Empowering employees through choice

August 2, 2017 / By  

The news articles pop up every once in a while – a large corporate decides to end or modify remote working and mandates that all employees work in the office some or all of the time. The most high-profile example was Yahoo, who did this in 2013. More recently, IBM (an early adopter of remote working) and others have followed suit. Best Buy has even credited the policy change for the company’s recent turnaround.

For the more conservative crowd, these shifts seem to hark back to the days of old-fashioned office-based work. Others, including many who have enjoyed the flexibility of remote working or home-based working, bristle at the change and insist that it is counterintuitive to fundamental trends in how people work.

They may have a point: although JLL’s recent Human Experience research found that 54 per cent of employees surveyed worldwide work from home once a month or more, while over a third say they work in places like cafes or trains. In some places, like the US, remote work is even more common.

I think we can end the debate and discussion right now. Neither extreme – mandating completely office-based or completely remote work – is the ideal solution. In fact, mandating any kind of policy is not the best approach; as a US-based HR consultant observed in an interview with NBC News most startups don’t even have so-called telecommuting policies – the flexibility is expected. The Wall Street Journal also reported this year that many of Dell’s employees were working from home even though there wasn’t a policy. It just happened.

Empowerment is crucial to the ideal workplace experience

As JLL’s recent research on experience in the workplace finds, empowerment – alongside engagement, and fulfillment – is a crucial driver of the optimum and most authentic workplace experience for employees.

HXWe define empowerment as offering employees a sense of control – over how and where they work. This means allowing employees to choose the best way that works for them, tailoring their experience to their preferences and personal situation.

This freedom will allow them to work more productively than a one-size-fits-all solution (providing the technological tools that enable different working styles is key as well).

Moreover, providing choice demonstrates trust between employee and management – which we found was the most important way that leaders can impact employee engagement. So providing employees with freedom and choice is the way to go.

I’m sure that as time goes on, we will continue to hear stories of the pendulum swinging back and forth between remote working and the office, and companies changing their policies one way or another.

What our human experience research tells us is that companies should offer employees the freedom to choose how they work – and potentially reap the benefits.

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