Why businesses have to move from hybrid working to truly Liberated Work.
March 16, 2022
An article by Jamie Vine, Chief Executive Liberty.
The last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced many organisations to experiment with flexible working strategies and for those that do it well, it can deliver highly productive outcomes. Indeed, many knowledge-based workers were working ‘flexibly’ long before working from home (WFH) mandates were introduced.
Sometimes referred to as ‘Hybrid Working’, businesses are thinking about how their offices will respond to the flexibility their teams will demand in the future. With good reason.
The common misperception is that ‘hybrid working’ is a mix of some of the time working from home and sometimes in the office. But ‘hybrid working’ is a stepping-stone towards a version of flexibility that is yet to be widely implemented to its best potential. Because the successful implementation is more complex and far-reaching.
In this article, I’ll present why this is a great opportunity, and how businesses can understand and implement the best approach to liberate their employees and achieve their full potential.
The unshackling of ‘work’ from a ‘place’
The world of work is evolving and so is the workforce.
Over the last few years, even before COVID, workers have been enjoying the flexibility of where their work is done and are looking at ‘flexibility’ as part of their criteria for job satisfaction.
According to research by PWC entitled ‘Why attracting and retaining the top Millennial talent is key to future success’, within three years 75% of the workforce will be under the age of 40. The younger the employee, the more they are likely to be seeking more of a work-life balance.
This makes ‘hybrid working’ vitally important.
It means for many more businesses providing flexibility in where and when people work will be the key to attracting and retaining this younger workforce.
But the potential for hybrid working is much more than just allowing people the choice of working from home some of the time. And although there are now innovative solutions and technologies to help tactically facilitate a flexible working practice, to be truly successful requires a strategic ‘liberated’ approach.
‘Liberated Work’ is a concept coined by John Preece (in an article from Hub Australia in Corporate Real Estate Journal Vol 11 No.2)
Preece writes that ‘Liberated Work’ is the creation of an environment where there are no limits on the freedom of thought or behaviour of the employee in their work practices, meaning everyone can maximise their own time and productivity.
Implementing this requires a holistic companywide approach. It means that the CEO & Leadership Team, Finance, HR, IT, CRE, CSR, Legal & Risk, Operations, and Marketing are all engaged in and promoting a new way of working, not just in allowing a ‘Flexi rota’.
The CEO & Leadership Team must lead by example and focus on outcomes not on who is present when.
The Finance dept should identify savings to fund the transition, including the complete refit of [smaller?] HQ and provide budgets for remote working.
HR should enable a special focus on culture, address the impact of change, support measures to avoid burn out and implement structured mentoring for younger employees.
IT will need to swiftly implement infrastructure upgrades, overhaul security protocols, implement new strategies for the purchase of hardware and software to support liberated working.
Real Estate teams will need to completely reimagine and right-size the central office, reduce the leased footprint and fund Liberated Working practices to contribute savings, introduce CRE-tech to measure real-time usage, and develop a hospitality-led service overlay to HQ based on hotel-level standards.
Corporate Social Responsibility needs to understand the sustainability benefits of liberated working, such as a smaller central HQ and access to regional hubs to further quantify and reduce the commuting impacts on staff and the environment.
Legal & Risk dept need to re-write policies & procedures to provide protection for the company and the employees when implementing greater work practice freedoms.
Operations will need to understand the operational impacts of moving to hybrid working, likely touching every aspect of the business.
The Marketing department will be needed to create clear messaging and change management via a marketing campaign to excite employees about the changes to come and roll out an external campaign to ensure customers are aware of the company’s progressive strategies.
Why is providing a Liberated Work environment important?
We are witnessing the liberation of knowledge workers, driven by high demand for their services, and a realisation that the balance of power is now firmly in their favour.
Knowledge workers are significantly more transient than before.
As a result of COVID-19, the technological solutions to allow employees to work from almost anywhere have already been implemented.
In a June 2021 survey of 10,000 knowledge workers, CEO Daily found that:
- 76% want flexibility on where they work
- 93% want flexibility on when they work
- 56% are open to new job opportunities that may provide more flexibility
- 21% are likely to jump ship to get that flexibility
and flexibility is now second only to compensation (salary) leading people to change jobs.
From a smaller sample of 2,000 employees across the globe, JLL found a similar response:
- 66% want to alternate between different places of work post-pandemic
- 72% want to work from home from time to time
CBRE’s findings from an APAC occupier survey in July 2021 regarding future work practices concluded that:
- 26% will be solely in the office
- 10% will be solely remote
- 48% will work remotely 1 to 5 days per week
- 17% will work remotely 1 or 2 days per month
and the new average for remote working is 1.8 days per week, compared to 0.8 days pre-COVID-19
Three ‘workplace’ options
The office remains a central place for older (50+) employees, but 75% of the workforce will be under 40 years of age by 2025.
Working from home is a popular choice in the tech and web industry.
Even in more traditional sectors such as heavy industry, consumer products, banking, and insurance businesses consider working from home is an appealing complement to the commute to work in ‘the office’. However, many households now have multiple people able to work from home and not enough dedicated space to enable everyone to work productively. There are also unavoidable distractions in many cases.
There is another popular option of working in a third-party place like a café, library, client environment, or coworking space. This is a fast-growing trend for the youngest part of the workforce and is generating a lot of interest among 18 – 34-year-olds.
This means that satellite offices in urban areas can now be considered a ‘third option’. The benefits of a shorter commute, an office environment with reliable IT, and not suffering the distractions of home are an alternative to the home or Head Office options available today.
- Knowledge workers have been working flexibly for some time, albeit often ‘under the radar.
- COVID-19 has forced a level of remote working never seen before and proven it can deliver highly productive outcomes.
- Attracting and retaining talent is a priority for most businesses and providing flexibility in where and when people work is key.
- 75% of the workforce will be under 40 years of age within 3 years – and they want choice.
- Much of the innovation/technology required to facilitate a Liberated Working environment has already been implemented.
Liberated Working is so much more than allowing people to work from home, it includes many third-party places including satellite offices in suburban locations.
Jamie Vine is CEO of Liberty Flexible Workspaces.