle work-related stress, have better work-life steadiness and are extra productive. Top expertise all the time has a alternative, even when the financial system turns south. Gallup estimates that voluntary attrition costs U.S. companies $1 trillion yearly, an astronomical value even in the most effective of instances.

Flexibility is second only to compensation when it comes to what drives people’s satisfaction with their employer.

Flexibility is not an worker perk; it’s a competitive advantage for employers. Offering versatile work insurance policies attracts, retains and engages extra numerous expertise, accommodates completely different working kinds and widens a company’s expertise pool. Our analysis reveals that not solely do present staff need this, potential staff anticipate it too. Flexibility is second only to compensation in the case of what drives folks’s satisfaction with their employer.

Executives who reduce on flexibility — a call that provides nothing to the underside line — are prone to lose out to organizations who present a versatile work atmosphere as a option to lure expertise from their opponents. Top expertise is often first to go, not the final.

Take Airbnb

: 800,000 people flocked to the company’s career page after it introduced a shift to a extra versatile, digital-first strategy, permitting staff to work from anywhere. Airbnb will get the decide of prime expertise, not simply these keen to return to an workplace in San Francisco. On the opposite hand, one has to marvel how recruitment and attrition is trending at firms historically identified to be expertise magnets, resembling Google and JPMorgan Chase, which have confronted vocal pushback from staff on their return-to-office requirements

Flexibility can be a cornerstone to a extra inclusive means of working, which needs to be a essential precedence for any chief seeking to construct a really numerous firm — the kind of firm that research has proven is best-equipped to reach the worldwide financial system. We’ve seen rising need for versatile work from Black, Hispanic and Asian-American staff, for whom a number of days every week working from house is a respite from code-switching and microaggressions. For working moms, the necessity for versatile work choices is staggering, hitting an all-time excessive of 82% in our April survey results. Hard and quick “return to office” guidelines are prone to be harmful not solely to morale, but additionally to variety, fairness and inclusion objectives. 

The push to convey folks again to the workplace full-time displays a concerning disconnect we’re seeing between employers and staff. That identical survey confirmed 72% of executives working remotely wish to return to the workplace three or extra days every week, in comparison with simply 24% of staff. 

Middle managers could get caught in the midst of this debate – in unsure instances when groups are pressured to regulate quickly, their roles much more important, and more difficult. When you break down the info by job degree, they’re truly those who want flexibility probably the most.

Frontline managers report almost twice as a lot work-related stress as executives and usually tend to say they’re contemplating a job swap than executives, senior leaders and particular person contributors. Structured and clear versatile work insurance policies permit managers to raised steadiness their work lives, keep away from burnout and create extra room for his or her groups to concentrate on delivering for patrons.

Happy employees create better customer experiences.

This has actual advantages for the highest line, too. Recent research by Salesforce additionally reveals that employers within the prime quartile of worker expertise drive income development as much as 50% increased than their opponents. Happy staff create higher buyer experiences.

Building a extra versatile, inclusive and related crew requires redesigning work with the proper digital instruments. It’s not as laborious because it sounds. Our analysis has proven that there are three core ideas that may flip that redesign into a bonus for the group:

  • Lead with belief, not monitoring. Employees are 4 instances extra prone to say they’re “definitely” searching for a brand new job in the event that they don’t belief management is being clear. Engage them in problem-solving, not simply execution. At Slack, for example, our govt crew adopted a “progress, not perfection” mindset that prioritized worker suggestions. Beyond surveys, we hosted inner “AMA” periods, developed public channels for suggestions, and created a cross-functional and demographically numerous future of labor activity power. Meanwhile, IBM’s govt crew enthusiastically adopted a “work from home pledge” impressed by a grassroots worker motion to create new methods of working. 

  • Outcomes-driven administration: Clearly outlined objectives and priorities are extra vital than ever. Training managers to measure success by means of challenge outcomes as a substitute of monitoring actions, just like the variety of hours one spends within the workplace, will ship higher outcomes. For instance, Dropbox paired its shift to a digital-first means of working with clear success metrics tied to their enterprise objectives, product roadmap, and expertise technique. At Slack, we’ve invested in tactical supervisor coaching to make sure efficiency evaluations anchor on outcomes as a substitute of exercise (for instance, guaranteeing weekly 1:1s concentrate on priorities and deliverables) and constructed help networks for managers who’re newer of their roles, to allow them to proceed studying and bettering on this respect.

  • Build extra asynchronous methods of working: 71% of senior leaders say that meetings are ineffective, and that many if not most of them ought to disappear completely, but in numerous organizations they’re seen as “how work gets done.” The fact is, they eat into focus time. It’s time to roll again the countless cycle of conferences to make extra room for deep work on folks’s calendars—after they’re at their finest, not after they’re already exhausted. Companies have taken a variety of approaches to slim the encroachment of conferences into each hour of the work week, from Levi Strauss & Co’s “no meeting Fridays” to Dropbox, which schedules core collaboration hours for inner conferences with toolkits and examples of the way to collaborate asynchronously.  


Forcing staff to return to the way in which issues have been received’t maintain your group present or aggressive. Flexible work is right here to remain. Leaders who embrace it’ll have a happier, extra engaged and constant workforce. Those who select to not can be left behind.

Brian Elliott is Slack senior vp, govt chief at Future Forum, a consortium backed by Slack. He is the coauthor, with Sheela Subramanian and Helen Kupp, of How the Future Works: Leading Flexible Teams to Do The Best Work of Their Lives (Wiley, 2022).

Read: ‘One thing that human beings value above all else is our autonomy’: The gloves are off: Elon Musk is the latest CEO to tell workers to return to the office

Also: ‘I’m very outspoken about my desire to never work in an office again’: CEOs and employees are locked in a battle of wills over when they return to the office



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