Flexible Work: A Road Map to Reopening Offices

The great flexible work debate is upon us as organizations navigate a working structure that acknowledges the changing nature of work. Here is a road map for organizations to consider when devising a strategy for a return to the office.

Executives need to be focused on why they require their staff to return to the office and be clear and concise with their employees about the reasons and expectations. 

Business leaders need to get in touch with their employers to understand their pain points and preferences, as since the pandemic;

  • People have changed
  • The nature of work has changed
  • Work-life relationships have changed
  • Tolerance for commutes has changed

Several organizations worldwide, have adopted the 2-3-2 working model. (Where two days are working from home, three days are in the office, and two days are intended for the weekend.)

However, if employers not allowing employees, leaders, and teams to select which days make the most sense for them—and the other teams they need to be collaborating with— the ‘flexible mark will be missed.

Apple’s Approach to Flexible Work

CEO Tim Cook, sent a letter to all Apple employees indicating the plans to have team members back in the office on set days. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays will become the “in-office” workdays, and so long as employees receive manager approval, they can work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays.

A conversation that started in a Slack channel over the company-wide announcement, turned into a displeased ‘rebuttal from over 2800 Apple employees on their perspective on the work structure. 

Read the full letter from employees here.

The points raised in the Apple response letter provide a framework and road map for other business leaders to consider as they devise their working structure. We have highlighted some key points below:

  • Over the last year, we often felt not just unheard but at times actively ignored. It feels like there is a disconnect between how the executive team thinks about remote / location-flexible work and the lived experiences of many of Apple’s employees.
  • We are living proof that there is no one-size-fits-all policy for people. For Inclusion and Diversity to work, we have to recognize how different we all are, and with those differences, come different needs and different ways to thrive. We feel that Apple has both the responsibility to recognize these differences, as well as the capability to fully embrace them.
  • At Apple, our most important resource, our soul, is our people, and we believe that ensuring we are all heard, represented, and validated is how we continue to defend and protect that precious sentiment.

The letters amendment requests:

  • We are formally requesting that Apple considers remote and location-flexible work decisions to be as autonomous for a team to decide as are hiring decisions.
  • We are formally requesting a company-wide recurring short survey with a clearly structured and transparent communication/feedback process at the company-wide level, organization-wide level, and team-wide level, covering topics listed below.
  • We are formally requesting insight into the environmental impact of returning to onsite in-person work, and how permanent remote-and-location flexibility could offset that impact.

ISO 14001 is an internationally recognized Environmental Management Systems standard designed to optimize your organization’s environmental performance and minimize your environmental impact.

Although Apple’s line of thinking was similar to many organizations worldwide following a hybrid in/out of office system. The mistake Apple CEO Tim Cook has made, is his assumption this ‘one-size-fits-all policy’ would work for everyone. 

As organizations reopen their offices and create new flexible work guidelines, they must remember that people have had 18 months to realize the nature and magnitude of the sacrifices that they had to make in the past. 

From commutes to less sleep, to less family time; the consequences of those sacrifices to do work the way we used to must be addressed by leaders and executives.

The way the “future of work” is defined should be a collaborative and unique approach from business to business. 

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