Category Archives: Flexible Work Arrangements

Redesigning the Post-Pandemic Workplace

Source: Gerald C. Kane, Rich Nanda, Anh Phillips, and Jonathan Copulsky, MIT Sloan Management Review, February 10, 2021
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Work as we know it is forever changed by COVID-19. Now is the time for managers to envision the office that employees will return to. …. The anticipated gradual return to colocated work in the coming months provides opportunities to experiment with hybrid ways of working. Returning to the office strategically, by focusing first on the activities best performed in person and, in the process, evaluating the effectiveness of both remote and colocated work, gives managers the ability to critically consider the ways in which a hybrid workplace might be more effective. ….

Why the Rise of Remote Work May Help Companies Become More Diverse — and More Inclusive

Source: Samantha McLaren, LinkedIn Talent Blog, February 3, 2021

For companies that were able to transition predominantly to remote work at the outset of the pandemic, the past year has brought countless new discoveries and realizations. This is reflected in the still-evolving attitudes toward remote work: In December 2020, PwC found that 83% of employers felt the shift was a success, compared to 73% in June. What’s more, 52% of executives now report that employees are more productive than they were before the pandemic, up from 44% in the earlier survey.

A surprise bump in productivity isn’t the only unexpected outcome to emerge from this challenging situation. Some companies are recognizing that remote work could make it easier to attract and hire underrepresented talent that might not be abundant where their office is located. At the same time, many employees from underrepresented groups are hailing work-from-home as a stepping stone to greater inclusivity, helping them to bring their whole selves to work without facing unnecessary obstacles.

As you start to think about what happens after the pandemic, here are a few reasons why adopting a hybrid or fully remote workforce model in the long run could support your diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts.

Remote work is the next diversity frontier

Source: Paul Estes, Fast Company, March 11, 2020

Organizations that don’t actively support remote work are limiting their capacity to engage with top talent.

…Every company wants to promote diversity and inclusion. In every industry, firms are creating executive-level chief diversity officer roles, and those people are tasked with running diversity and inclusion programs. Yet, those same companies do not yet understand the importance of making remote work a key part of their diversity and inclusion strategy.

Location as an element of diversity is not yet part of the conversation. It really needs to be.

Too much diversity policy is based on a desire for compliance, not on a genuine wish to restructure the way teams function. Did anyone ever do anything truly worthwhile because they wanted to avoid a lawsuit? The system gets in the way of what it’s supposed to accomplish because the underlying imperative is to take risk out of the equation….

2020 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey – Highlights of key findings, United States

Source: Willis Towers Watson, February 5, 2021

Employees are seeking work flexibility, enhanced wellbeing, and greater retirement security. Discover more about their experiences during the pandemic. … In the future, almost four in 10 employees (38%) would prefer a mixed onsite/work-from-home experience. Over two-fifths (41%) desire to work onsite in the future all the time, and 21% are looking to work from home all the time. …

Remote management of library staff: Challenges and practical solutions

Source: Sarah Edwards, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 47, Issue 5, September 2021
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From the abstract:
COVID-19 has forced staff in academic libraries across the world to pivot from face-to-face workdays and services to fully remote (and, in some cases, back again) with very little time or notice. This new reality has presented new challenges in the remote management of staff that may also be working remotely, or in the building. This column explores some of those challenges and presents possible solutions for those at all levels of library management.

Why Working From Home Will Stick

Source: Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven J. Davis, Becker Friedman Institute, April 2021

COVID-19 drove a mass social experiment in working from home (WFH). We survey more than 30,000 Americans over multiple waves to investigate whether WFH will stick, and why. Our data say that 20 percent of full workdays will be supplied from home after the pandemic ends, compared with just 5 percent before. We develop evidence on five reasons for this large shift: better-than-expected WFH experiences, new investments in physical and human capital that enable WFH, greatly diminished stigma associated with WFH, lingering concerns about crowds and contagion risks, and a pandemic-driven surge in technological innovations that support WFH. We also use our survey data to project three consequences: First, employees will enjoy large benefits from greater remote work, especially those with higher earnings. Second, the shift to WFH will directly reduce spending in major city centers by at least 5-10 percent relative to the pre-pandemic situation. Third, our data on employer plans and the relative productivity of WFH imply a 5 percent productivity boost in the post-pandemic economy due to re-optimized working arrangements. Only one-fifth of this productivity gain will show up in conventional productivity measures, because they do not capture the time savings from less commuting.

Just because you can work from home doesn’t mean you’ll be allowed to

Source: Rani Molla, Vox, Recode, April 21, 2021

Which jobs are heading back to the office and which can stay home varies widely.

…And as the return to the office picks up, the extent to which American office workers are allowed to continue working from home — which the vast majority of them have done during the pandemic — stands to affect everything from their satisfaction at work to where they are able to live.

This summer, offices are generally opening on an optional basis and will open with more expectations for workers to be present this fall. The most flexibility will go to knowledge workers. These high-skilled workers, whose jobs are mediated by computers, will be much more likely than before the pandemic to be allowed to work from home at least some of the time in what’s called the hybrid work model. …

…Amazon, known for its brutal corporate culture, plans to have most of its white-collar workers back in the office by early fall, saying it wants to return to an “office-centric culture as our baseline.”

Meanwhile, companies that choose not to allow workers flexibility in where they work will be met with resistance. The vast majority of employees — 89 percent — say they want to be allowed to work remotely some or all of the time. So companies with stricter office rules could have trouble attracting and keeping talent, with one in four employees saying they might quit their jobs after the pandemic, mostly because they want to look for work with greater flexibility. …

What Do We Like About WFH?

Source: Vasundhara Sawhney, Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2021
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Evaluating the pros and cons.

…For some, this has led to greater productivity. I certainly feel that I’m getting more done: for work, with my family, and around the house. What’s more, I have greater flexibility to decide what to do when, whether that means answering emails in the evening or spending time with loved ones during the day. There’s a reason that WFH was on the rise even before the pandemic, and now both organizations and individuals seem more comfortable with it than ever before. In September 2020 the Conference Board surveyed more than 330 HR executives at large U.S. companies and reported that one-third expect 40% or more of their employees to work virtually past the spring of 2021, while 36% say they are now willing to hire workers who are 100% remote. But are we ready for that?…

How to Do Hybrid Right

Source: Lynda Gratton, Harvard Business Review, May-June, 2021
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When designing flexible work arrangements, focus on individual human concerns, not just institutional ones.

Since the pandemic, companies have adopted the technologies of virtual work remarkably quickly—and employees are seeing the advantages of more flexibility in where and when they work. As leaders recognize what is possible, they are embracing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset work using a hybrid model.

To make this transition successfully, they’ll need to design hybrid work arrangements with individual human concerns in mind, not just institutional ones. That requires companies to approach the problem from four different perspectives: (1) jobs and tasks; (2) employee preferences; (3) projects and workflows; and (4) inclusion and fairness.

Leaders also need to conceptualize new work arrangements along two axes: place and time. Millions of workers around the world this year have made a sudden shift from being place-constrained (working in the office) to being place-unconstrained (working anywhere). Employees have also experienced a shift along the time axis, from working synchronously with others 9 to 5 to working asynchronously whenever they choose.

If leaders and managers can successfully make the transition to an anywhere, anytime model, the result will be work lives that are more purposeful and productive….

A Post-Pandemic Antidiscrimination Approach to Workplace Flexibility

Source: Michelle A. Travis, Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 64, 2021

The dramatic workplace changes in the wake of the global pandemic offer courts both an opportunity and an obligation to reexamine prior antidiscrimination case law on workplace flexibility. Before COVID-19, courts embraced an essentialized view of workplaces built upon a “full-time face-time norm,” which refers to the judicial presumption that work is defined by long hours, rigid schedules, and uninterrupted, in-person performance at a centralized workspace. By applying this presumption to both accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and to disparate impact claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, pre-pandemic courts systematically undermined antidiscrimination law’s potential for workplace restructuring to expand equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities and for women with disproportionate caregiving responsibilities. This Article demonstrates how employers’ widespread adoption of flexible work arrangements in the wake of COVID-19—including telecommuting, modified schedules, temporary leaves, and other flextime options—undermine these prior decisions and demand a new analysis of antidiscrimination law’s potential to advance workplace flexibility.