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Flexible Working Is Here to Stay

How HR can systematically develop the new work from home culture

Source | | Joyce Gesing | Elke Hofmann | Dirk Mundorf

It seems as if years have passed since we last commuted daily to the office. Many things that were still fixed constants just a few months ago are now variable and fluid: the workplace, working hours, certain office conventions like getting together for meetings or coffee breaks. The pandemic suddenly made things possible that had been controversial or even unthinkable before. In calls with us, several CHROs reported that people are now finding solutions in a matter of days where negotiations previously used to drag on for years – bringing significant changes to working practices. Across most business activities, flexible working has now become the norm – not least because productivity, for all the dire predictions, has actually stayed constant or even increased. Ninety percent of employees estimate that flexible working has had no or only limited impact on their productivity, and more than two thirds welcome the new-found flexibility. Which is why now is the time to lay the groundwork for the best working practices of the future – because we can safely assume that this new working reality is here to stay. So here is our best crystal-ball forecast for 2030.

Agility, blending and co-working spaces: the reality of work in 2030

All the experts agree on one future trend in particular: work will become more self-directed. Mandatory physical presence came to an abrupt end with the COVID-19 pandemic and won’t experience any major comeback even by 2030. Work is loosening its ties with physical presence. In its place, a more flexible approach to space and time is taking hold: The linear eight-hour routine is no more than a fast-fading memory. The same applies to classic office culture: Rather than being concentrated in a central workplace, the office workers of the future are spread across multiple locations – in co-working spaces, cafés, their own homes. Work-life blending is becoming reality. Corporate boundaries are blurring, encouraging greater collaboration and cross-functional dialog, and powerfully impacting leadership and HR roles. While this uncoupling from office and building structures brings cost savings, it also means that companies are held together almost exclusively by their corporate culture. Leadership is about far more than just planning and organization – it now focuses on guiding and coaching employees, and on communicating the corporate culture. The leaders of the future are motivators, mentors and networkers, empowering their staff to manage themselves.

Back to 2021 – and New Work still has some growing pains to contend with. Although many leaders are already feeling the benefits of this newly acquired flexibility and quality of life, not to mention falling costs, they are also noticing that some employees find the new working conditions difficult. The challenges they experience range from isolation through to difficulty concentrating, higher stress levels, insufficient interaction with colleagues, and a lack of coaching. These negative impacts and the appropriate countermeasures depend to a large extent on the various types of personality involved. For today’s HR professional, recognizing these personality types is vitally important:

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