The Future Is Flexible: Why You Should Let Employees Choose How They Want to Work

In partnership with Hubble. A guest post written by Helena Sampayo.

26th Aug 2021

Choice. It's something that we, humans, crave. Ever since the dawn of time, the ability to make choices has become synonymous with control, and it's been integral to our survival and wellbeing. 

Studies have even shown that if people engage with tasks that involve choice, however trivial, they're more enjoyable than tasks without it—and this often leads to improved performance. So, with this in mind, should employers still be telling their employees how they should work? 

Companies worldwide have started to reconsider this. Instead of issuing a back-to-work order, many businesses are now asking employees how they'd like to work in the future—and they're using these insights to inform their strategies. 

And at Hubble, we’re all for this. The pandemic's cultural shift to remote working has opened employees' eyes to new ways of working; the traditional five-days-a-week-in-the-office is old news, and increased flexibility is all the rage. 

But that’s not to say that adopting a fully-remote strategy—without consulting your employees first—is any more flexible or forward-thinking than the old way of working. It may still be too draconian.

As the world's first hybrid workplace platform, Hubble’s here to unpack why giving your employees a choice on how and where they work is the best way forward—for all involved.

One-size does NOT fit-all

While the media can paint a positive picture of remote work—with the lack of commute and more time with loved ones being the main benefits—it’s important to remember that the WFH experience was not positive for everyone. 

According to Hubble's Should We Ditch the Office? Survey, 75.4% of employees cited a "lack of social interaction" as the biggest negative of WFH—with a "lack of work-life balance" (34.2%) coming in second.

It's these things that can hurl employees into loneliness and isolation—which can also put businesses at risk. Studies have shown that the lonelier you are, the more likely you'll exhibit depressive symptoms. In the workplace, this can manifest as employees being less inclined to go the extra mile to help a colleague or support the company mission.

Then again, there were many employees who did enjoy working remotely. Our survey also found that 70% of respondents had a positive experience working from home last year—thanks to a lack of commute, more financial savings and increased sustainability. A staggering 92% even said that their opinions of WFH had changed for the better. 

So, it’s crucial to consult employees before you decide on a strategy, as optionality is the name of the game. Of course, there's a fine line. We're not suggesting that setting rules and expectations as an employer are not important—because they are. Rather, companies that adopt an employee-centric approach are more likely to create productive and positive workplaces. 

The importance of listening to employees’ needs

Pre-pandemic, the office was a one-size-fits-all—and it didn't work. During the pandemic, WFH was a one-size-fits-all—and that didn't work either. For us at Hubble, the solution lies in actively treating employees as individuals. But why?

Well, the pandemic has shown us that the "workplace" is no longer a singular space, but a network of environments and experiences created by individual people. They will have different life experiences, circumstances and personality types, which will undoubtedly shape their preferences around how they work. 

Our Should We Ditch the Office? Survey highlighted this. We asked 1,000 employees about their experience of WFH; 28% said it improved their focus, but 23.4% reported "increased distractions" as its most significant downside. 

Suppose your workforce had similar feelings about remote work, and you opted for a remote-first strategy—where does that leave the individuals that feel more distracted at home? Such insights emphasise why employees shouldn’t be painted with the same brush; while an introverted working parent—living in a modern build-to-rent development—may thrive off remote work, an extroverted young professional in a flat-share may struggle.

So, to propose a blanket policy—whether it be office-first or remote-first—without considering employees is like saying “we’re all in the same boat”. At a glance, it may level the playing field and unify teams—but the truth is, some are in cruise ships; others are in pedal boats. Everyone’s life circumstances are different—and so no strategy is automatically the most appropriate option.

How can businesses ensure their flexible working policies are employee-first? 

One of the biggest challenges for businesses is creating a workplace strategy that's fair for all team members—but it's a challenge that's crucial to overcome. At Hubble, we strongly encourage you to:

  • Talk to your team

Talking to your team is a highly effective way to establish a future workplace strategy. Not only does it communicate to employees that their opinion matters, but they’ll also be more likely to get stuck in and help speed up the process. (Just like Culture Trip’s employee taskforce

One of the easiest ways to talk to your team is to schedule 1:1s or send out surveys. Surveys are probably the quickest and most effective—and at Hubble, we can help you do this. Our Workplace Strategy Tool is a free-to-use questionnaire that allows you to ask bespoke questions to your employees. You'll also be able to obtain the data immediately via your own personalised results dashboard so you can analyse it with ease.  

Companies leaning towards a remote-first approach can also use it to assess whether your employees' working from home setups are safe and comfortable. It’s this that allows you to have an open dialogue about how you’ll ensure employees are satisfied with the home offices—whether that's by:

What about future hires?

So, you’ve consulted your existing employees about their work preference—but what about future hires? Before implementing your chosen future workplace strategy, it’s always worth considering how it may attract (or deter) potential talent. 

For example, a remote-first strategy may appeal to future employees because it can improve a company’s diversity and inclusion—by allowing them to apply for any job, from anywhere. It’s this level of flexibility and autonomy that can ultimately win companies the war for the best talent. 

However, that’s not to suggest that a remote-first strategy won’t pose any risk of draining the talent pool. According to our survey, 35% of respondents said they’d like the freedom to work from different places for different occasions when working remotely. This may be due to insufficient WiFi or the lack of social interaction—both of which are common issues born out of WFH. 

For employees who frequently struggle with this, an office-first company may be more desirable. But again, future employees can easily be put off by a five-day office week—so it’s crucial to strive for a balance. Therefore, many businesses are offering their employees global access to on-demand workspaces such as meeting rooms, event spaces or desks that can be booked immediately. 

It’s a hybrid policy that’s appealing for both employees and future hires. This is because on-demand workspaces are always high-quality—and their unique facilities can be hard to replicate at home or in the same HQ. For example, most coworking spaces will offer lightning-fast WiFi, free coffee and creative zones that all members can access, which can do wonders for beating burnout and motivate employees to do their best work. 

How a hybrid policy can help 

So, by adjusting your future workplace strategy to include more hybrid policies, you can empower them to work in a way that suits them. What’s better, you can also give them access to the very best workspaces in the world whenever they need to—and at Hubble, we make this easy with the Hubble Pass

The Hubble Pass is your all-access ticket to a global network of on-demand workspaces. With it, employees can search for and book convenient coworking spaces across 200+ locations, 50+ locations and 18+ countries via our platform. 

So, whether you’re collaborating with colleagues in Camden or visiting relatives in Lisbon, the Hubble Pass is ideal for companies that are willing to offer their employees flexibility and autonomy around where they work. After all, that is the number one demand for workers worldwide. 

This way, you’re more likely to create happier and more productive workforces—as well as attracting potential talent. You can still set rules and expectations—such as the default being for everyone to dial in or come in for team meetings—but the crucial difference is that you won’t be ordering employees to work in an environment that may be harmful to them. 

Instead, you’ll be empowering employees to do what they were designed to do; to make choices—and for us at Hubble, this forward-thinking approach is the future. 

Wondering what to change in your approach to flexible working?

Take our quick quiz to discover your opportunities and areas of improvement
Take the quiz