Thrive in a High-Trust Culture: How Workplace Flexibility is the Key to Building a Great Workplace

Claire Hastwell

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CLAIRE HASTWELL

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Workplace flexibility is about providing the conditions for employees to thrive. And it’s only successful in great high-trust company cultures.

Unlimited time off. Flex hours. The ability to work whenever and wherever.

Not too long ago, these were unheard of in the working world. Typical employment meant being visible, at your desk or station, for eight hours a day, five days a week.

And then COVID came.

Flexibility in the workplace was already on the rise pre-pandemic, with forward-thinking, globalized organizations adopting non-traditional setups such as remote teams and flex schedules. But then lockdowns forced everyone to embrace workplace flexibility — whether they were ready or not.

And now, while some companies have returned to their old routines, other employers have decided to stay flexible for good.

What is workplace flexibility?

Workplace flexibility means providing the conditions for employees to thrive. Workplace flexibility embraces the idea that employees can be productive no matter when or where they perform their work. Rather than enforcing a rigid workplace environment or schedule, workplace flexibility acknowledges individual needs and supports better work-life balance and employee well-being.

Note that this is different from employee flexibility, which typically refers to how adaptable an employee is in the workplace. Workplace flexibility is also different from ‘work-life balance’ which pits work against life – as if work is an antonym to life. Workplace flexibility acknowledges that the two are more intertwined and fluid.

In a flexible workplace, management trusts employees to perform their work in a non-traditional structure, and provides the necessary resources and environment to empower employees to work in this way.

Trust is the key factor in flexible workplaces

Flexible work and remote work are most effective in high-trust cultures. In high-trust company cultures, employees feel safe to speak up, feel safe to fail, and feel trusted by their leaders to get their job done regardless of when and where they work.

This is something that Meg Newhouse, co-founder and CEO of consulting firm and Certified™ great workplace Inspirant Group, advocates.

Inspirant is a remote-first organization, with flex hours and unlimited PTO, and a focus on supporting employees so they can be successful both in and out of the workplace — whether that’s by letting them set their own personal goals in performance reviews or giving them the trust and freedom to take time off whenever they need.

“We’ve never felt like we needed to monitor where people are working or how they’re working or when they’re getting their work done,” says Meg. “People just fit the work into their day, just like they fit everything else into their schedule.”

Why is workplace flexibility important in today’s work environment?

Employees are demanding more workplace flexibility — and even leaving their current jobs in search of it. The Great Resignation has proven that employees are seeking greater purpose and flexibility in the workplace.

“You can’t advertise a job without saying it’s flexible and expect to get high quality applicants,” warns Meg. “Advertising a position as remote-first is what people are looking for.”

Workplace flexibility also bursts your talent pool wide open. When you’re no longer tied to only hiring people within commuting distance or who are always available Monday to Friday, nine-to-five, the world becomes your recruitment oyster.

Not only that, but companies that fail to adapt and adopt at least some sense of flexibility are going to fall behind as the global workforce continues to change.

“We’re in the midst of a workplace revolution and, as a result, employees are in the driver’s seat,” says Meg. “And with that comes a shift in how leaders need to show up.”

What are the advantages and disadvantages of workplace flexibility?

As with anything, there are pros and cons to a flexible workplace.

Advantages of workplace flexibility:

  • Flexible work opens you to the best recruits, from anywhere. Once location and hours aren’t criteria, you’re more likely to build a diverse team of top talent.
  • Psychological health. According to our 2022 survey of average U.S. workplaces, employees who work remote part-time or full-time report higher psychological health than employees fully onsite. In fact, 57% of fully remote employees report good psychological health compared to 49% of employees who work on site five days per week.
  • Work-life In the same study, employees who work remotely were more satisfied with their work-life balance than those working onsite (63% vs. 57%).
  • Employee engagement. When employees feel trusted and can have a healthy work-life balance, they’ll be more engaged, more productive, and less likely to quit. Remote or hybrid employees report more willingness to give extra on the job (60%) compared to employees fully onsite (53%).
  • Business results. Despite many employers’ fears, switching to remote work during the pandemic did not hurt their bottom line. In fact, in many cases.

Disadvantages of workplace flexibilty:

  • Employee perceptions of fair promotions. Companies with hybrid workplaces or that are 100% remote have a more difficult time creating fair promotions practices compared to workplaces with a fully on-site workforce. As our research revealed, remote employees are 6% less likely to believe promotions are fair at their workplace compared to employees who spend one to four days on-site or in the office.
  • Connection to the bigger picture. Employees who work fully remote tend to feel less connected to the company mission and feel less like they make an impact. At the average U.S. workplace, 58% of remote employees feel they make a difference at work compared to 65% of on-site employees.
  • While tools like Zoom, Teams, and Slack are great for keeping your team connected, there really is no substitute for face-to-face communication. And when employees are online at different times, it can be challenging to resolve urgent issues that pop up.
  • Blurring of home and work. Despite the freedom that flexible work can bring, it’s very easy for employees to work longer hours at home, or to struggle with setting a schedule for themselves — a recipe for workplace burnout.
  • Remote work can easily lead to feelings of social disconnection and loneliness, especially if it’s an employee’s first time working this way.

6 Examples of flexible working conditions

There are variations to flexible working arrangements, which can be mixed and matched based on your organization’s needs:

  1. Flexible scheduling. Employees can set their own hours, shifts, and break times, or could opt for a compressed workweek (i.e., working full-time in four days instead of five).
  2. Flexible hours. Employees can switch to part-time or cut hours when needed.
  3. Flexible location. Employees can choose to work from home, the office, or other location. Many high-trust workplaces enable their employees to work from any location in the world. Other companies allow their employees to work from a remote location as long as they are on the same time zone.
  4. Flexible (or unlimited) PTO. Employees are free to take time off when they need it, without having to worry about using up a limited vacation allotment.
  5. Flexible positions (job sharing). Two or more employees share a single role so that they can work part-time while the role is covered full-time.
  6. Cross-department secondments which let employees immerse themselves in a different area of the business for a temporary period without losing their “day job.”

How to handle supervision in flexible workplaces

Micromanaging is the antithesis of flexible work. Meg Newhouse recommends managers meet at least weekly one-on-one with their employees, especially in a remote environment. However, she’s quick to point out, this isn’t about checking up on how they’re working, but rather checking in on how they’re doing..

“If you’re not in a traditional office where you could just stop by someone’s desk or bump into them in the kitchen, or jump out to a quick lunch, you have to be more intentional about these virtual check-ins,” she says.

And don’t even think about installing any remote tracking programs or requiring employees to have their video cameras turned on whenever they’re online.

“You’re not running a daycare,” adds Meg. “If they’re not delivering on time or if they’re not showing up when they say they’re going to be there, those are red flags you should address. But if you’ve got people delivering good quality work … there’s no reason for extreme oversight.”

How can you measure the success of a flexible work environment?

You just need to look at your business results, says Meg. If employees are unhappy, customers and clients will be equally unhappy, and your business overall will suffer.

That’s not a problem at Inspirant.

“Our revenue numbers are continually increasing, our profit margin looks good,” she says. “If you want to look at the bottom line, you can see the ROI of trusting your workforce.”

Beyond that, you’ll want to regularly check in with your employees — whether that’s in your one-to-one catch-ups or via pulse survey — to ensure your flexible work environment is meeting their needs. Do they have the tools they require? Do they feel supported by their manager? How is their employee well-being?

“There’s no work-life balance,” Meg explains. “It’s all life.”

Does your organization have a great flexible work environment?

Show employees, recruits, and customers why your company is a great workplace by getting Great Place To Work Certified™.

Claire Hastwell

As the Content Program Manager at Great Place To Work, Claire helps decode the psychology behind high-trust workplaces using Great Place To Work’s extensive data repository on employee experience. Claire has co-authored noted reports such as “Women in the Workplace” and “The Power of Purpose at Work,” and contributed to Fortune with her profiles of the Best Workplaces™. Her latest report on employee retention strategies draws on the experience of 1.3 million employees to give leaders strategic guidance on retaining their top people. 

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work® Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces™ in Healthcare & Biopharma List. This list recognizes exemplary companies in the healthcare & biopharma industry.

Recognized as a global hub for medical technology and research, Singapore has attracted top healthcare and biopharma talents and companies from around the world. It has become the center for essential healthcare services and innovations with its world-class research institutes, academic medical centers, and industry clusters.

In turn, the healthcare and biopharma sectors play a critical role in the country’s economic competitiveness, sustainability, and innovation. These industries have significantly helped in the overall improvement of public health and well-being of the people of Singapore and its neighboring countries.

The inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma List puts the spotlight on the organizations that are dedicated to providing employee satisfaction and engagement, and their commitment to excellence in the industry.

The companies in our Great Place To Work Certified™ community have the premier distinction that helps attract the best talent, build your employer brand, and secure a competitive advantage. To achieve this, they built a working environment that is purpose-driven and people-first. These companies have demonstrated that showing authentic care, prioritizing employee’s holistic well-being, and building a culture of trust go hand in hand with growth and success.

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma, Great Place to Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place to Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced.To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place to Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place to Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work™ Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Technology List. This List recognizes exemplary companies in the information and communication technologies industry in four categories:

  • Micro category (10–29 employees)
  • Small (30-99 employees)
  • Medium (100-999 employees)
  • Large (> 1000 employees)

With Singapore’s ambition to be recognized as a regional technology hub, the influx of technology firms (around 80 of the world’s top 100 technology firms have a presence here) and global rankings that place us a leading technology hub outside of San Francisco, the establishment of a Singapore Best Workplaces List in Technology is indeed a timely and needed one. Technology firms in Singapore are characterized by hyper-growth and ambitious expansion plans. This means a continuous war for talent in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving industry.

To maintain our lead as a technology and innovation hub, the ability to attract, retain and sustain skilled talent is critical. We are proud that companies in our Great Place To Work®-Certified community List have built a high-trust culture, engaged employees and maximized their potential to facilitate innovation. They are purpose-driven and adopt a people-first mindset. These are companies that have shown that authentic care and employee well-being need not be compromised for ambitious growth, and that it is possible for businesses to scale up quickly and responsibly. Their culture and core values are embodied in every individual—from senior leadership to rank-and-file employees—and differentiate them from their competitors, priming them to be powerful magnets for top talent.

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category

 

Methodology

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces™️, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing close to 70,000 employees across different industries in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. 85% of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do.

Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical in their industry. The remaining 15% of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Companies with 10-29 people were considered for the Micro category; those with 30 to 99 people for the Small category; companies with 100 to 999 employees were considered for the Medium category; and those with 1,000 or more for the Large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category