Why Government Agencies Must Embrace Flexible Work
tags: leadership,business,decision making,wise decision making,leadership development,cognitive bias,decision-making process,leaders,work from home,hybrid work,remote work
Imagine yourself a trapeze artist, suspended high above the ground, swinging from one bar to another with precision and grace. This is the delicate act that government leaders must perform to retain their talent in the post-COVID era. The safety net? Flexibility.
In the same way a trapeze artist needs flexibility to move fluidly, government agencies must retain the dexterity they developed during the pandemic. They must pivot, adapt, and stretch to meet the needs of their employees or risk a mass exodus—a virtual talent tumble, if you will.
Walking the Telework Tightrope: Employee Retention vs. In-Person Mandate
Recent data from Eagle Hill Consulting, an Arlington, VA-based firm, presents a compelling case for flexible work arrangements. The study, based on the responses of over 500 federal, state, and local government employees, indicates that 45% of them might search for greener, more remote pastures if their agencies reduce remote work flexibility.
This would be akin to dismantling half the circus because the performers prefer the safety of the net to the high wire. It's more than a game of chance, it's a genuine threat to operational continuity, as I tell my clients who I helped figure out a return to the office and flexible hybrid work.
Flexibility: The Catalyst of Job Satisfaction, Productivity, and Innovation
Consider this: 60% of surveyed government workers in hybrid or remote positions would experience a drop in job satisfaction if compelled to return to in-person work. This sentiment isn’t restricted to a few grumpy employees who enjoy working in their pajamas; it’s a major slice of the workforce pie. And what does a disgruntled workforce serve up? Decreased productivity.
More than 4 in 10 (44%) government employees indicated that their productivity would slump if they were required to return to the office full-time. The office, rather than being a hive of productivity, might become a desert of discontent, starved of the refreshing oasis of remote work.
In a fascinating revelation, 64% of respondents agreed that deep thinking, the lifeblood of innovation and problem-solving, is best achieved remotely. So, if you're hoping for an idea that's as breathtaking as the daring trapeze act, you might want to consider allowing your employees the peace and quiet of remote work.
The Time Equation: Flexibility and Employee Tenure
As we dig further into the survey results, we uncover another startling revelation. Flexibility doesn't just impact productivity and job satisfaction; it also influences how long employees stay in their roles.
A whopping 45% of respondents said a mandate for in-person work would decrease their tenure with their current employer. In essence, a rigid work policy can turn your organization into a revolving door, with talent coming and going faster than a Ferris wheel at the county fair.
Let's delve deeper into this conundrum, shall we? At the heart of this discourse, we find a peculiar paradox. When it comes to choosing between a full day at the office or part of a day, the employees are split evenly. It's like being at the circus and not being able to decide whether the elephant ride is more exciting than the merry-go-round.
This suggests that it's not as black and white as choosing remote work over office work or vice versa. It's about creating a hybrid model that caters to the diverse needs and preferences of government employees. A veritable smorgasbord of work options, if you will, that allows employees to tailor their work environment in a way that fuels their productivity and satisfaction.
The Significance of Supervisory Trust: An Untapped Resource
While discussions around hybrid and remote work often center around logistical concerns, let's not forget the human element in this equation. A robust 68% of surveyed government employees trust their immediate supervisors, the individuals who usually determine their work location.
This trust is not a mere feather in the cap of government agencies, it's an untapped resource. This trust, like a circus ringmaster's control over the performers, can be leveraged to negotiate a more agreeable work model, thereby averting a potential mass exit.
Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Balancing Work and Life
The challenges facing the modern workforce extend far beyond the physical boundaries of the office. They intrude into homes and affect the personal lives of employees. Among the respondents, a significant 45% were concerned about maintaining work/life balance, a number not to be scoffed at. This concern is the proverbial elephant in the room, looming large but often unaddressed in work model discussions.
If stress were a circus act, it would be the terrifying one involving knives or fire. A concerning 34% of the respondents indicated that more in-person work leads to increased stress. The silent saboteur, stress, not only affects the well-being of employees but can also gnaw away at the very fabric of productivity and job satisfaction.
For 43% of the surveyed employees, commute times loomed large as a drawback of in-person work. It's not just about the long, tedious hours spent in traffic, comparable to a slow-moving parade without the fanfare. It's also about the hidden costs involved: fuel prices, vehicle maintenance, and above all, precious time that could be spent with family or on personal development.
Beyond commuting, in-person work also incurs additional costs, raising eyebrows among 38% of the respondents. From professional attire to lunch costs and more, these are like the tickets we pay to see the circus, except in this case, the circus is the office and the tickets don’t offer much entertainment.
The Conclusion: Embrace the Flexible Circus
To survive and thrive in this era, government agencies must learn to juggle multiple needs, much like a juggler at the circus. They need to balance the balls of employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention, all while adapting to a rapidly evolving work landscape.
The message from the workforce is clear: embrace the flexible circus of hybrid and remote work or risk losing the performance altogether. As government leaders, the choice is yours. Will you be the ringmaster of a thriving, flexible circus or the keeper of an empty tent? The act is yours to perform, the audience awaits.
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Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on April 26, 2023
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/.
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