Postdate: 23 April 2018
The era of employees being in in the office from 9 to 5, is largely over. Blurring the boundaries and allowing employees to determine where, when and how to work is the new standard. Flexible work requires managers to adopt another leadership style.
From authority to coach
Flexible work requires a good dose of independence from the employee and a new mindset in which to 'give and take trust' from the manager predominates. The ‘facilitating leader’ encourages employees to develop themselves and to take responsibility. The manager gives direction and sets limits and then supports the employee in implementation. The misconception that employees get less work done at home or elsewhere is incorrect. Often there is more productivity, provided that the needed technology is well organised and that this way of working fits in with the culture of the organisation and with the personality of its managers and employees.
Technology not only facilitates flexible work, but even creates expectations. We are now personally used to always be connected and to always share things. The youngest generation in the workplace has never known otherwise. But the older generations are now also used to finding out information 'on the go’, to share experiences and to always be ‘in’ and to be available anytime, anywhere. The need to go to the office is becoming less.
Cultures and structures of organisations adapt to this new-found flexibility and freedom. Directive or autocratic leadership with compulsory attendance and focus on input has had its day in many professional fields. The younger workers from generation Z (born from 1992) definitely does not want to be controlled and will avoid employers with this culture. They recognise themselves in the higher goals of the Organisation; if you give them autonomy and let them see that you appreciate their individual qualities, they will do anything for you.
Employees who are able to take charge of themselves will be successful in a flexible working environment. They divide their own working tasks, monitor their results and adjust if necessary. They are almost 'entrepreneurs' in their approach. That does not mean that employees just to fend for themselves. A structure of contact times and (Skype) meetings supports the flexible work approach. But at their own initiative though.
The good news is that self-directed management can be taught. It starts with creating self-awareness, knowing who you are. After all, the personality of a staff member determines his/her needs and ways of dealing with (working) conditions. For an employee who is aware of this, behaviour and success become more predictable. And that in turn creates trust and confidence from the manager.