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A simple workplace solution: flexibility

Diamond Naga Siu   

A simple workplace solution: flexibility
  • This post originally appeared in the Insider Today newsletter.

It's Saturday, buds! The holiday season feels like it's in full swing. If you're interested in different holiday festivities, try one of these 16 unique British traditions, like watching a pantomime, guessing the "Christmas No. 1," or eating a mince pie.

In today's big story, we're looking at how companies aren't adopting the simple solution for easing worker burnout.

What's on deck:

But first, can you hit a lil' work flex for me?

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The big story

Workplace flex(ibility)

Companies often discuss ideas like the four-day workweek or paid sabbaticals to keep employees happy. But they're skirting a simple concept that's more impactful: flexibility.

More than 80% of people want location flexibility, according to a Future Forum study from earlier this year. But what more workers — 93% of them — want is schedule flexibility. My colleague Tim Paradis and I chatted with experts about implementing workplace flexibility.

"It's about giving people more control over their workweeks so that they can balance the things that are important at work and personally," Ryan Anderson, the VP of Global Research and Insights at MillerKnoll, told me.

Flexibility can apply to many things: location, schedule, process, toolset, and other factors. However, employers seem more keen to adopt the latest workplace trends. In reality, those are bandages for a larger issue.

"The hardest part for leaders or managers to embrace is that it's going to look different for everyone to some degree, because everyone's definition of balance is going to look different," Kristen Lipton, a managing director at Gallup, told me.

Lipton compared workplace trends to fad diets and gimmicks. At the end of the day, nothing can replace the results from a healthy foundation.

Most companies can likely be more flexible than they realize, but it starts with the manager.

"It can begin with policies — and even better, principles — to help convey what is permissible or not within an organization," Anderson told me, "and from there, it requires new ways of supporting these work practices."

A famous Gallup study found the largest factor between an engaged team and a burnt-out one is the manager. If employees have one meaningful conversation with their leader or manager per week, it keeps them much more engaged.

"Through that one meaningful conversation, you could absolutely unpack these desires, these alignments to strengths: What does flexibility mean to you?" Lipton told me. Managers serve as the "translator" between company expectations and helping their direct-reports thrive.

Managers should also take advantage of flexible work policies. Their actions show everyone that flexibility is part of the workplace culture.

Lipton and Anderson both told me that conversations around flexibility took place before the pandemic, but its onset accelerated things.

"The mechanism — the way that you deliver on these things — forever has changed," Lipton told me. "It's creating some sense of ownership and control and choices within the boundaries of the day."

Read the full story.

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The Insider Today Saturday team: Diamond Naga Siu, senior reporter, in San Diego. Dan DeFrancesco, senior editor, in New York City. Hallam Bullock, editor, in London. Lisa Ryan, executive editor, in New York City.

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