It’s been a turbulent time for New Zealand workers and businesses since the first lockdown in March 2020.

In the space of a little over two years, we’ve gone from the novelty and challenges of working from home, to having to completely reinvent how organisations can operate successfully while remaining engaging environments to work in.

Why businesses need to embrace flexible working

Put simply, flexible working is here to stay. Offering advantages for both businesses and their workers, research has shown why hybrid working models are becoming the norm.

Businesses have seen an 8% increase in worker engagement and a 12% uplift in productivity. And in advanced economies such as ours, around 20% of a workforce can work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as they could if working from an office. This has meant that organisations can reduce working space and lower costs.

Workers on the other hand, have benefitted from being able to devote more time to their wellbeing and family. Their costs have also reduced, such as transport and parking, and they’ve saved time with less commuting to work. As a result, research suggests up to two thirds of workers would move to another job if they were forced back on-site full time. This shift towards flexible working has empowered workers to consider what they expect from an employer, prompting what’s become known as the Great Renegotiation.

Risks that come with a hybrid working model

The advantages of flexible working are clear, but there are risks too, particularly with the erosion of workplace culture.

Flexible working has been shown to reduce connection between workers, particularly with younger staff losing out on both professional and social opportunities. This loss of connection is the biggest single threat to workplace culture.

The challenge for businesses is how to strike the perfect balance between successful flexible working and a connected, engaged workforce.

Importance of having a connected workplace culture

The Learning Wave believes that a positive workplace culture is one of the most important assets a company can have, and that good leadership is key to creating it.

This is increasingly important today, because companies often no longer have a physical place for everyone to meet, or have downsized their premises with smaller groups using it on rotation.

Without traditional, daily workplace dynamics and rituals, it’s harder for leaders to encourage a positive culture, especially as they themselves may appear to be less visible or hands-on.

How leaders can maintain culture with flexible working

Businesses and leaders need to have a strategy for how to nurture and maintain a positive culture in their flexible working environments. Being able to achieve this perfect balance can bring a range of advantages to an organisation, such as increased efficiency and making it easier to recruit and retain staff.

Our tried and tested Leadership Capability Framework, with tailored learning solutions, can help leaders navigate and excel in this new era of hybrid working. There are also a number of key foundations that organisations and leaders can put in place to help promote a positive flexible working culture:

Trust – make workers feel part of a high-trust environment, where excellence is accepted from anywhere.

Technology – give workers the right tech for them to be fully engaged and connected.

Tools – build or utilise systems, processes and workflows which enable workers to succeed.

Staff onboarding – treat virtual onboarding no differently, with a meeting to introduce the team, a buddy to help them settle in, and clear guidelines on their role and responsibilities.

One-on-ones – ensure leaders set aside regular time to catch up with workers.

Development – show workers a clear pathway to progress in the organisation, and give them access to training to develop their skills.

Collaborate & innovate – create an environment and virtual space where workers can continue to engage productively together.

Team building – regular meetings are more important than ever; plan them carefully and encourage informal, virtual lunches and drinks.

We’ve found that workers are happiest and most productive when their leaders give them the autonomy to choose how, when and where they work. The Learning Wave can help your leaders create a positive hybrid working culture like this – contact us today to find out more.