Is Your Flexible Working Policy Really Putting Your People’s Best Interests First?

Is Your Flexible Working Policy Really Putting Your People’s Best Interests First?
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In this guest post, Nature founder and managing partner, Chris Crook (main photo), says businesses are pushing full-remote working policies in a bid to attract talent during a time of severe talent shortages but argues that it isn’t sustainable and doesn’t put the interests of your people first…

We all know there is a great talent shortage in Australia at the moment. In fact, it’s become an industry-wide war that, if not handled correctly, comes at the detriment of businesses, business leaders, and job candidates themselves. While business leaders have always had a responsibility to put the future of our people first, right now it has never been more important. It’s up to us to help foster a new wave of talent by creating flexible and realistic opportunities for work and providing exciting, engaging and learning-rich workplace cultures.

Creating a vibrant, energy-filled and learning-rich workplace culture isn’t overly ambitious in 2022, but it is complicated. The recent attention given to 100% fully remote working lifestyles is great, but while some are offering this to attract new talent, it may not actually be putting the best interests of your people or your business first. In an agency like ours, in-person collaboration, the criticality and joy of incidental conversations, and the energy of working with colleagues in the office, as well as the hands-on opportunity to learn from those around us are invaluable to developing our people.

At Nature, we’ve always believed that people are the heart of our business. It only seemed logical, therefore, that our people should play an important role in helping us find smarter solutions for the future, both for clients and our own ways of working.

Our goal is to provide the most enjoyable, learning-rich environment possible while allowing our team the flexibility to which they have become accustomed. After taking an intensive look into ways of working and consulting our people on what works for them, what they get the most out of when coming into the office, and what they can’t get at home, we have landed on a dynamic hybrid model. It’s not a 100% fully remote working policy and it’s not an old-world 100% full-time in-office policy. It’s something that can morph over time as the company – and the people in it – grow and develop. We’ve already tweaked our hybrid model since returning to the Melbourne office from February this year.

Why am I telling you all this? I think it’s important to explain both why we’ve chosen to return to our physical spaces at Nature very slowly, carefully, but why we’ve still returned nonetheless. It might have key implications for your business and your people, and let’s face it, the back-to-office landscape is a tricky place to navigate right now. It’s very easy for business owners and leaders to get lulled into thinking that offering fully remote working is the way to go because on one level it may make your team happy in the short term. I would argue, however, that it’s worth considering the culture that’s being built by taking this path.

By talking to your people to work out how you can provide the very best and most supportive environment for them to grow and develop will ensure that the outcomes and experiences of those people are the best they can be.

For us, our people come into the office on a Tuesday, at least in the morning. On top of this, our team leaders work with their own teams in the office at least one day a

week. Ensuring the success of this model means ongoing, mature and sensible dialogue with our team. Having dialogue with your people that is open, transparent and laden with goodwill is critical.

The working world into which we are evolving has highlighted the importance of the culture we’ve been building at Nature for years. There are two key values that have helped us so far, and I anticipate they will continue to do so into the future:

Culture is everything

We will continue to prioritise a unique energy and vibe in-office. We know what it’s like to have a great energy in the physical workplace. When done right, it sets a stronger and more comfortable environment for our people and ensures their happiness. Our people own this through incidental conversations and normal in-person human interactions that aren’t scheduled. This is good for everyone – it builds enduring social capital across individuals and teams and is particularly important for the forming of meaningful connection points for new team members.

Flexibility is about individual choice

We have a formal flexibility policy in place and don’t ask our people to come into the office more often than mentioned above. The rest is up to them to manage a work-life balance of best fit. They pick their journey.

While it’s easy to offer fully-remote policies to attract new talent, it’s harder to work toward facilitating a sustainable hybrid model that may be ever-evolving and pays dividends to all parties. In an environment where the development of people and culture is everything, investing time here and not leaving it to chance pays off. The first step is to talk with your people

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Chris Crook Nature

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