It turns out that a global pandemic is a real game changer. Societal mores are shifting dramatically, and attitudes towards the way we work are no exception. We’re also finding ourselves amongst one of the most competitive talent markets in decades. The clash of these two variables has left many organisations scrambling to understand how they can meet the building expectations of the global workforce.

So what are talent looking for and how can your business stand out in the sea of businesses vying for their expertise?

Research shows offering alternative working models - remote working, hybrid working or other modes of flexible work - is the number one thing they’re seeking. Businesses standing strong with the traditional 9-5 are getting left behind and feeling the squeeze.

With that in mind, here’s Beamible’s guide to non-traditional work models for progressive businesses that want to tap into greater employee potential and adapt to the changing times. As you consider your approach and whatever avenue you take, make it a genuine effort and show your workforce you’re looking out for them. It’ll pay dividends in the long run.

Non-traditional work models

Traditionally, most professions have required employees to be on site during working hours. While this made sense before technological advancements gave us the world at our fingertips and altered how we communicate and share information, it only makes sense for a fraction of those people today.

There are, of course, times when on-site work is still necessary, but for many professions and industries, people can work just as efficiently outside of the office. In fact, numerous studies show that those who work outside of a physical workplace are both happier and more efficient. As an added bonus, companies may even benefit from cost-savings as well.

Non-traditional work models can mean a number of things. It’s not just limited to remote vs in-office. It can be part-time roles, job sharing, flexible hours, working remotely and more. (Here’s a great resource to understand the 6 dimensions to flexible work). Here are a few of the most common and easy to implement in your organisation.

What is remote working?

With a fully remote team you can wave goodbye to in-person meetings and even brick and mortar office spaces. The dot-com boom conclusively showed us that online was the new office, and plenty of successful companies, including Automattic, WordPress’ parent company, operate with a fully remote team.

In a fully remote model, organisations can choose to have employees work synchronously, arriving and departing from their work “stations” at a predetermined time which works for their team, to make communications easier. This is a great option for large teams and those who work together on ongoing projects, but synchronous work is often easiest when employees are from the same area or time zone.

It’s not the only option when it comes to a fully remote team, though. You may choose to have employees work asynchronously to better suit their schedule or location — a particularly strong option for teams that need collaboration but have individuals do large chunks of projects on their own before touching base with their team members again. Asynchronous working environments dramatically open up your pool of potential employees to those who need to work part-time, in non-traditional hours and in different time zones.

Many roles simply can’t be done remotely… well not yet, anyway! Front-line nurses, corrections officers, bus drivers, miners, construction workers, the list goes on. Does offering remote or hybrid work create a divide and crush inclusivity? Not if you offer other forms of flexibility. It’s really important to consider the nature of the work in your organisation’s job families — and provide flexible work options that DO work.

Consider part-time, job-share, non-traditional hours or roles that fit into school terms, for example.Get creative to ensure all of your employees feel empowered by their flexible work options. Here are a few ways you can start the conversation to give your workforce a say in your remote policy (if you feel you need one.)

It may be difficult for a company’s entire workforce to work remotely all the time, but giants like Facebook are embracing the idea, and predict it will be a cornerstone in the workplace of the future.

What is Hybrid Working?

A hybrid model is one that falls somewhere between traditional and fully remote work models. Where it falls ultimately depends on the needs of the business and the individual employees — designing the specific hybrid work cadence is best done at the team level, where business and individual preferences intersect for optimal ways of working.

As well-established companies including Target have concluded, embracing hybrid working means gaining many benefits, including a larger potential workforce but a smaller physical location, which can lead to cost-savings.

Understanding hybrid working is central to understanding the future of work design. To capitalise on these work models, think of hybrid work as a spectrum that encompasses many possibilities. Select a system that works for your business at a high level and leave the details to teams where employees can collaborate to design the best model based on the nature of their work. The beauty of hybrid work and hybrid work decisions are the myriad ways they can be managed. Be sure toleverage technology to help gather insights from your teams on how to best structure your hybrid policy.

However you structure your company’s systems, hybrid work design offers employees greater freedom to decide when, where and how they work. With 97% of people wanting hybrid work options, and particularly in today’s tight talent market, organisations who ignore these work preferences face high risk of attrition and talent gaps which stall growth.

Given autonomy, staff members can adapt their work week to suit their other demands — in the context of what their team needs to hit its work outcomes. And employers benefit by having access to a larger pool of talent while still having staff on-site when necessary. As the BBC notes, “it’s the best of both worlds: structure and sociability on one hand, and independence and flexibility on the other.”

What is flexible work?

Remote and hybrid working models are actually types of flexible work, but it includes a number of other concepts too. Flexible work models allow employees to design their work around the work patterns that best suit. This doesn’t mean rarely working, it means working when they are most productive, are not distracted by other matters, and are able to give their best to the company. In turn, this results in better outcomes and happier, more productive talent — it’s win-win.

Let’s look at a specific example from Sodexo’s Belgian office. As part of its ‘Flexibility Optimizes Work’ (FLOW) restructure, employees working on-site are encouraged to come in late and leave early to avoid rush-hour commutes. And if they need to take an afternoon off to look after a sick child, they can, without “reporting” their absence.

As noted in the Beamible Flexible Work Playbook, effort and time in the office are not the best measures of success. An employee arriving at 8.30 am on the dot, harried after a tedious commute, is not going to be as productive as one who starts their work day (be it in an office or at home) feeling relaxed, refreshed, and ready to hit their desired outcomes. Unless, of course, they’re fuelled by quick pace and high-pressure scenarios. The point being, individuals have different needs and preferences to perform optimally.

Flexibility isn’t just about location, as noted in Beamible’s Flex Playbook, it may involve shortened work weeks or varied work hours, some during the traditional working day and others during the evening or weekends. Again, it’s about designing work roles that well, simply work for everyone involved. Outcomes matter, not the amount of time an employee sits at a desk.

Joining the well-known and respected companies embracing a flexible work community is GM, where the work model has become “working appropriately” — whatever that might look like.

Making a choice

Whatever your company chooses for its work model, its success will depend on an intentional, well designed work model, taking your employees’ preferences into account, the nature of the work they do and providing clear guidance on your Ways of Working.

An incidental remote strategy will not last… while we may have been forced to work this way and productivity has not suffered, the incidence of mental illness, attrition, poor and inconsistent manager capability and inconsistent employee experiences present significant risks to businesses. As one CEO recently told us: just because we’ve been doing it, doesn’t mean we’re doing it well!

On the other hand, a ‘remote-first’ strategy will ensure you anticipate these risks and plan to support them, while also reaping the benefits of remote working. Likewise, hybrid work models present new risks to the business, without an intentional approach for divisions, teams and individuals to design optimal, inclusive hybrid ways of working.

Beamible’s approach to intentional hybrid work design is to establish guidelines for Ways of Working at the organisational level that reflect values and strategic priorities and to provide work design tools as the foundation — to provide transparency and an empowering people-led model.

Organisations such as NRMA, General Mills, SCA and the ACCC have led the way with this approach, seeing outstanding results in engagement, confidence in the Hybrid Work model and business results.

Why progressive businesses are embracing non-traditional work models

Now that you know a bit more about the work options you can implement, you might be wondering whether or not it’s worth the growing pains of switching to a new normal in your workplace. But over the last year it’s become clear that people thrive in their work roles even when they aren’t on site. The result? Businesses thrive as well.

Diversity and inclusivity

Without traditional hour and location restrictions in place, a whole new pool of employee candidates becomes available. This is CRITICAL in the war for talent! Frequently, that talent has previously been excluded because they can’t change their daily schedules to accommodate a 9 to 5. For instance, primary caregivers (often women) may not be in the workforce because of scheduling conflicts. This results in a huge pool of wasted talent, driving the gender gap in leadership we see in Australia and around the world.

Australia dropped 35 places in 15 years to 50th overall (out of 156) in 2021’s World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index , reflecting Australia’s retreating position on gender equity.

Australia ranks equal first for educational attainment among women and girls, but 70th for economic participation and opportunity.

This is a systemic problem, illustrated by the Stupid Curve (below).

The Stupid Curve

Note: this is a McKinsey concept, updated by Beam[ible] with WGEA 2021 data

Removing the time and location restrictions on a work day provides more people with an opportunity to join your workforce. And encouraging inclusive hybrid work means bringing a fresh perspective.

Savvy progressive businesses know that diversity in the office place doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen, and that starts with taking a critical look at whether or not your team is truly diverse. Remember that diversity encompasses numerous areas including culture, race, and experience, as well as gender.

Increased creativity

Think your team is working well regardless of a lack of diversity? Businesses are turning toward diverse teams not just because they want to look good on paper or to their clients. There’s a real benefit to having true diversity in the workplace.

One of the immediate things you’ll notice is a wider range of creative ideas that stems from a diverse team’s different backgrounds and experiences.

Providing access to different work environments and hours allows people to thrive. By providing choice, your employees’ engagement and discretionary effort will increase — in short, you get their best work.

Creativity requires time and head-space. Flexible work options can help to reduce unsustainable workloads and increase deep thinking time (without office distractions, for instance).

Flexible work doesn’t just result in fresh ideas and concepts, though, it can also lead to increased productivity.

Productivity and a competitive edge

According to McKinsey’s diversity study, productivity on a diverse team can be 35% greater than on a non-diverse team. Add that to the increased productivity that’s seen with non-traditional work models, and your business can be making serious gains in no time. In fact, new research from Wharton shows that productivity proliferated in some companies during Covid-19 while for others it remained stable.

You won’t be the only one who notices how well the team is performing. Increased productivity can quickly lead to increased revenue, which allows companies to compensate team members better. A happy team leads to less turnover, saving you the headache of searching for new talent and allowing your current team to blossom and thrive as they learn how to work well with their coworkers.

All these changes mean gaining a serious competitive edge, which could be critical to business success in today’s nimble market.

Be the change

It may have taken a global pandemic to force our hands, but now that we’ve been thrust into the future of work, the benefits of remote, hybrid and flexible work are crystal clear. The time is ripe for progressive businesses to make the switch and reap the rewards.

Want better outcomes, happier staff, a diverse, inclusive workplace and results that speak for themselves? Switching from traditional work models to the future is easy with Beamible.

As Shontel Turner, HR Director at General Mills ANZ, puts is:

“General Mills is proud to work in such close partnership with Beam[ible]. As we strive to continuously evolve our culture and working strategies, we look to you for your expertise in HR innovation and preparing us for the future of work.”

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