An important part of flexible work is to ensure that everyone has the feelgood factor in the work they do day-to-day. Happier employees tend to be more productive employees, so making the effort to galvanize the workforce is win-win for employees and employers alike.
To make this happen, companies need to connect with their employees better than ever before, and demonstrate genuine empathy with employees’ needs, both inside and outside their working lives. This, and a host of other connected points, are the subject of the second of our podcast series ‘A Week in My Flexible Working Life’ (available on Spotify and iOS). The insights come from Gerrie Hawes, a leading corporate behavioral psychologist and leadership coach, drawing on years of experience in how businesses operate.
A rethink for employers
COVID-19, and the move towards remote working it forced, has led employers to re-evaluate their working models in the longer term. Gerrie believes that now the Pandora’s Box of flexible work has been opened, employers will find it impossible to close it again. “People didn’t want to be schlepping into the office every day and they were frustrated. And a lot of people were saying ‘can I work from home at least some of the time?’. The pandemic has made leaders have to trust their employees to get on with work. But now people are asking if they really want to go back to that old life.”
Connecting business strategy with employees
To really engage employees with the business as a whole, and for them to feel like a valued part of it, they need to be able to buy into its strategy. Gerrie feels that many businesses miss the mark in this area, and the reason is primarily down to communication that simply doesn’t resonate with the workforce: “I often find that different people around the boardroom have got different interpretations because they’ve spent so long honing it down to as few words as possible .Then you think: well, why does that many any sense to any of your employees? And how on Earth do they implement it?”
Ensuring remote well-being
Gerrie has found a number of instances where normal practices to support rest and relaxation during days in the office aren’t replicated when employees work from home. This, in his view, is hindering their productivity and can go on to impact their overall well-being: “If people are continuing to work from home, then they need to take breaks. They would anyway if in the office, and they need it because the brain can’t cope with working and concentrating that hard. Those breaks need to include care for both body and mind.”
Happiness starts at the top
Gerrie passionately feels that managers and team leaders have a responsibility to show the way by being happy and content with their own work and working arrangements. That enthusiasm can then rub off on the people working below them: “If leaders aren’t happy, then they are extremely unlikely to galvanize their team to follow them. We’re talking about inner contentment and the happiness that drives. Work that has been researched at Harvard shows that we make better decisions and work better as a team if we have self-contentment.”
Making time for reflection
As flexible work becomes more commonplace, Gerrie advocates employers ensuring that employees have time to think about the work they’re doing. If they get stuck into the grind of constant meetings, work just becomes an input/output process, and there is no room for them to think more creatively: “The biggest challenge a lot of organizations and employees are experiencing is that diaries are overloaded with meetings. You zap from one to the other and you have no time to reflect, to think, or to chat with a colleague about things. A lot of my work is getting employees to talk to other employees on a human level – and that needs to come from leaders.”