Rattling the 9-to-5 Cage

Staying competitive in the world of talent attraction means evolving along with the modern employee’s relationship to their professional life. Take, for instance, the sharp increase in demand for flexibility and work/life balance. The Global Talent Trends report by Mercer shows the percentage of employees who rank this near the top of their most important benefits:

2017 – 26%
2018 – 40%
2019 – 54%

From the Mercer report:

“With 2/5 employees planning to leave their organization in the next 12 months, and 97% of C-suite executives predicting an increase in competition for talent during the same period, the traditional mantra of “attract and retain” is being replaced with “attract and continually attract.”

When it comes to working parents, flexibility shoots straight to the top, eclipsing salary. According to a 2016 FlexJobs survey, working parents placed flexibility at the #1 most attractive quality in employers, with work-life balance at #2.

In order to attract more top talent, some companies leaped at the trend early on, adopting extremely liberal flex time policies. Many of those, most notably Yahoo, fully walked those policies back when they feared that collaboration would suffer if employees weren’t working side-by-side.

Scott Maxwell remarked in an Inc think piece:

“Like our educational system, the office-based framework we associate with white-collar work is a holdover from the Industrial Revolution. “

Whether or not collaboration takes a hit in a remote workforce, studies show that remote people are often far more productive. Offices, especially those with an open floor plan, are noisy, distracting places where people struggle to string together fifteen minutes of uninterrupted productivity. Working from home allows them to focus and relax, two essential ingredients to achieving the flow state from which their best quality work will emerge.

As with almost everything in life, the best solution is likely somewhere between the two extremes. Locking employees down in a 9-to-5 timebox doesn’t fit the lifestyle needs of the modern workforce, and a fully remote office neglects the power of cross-pollination.

The sweet spot is a combination of office time and remote time, allowing employees to spend their time at home completing work that requires silence and focus. Their time at the office can be focused on collaboration and high-bandwidth communication.

If your work environment requires employees to be tethered to your brick-and-mortar space for the bulk of daylight hours, there are some measures you can take to mitigate the deleterious effects of an inflexible location.  Quiet Rooms are a big hit in Silicon Valley, with companies like Google, Salesforce, and Unilever creating meditation lounges and mindfulness spaces in every building on their campuses.  This gives collaboration-fatigued workers a few moments to disconnect and reset, providing a burst of renewed energy and focus to power through until the bell rings at 5pm.

by Justin Kirkwood, Contributing Editor, Cameron Resources Group LLC

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