‘Flexibility Means Flexibility:’ New Precedents for Truly Flexible Workplaces

What are we really talking about when we talk about workplace flexibility?

According to Marc Cenedella, CEO of Ladders, a job-search site for roles with annual salaries of at least six figures, companies are starting to leverage their flexible workplace policies to poach talent from other, less flexible companies.

“Remote is going to be the new signing bonus,” Cenedella recently told the WSJ. “Instead of dangling, ‘We’ll give you $10,000 if you sign for this job,’ it’ll be: ‘Instead of having to commute 35 minutes every day, go to work, and get in your car and drive 35 minutes home, you can work from your home office all the time.'”

And there will be talent to poach. Survey after survey is bringing back data as many as three quarters of employees consider workplace flexibility a must-have, not just a perk, and nearly as many employees have said they would consider walking away from their jobs if they don’t get what they want or need from their managers.

When it comes to flexibility though, what will really impress talent? The ability to choose where they work, between 9am and 5pm, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays? Or something truly flexible? Here are a few approaches being floated by enterprise organizations now as they step out of their comfort zones and try to offer employees what they’re really after: the ability to choose how, when and where they do their jobs.

On enterprise approaches to flexible workplace offerings

“We don’t care about how the sausages are made. If you can do your job sitting on the beach in Bermuda drinking a Margarita, good for you. We care about outputs — this company is about outputs and value creation. So if there is a better way to do that, where the output is actually better and in the process, people have better lives, can spend more time with families, then that’s great. And this pandemic has proven that it’s doable. [Before], we were limiting ourselves with stereotypes from the past.” –PepsiCo Chief Talent Officer Sergio Ezama, who helped launch the company’s “Work That Works” hybrid workplace strategy.

“We will let our people choose where they need to be to do their best work, in balance with their professional and personal responsibilities. I’m not going to announce any set number of days for people to be in the office or in specific locations. That means that our people can choose how often they come to the office, if they choose to do so at all, while focusing on how we can best serve our clients.” –Deloitte CEO Richard Houston, upon announcing that the company’s 20,000 U.K.-based employees may choose when, where and how they work from here on out.

“Our default work arrangement going forward for employees is to be flexible. Flexibility means flexibility.” –Adobe Director of Human Resources Gloria Chen, following an announcement that the company’s 23,000 employees can spend 50% of their time working from home once U.S. offices begin reopening in July, but that the company won’t mandate which its people go into offices or track how much time they spend in them.

“Though we don’t know how far off a new normal is, we are adapting to a new way of working with an expanded understanding of flexibility. We know there are thousands of ways of working – in the last year our employees have shown what is possible – and we believe that flexibility is essential to maintaining work-life balance.” –Microsoft Executive Vice President Kurt DelBene in a statement about the company’s unfurling hybrid workplace strategy

“Our recent employee surveys on work style post-COVID show that this continued work flexibility is desired. Over 80% of SAP employees say they want a mix of working from home or remote with some time in the office. Today, SAP is building on our proven ways of remote work that our​ ​employees have enjoyed across the world for decades into a new global framework that is entirely flexible and trust based. We continue to believe in​ ​a workplace based on​ ​trust and empowerment​ ​because employees are​ ​at the heart of what we do.” –SAP SE CEO Christian Klein in a statement promising employees flexible work schedules and location, including a “100% flexible and trust-based workplace as the norm, not the​ ​exception” and ” inclusive environment in which people can work from home, at the office, or remotely, so everyone is​ ​empowered to run at their personal best, driving success for SAP’s customers”

“Employees are crying out for leaders to listen to their needs, so blanket policies on return to work that fail to acknowledge employee preferences are unlikely to fit the bill. There is no one-size fits all for how people should feel or want to balance life and work following the crisis, so leaders need to find ways of getting that feedback and developing policies that work for both the company and its people. ” –Nazir Ul-Ghani, head of Workplace by Facebook, in an interview with Digiday