Many faces of flexible working
It is evident that there is no return to the ‘old’ ways of working before Covid-19. The ‘old’ is in parenthesis because it does not mean that it is necessarily wrong or non-functional. The past two years have provided opportunities to pilot and practice new working methods. Small and medium-sized companies have quickly adapted to the novel situation, and big ones have drafted their own models of working, leading, and managing. However, designing, drafting, and testing new structures, processes and practices are not enough as the change management of transformation in the new situation is critical for success. What is needed in change? This is the theme of the just-published Henry ry’s Työntuuli journal.
There are few topics to consider. First, what kinds of futures could be – we need futures literacy to identify several scenarios. Second, the change is systemic. It is good to understand that everything depends on everything and the virus has a long tail. For example, a massive change to telework impacts what kinds of premises are needed. Third, new work practices are needed – leaders and managers need to learn to lead and communicate from a distance, create functional working conditions for employees, and employees need autonomy to take responsibility and self-leadership competencies. Finally, it is also crucial that both employees and leaders learn to benefit from collaboration technologies as they are essential enablers of flexible working.
Flexible work has many faces depending on the purpose and goals of the work and the work processes required. The place is essential: work is done flexibly in physical and virtual places. Time is also important: work is done from 8-16 o’clock or 24/7 as solo work asynchronously and synchronously with someone or several people. The role of technology is also crucial as an enabler: it helps in solo work and enables co-working. However, flexibility has downsides: it can weaken ties with co-workers and management, cause loneliness and tiredness due to constant online meetings and an email flood, and cause addiction to media use. These are just a few challenges to meet when transforming to flexible ways of working.