The Flexible Work Boom and What it Means for Leaders

Less than a decade ago the U.S. experienced a recession. At the same time a sizable chunk of millennials were graduating from college. (I was one of them.) The result of this American job crisis, and tightened budgets in offices and homes– prompted alternative options for flexible work and living.

The long term effect is that today a large group of millennials (who will make up ¾ of the workforce in the next 5 years) expect to have more freedom in regards to work environments. Two big freedoms they desire are the ability to work from anywhere and the need to believe in their company’s mission.

But millennial employees aren’t the only ones who see the value in this flexible work structure. Leadership at companies like Hilton Worldwide, Deloitte, and Oracle have been embracing  the movement. This past February, Vodafone put out a global study that revealed 75% of 8,000 companies surveyed have introduced policies that allow their employees to either use technology to work remotely or vary their hours for increased flexibility.

Furthermore, respondents stated:

  • 61% of respondents said their company’s profits increased
  • 83% reported an improvement in productivity
  • 58% believe that flexible work policies had a positive impact on their organization’s reputation

As a result, distributed teams are on the rise — and dynamics are changing, professional communication skills are in higher demand than ever, and leadership ideologies must adapt accordingly. Everyone agrees communication and project management software tools like Slack and Trello are must-haves, but there is also the challenge of replicating in-person experiences as much as possible with the help of interactive video training technologies (woohoo! We are in the right place) and virtual meeting spaces. New tools are amazing to have and implement but attitude shifts are the true challenge in organizational implementation and adoption. Here are three key leadership attitudes to have for successful distributed teams:

  1. Clarity and Commitment in Goal-Setting. Create clearly defined goals, timelines, and expectations that the organization believes in and follows…
  2. Focus on getting things done instead of how they will get done. By default most distributed teams are following AGILE practices, but once given their objectives, team members want coaching from leadership — not dictating details. Criticism and micro-management are trust killers so invite questions and provide guidance to maintain the trust.
  3. Trust and Leadership’s Due Diligence. Trust is essential in distributed teams. Your employees expect that you can trust they are being productive outside of the office, that they are committed to the company’s mission, and that they are empowered to make proactive decisions. Great leadership instills and inspires the desire for employees to stay committed, driven, engaged by building a strong company identity and an authentic and unique company culture.

With leadership using the right mindset, the right attitudes and the right mix of tools; distributed teams feel empowered to do their part in helping the company succeed and grow. What have you seen your distributed teams accomplish through flexible work?

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