Virtual Teams

Spare a thought for the anti-flexxers

As the hybrid return to work begins in some countries, please spare a thought for the anti-flexxers.

Despite the evidence that it’s what people really want and the overwhelming proof that remote working really works and improves productivity and engagement, the flexibility deniers remain convinced that they need to get people back full time in the office.

To be honest this is usually driven by a small number of (sometimes just one) very senior leaders who believe that remote working is an aberration and that people in the office have carried all the remote workers for the last 18 months. There are also a few managers who long for the days of tighter control, and being able to look over the shoulder of their people. There are even a few with well founded concerns such as how they will continue to build and maintain their corporate culture and assume it can only be done face to face, despite the companies that do it successfully.

This must be terribly demotivating for the people who kept doing their jobs and keeping the business running whilst coping with a pandemic and far from ideal home working conditions – apparently all that effort had no value.

Imagine you are an employee in these business, you know for a fact you can do your job remotely (you just proved it when the business needed it) but you won’t be given the choice in future. You will keep commuting to the office to do your emails and join virtual meetings with your colleagues in other locations.

You have learned that time at your desk is the most valuable thing to your employer and that they don’t trust you to work remotely.

Imagine you are a HR person explaining to the hundredth applicant for a competitive IT role that you can’t offer flexibility when nearly everyone else is doing so.

The talent market will be the ultimate arbiter of whether this approach works. What we are hearing from our clients is that flexibility is now essential for attracting and retaining top talent.

If you are a top investment bank your may find enough well paid investment bankers keen to come into a trading floor. On the other hand, one of the finance companies who have had the most press for disliking remote working have also had recent revolts from their junior trading employees about very long working hours and a culture of presenteeism.

The story is likely to be very different when you look for top IT or HR talent with transferable skills and more options.

I suspect if you are a household name corporation you may largely get away with it, your name and a significantly bigger salary may compensate for the lack of flexibility. But even if it does, you may well be attracting a particular segment of the population, the ones where work life balance is not particularly attractive. This will give you a skewed profile which might be OK depending on the corporate culture you aspire to. It’s probably not a great profile to attract excellent people managers.

Probably best not to enter any “best company to work for” competitions either.

There are a few anti-flexx conspiracy theories out there that we need  to deal with and that will take some time. One of my favourites is the myth that great ideas are found via random conversations at the coffee machine. One of the few areas in business where we apparently think that random chance and accidental conversations are a good way to get things done.

It is going to be interesting to see how this plays out, in the end the talent market will decide. It is, of course, your choice as a company but there are implications.

If you would like help with deprogramming your last few anti-flexxers we can help build the skills needed for hybrid working  🙂

p.s. if you are just about to leave an angry comment this was meant at least partly humorously – but also to make some serious points about the implications of not providing flexibility.

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