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3 Ways to Balance Flexibility and In-office Culture Now

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One of the newest snags in the employee-employer relationship is the idea of flexibility. Employees want it, but employers are afraid it will harm their in-office culture and productivity.

Is there a way to balance flexibility and in-office culture? We believe so.

A startling 90% of companies plan to implement return-to-office policies by 2025, but on the flip side, 76% of employees stated they’d quit their jobs if flexibility was taken away.

Balance Flexibility and In-office Culture

This tug-of-war has been causing contention between employees and employers all over the world, and we at Awardco aren’t immune. One of the pillars of our culture has always been flexibility, but at the same time, we know in-person work is important to both culture and business success.

Through our own trial and error process, we’ve been able to strike a balance between flexibility and in-office time, and it’s a balance that I think most people are happy with. While there’s no right answer for everyone, I want to share some strategies that will hopefully help you find a solution that works for you.

1. Set Expectations, Give Leeway

This is the solution that Awardco was able to find. We’ve implemented a return-to-work policy that sets the expectation of working at the office when you’re able. However, we’ve instructed our managers to be open and understanding of anyone who has trouble with this.

Car in the shop? Babysitter canceled? Dentist appointment? Feeling overwhelmed? When anyone has these types of plans or workday interruptions, we aim to give them the flexibility they need to work from home, come in for a half-day or similar solutions.

Helping managers strike the balance between setting in-office expectations and flexibility is a work in progress, but we’ve really started to see the benefits of in-office collaboration and a flexible work environment.

Whether you offer unlimited PTO, the ability to work from home occasionally, or any other strategy to add flexibility into your policies, we’ve seen that it’s worth it.

2. Schedule Days/Hours, Let Employees Rest

Having everyone in the office to work, collaborate and build relationships is a great thing. By setting rules on when everyone needs to be in the office (while also keeping in mind the above strategy), you can make the most of this collaborative time.

For example, require people to be in the workplace on Tuesday and Thursday. Or require people to be in the office from 8 a.m. to noon. These requirements provide a little more structure than a simple hybrid work policy, and they ensure that most people will have frequent in-office time while also providing a good amount of flexibility for everyone.

If people enjoy time at work or need to collaborate, they can choose to work more than the requirements. But if people need to be home for any reason or need to schedule personal appointments of any kind, they’ll have the time to do so.

3. Make the Office a Great Place

No office upgrade will make it as comfortable as each employee’s home, but there are many updates you can make, both large and small, to help your people be more comfortable and happier to be in the office. Here are some ideas:

  • Provide ergonomic equipment. Ergonomic keyboards, supportive chairs and standing desks are just some ideas for making each person’s workspace more comfortable.
  • Exercise spaces and time. Provide walking desk treadmills or pedals for employees to use while working. If you have space, create a gym or workout space for employees and see if anyone is interested in running a fitness class, like yoga or cycling.
  • Set up focus areas. There’s no denying that the office can be a little distracting. To that end, set aside rooms or areas where employees can go and quietly focus.
  • Allow for team activities. Do your teams have break times? If not, consider implementing a specific time for teams to relax, play a game or go for a walk together. This can strengthen relationships while also giving everyone an important break.
  • Offer food and snacks. This is a common solution, but you have to make it worth it. Bring in catered meals a few times a week, offer a range of healthy and filling snacks, or subsidize meals from local eateries. 
  • Plan holiday celebrations or random events. Fun events can really brighten everyone’s day or week. Don’t just think of holidays, though — games and activities for events like Employee Appreciation Day and March Madness can make a huge difference to your in-office culture.

Before anyone will want to spend time in the office (especially if they’re used to working from home), the office has to be a place that people want to be.

Mesh in-office culture and employee flexibility. Show employees you care about their lives and needs by integrating flexibility seamlessly into your in-office culture — especially if you’re considering a back-to-office mandate. We’ve seen the benefits of blending these two pillars together, and I’m confident your efforts will bear fruit, too.

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