• Christian Rast, Leadership |

COVID-19 has given millions of workers — and their employers — a crash course in flexible work arrangements. Early on, CEOs established remote working capabilities and reassessed their office footprint. Now, the focus is shifting to fostering an environment of productivity through choice, empowering employees to decide where and when they want to work.

Hybrid working is top of minds for CEOs. The latest KPMG CEO Outlook shows that 37 percent of global CEOs are implementing a model where most employees work remotely two to three days per week. But the term “hybrid working” means different things to different people. It doesn’t necessarily mean working in the office and at home in equal measure; it means there’s flexibility in the balance employees choose for themselves. And if businesses don’t meet expectations, employees may simply log off and take their expertise elsewhere.

In my view, organizations should be more flexible to deliver on employee expectations around these three areas: connectivity, talent mobility and well-being.

Connectivity

Employee expectations have changed. Before the pandemic, people followed technology. Nowadays, technology follows people — to where, and when, they want to work.

When organizations rushed to enable remote working at the start of the pandemic, they were focused on simply making it happen as quickly as possible. Network security and the employee experience often fell by the wayside.

Today, connectivity is about providing employees with the same seamless digital experience they expect as consumers. This includes upgrading staff with the latest devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops to seamlessly transition between home and corporate offices (and everywhere in between). It also requires organizations to digitize legacy processes and offer intuitive, app-based solutions for everyday tasks.

When we talk about connectivity, the conversation is often focused solely on tech-enabled connectivity (e.g. through digital collaboration tools or video conferencing). But it’s important to consider people connectivity as well.

In the pre-pandemic world, having someone dial into a meeting was often an afterthought. Now, it should be front and center to make sure remote colleagues feel included. In my experience, the most successful hybrid meetings are in tech-enabled rooms that can seamlessly connect in-person and online participants. This levels the playing field and helps remove any unconscious bias towards those who chose to participate remotely.

Talent mobility

In one of the hottest job markets in decades, workers feel emboldened to ask for increased flexibility — or to walk away if they aren’t given the choice.

But there’s a flip side to the coin. For employers, it’s important to see beyond traditional talent acquisition and consider how hybrid working is now a key strategy for attracting and retaining talent across different geographies. In fact, 42 percent of global CEOs say they will look to hire talent that works predominantly remotely, seizing the opportunity to expand their reach into a wider pool of talent.

This is fantastic news for organizations that need to recruit people with niche or in-demand skillsets. Offering employees more choice can be a big differentiator, especially for companies that find it hard to compete on salary alone. Flexibility is the ace up your sleeve.

Prioritizing mobility also helps organizations find diverse, previously untapped talent with expanded accessibility and accommodations. For example, KPMG is working to increase its neurodiverse population — who may be uncomfortable with in-person office culture — through more inclusive candidate recruitment, selection, onboarding and employee education.

KPMG is also expanding accessibility for people with disabilities to join the workforce with more ease. For example, Windows 11 has integrated new accessibility features, including sound and visual updates for sight impaired populations — making it a more inclusive operating system.

There’s immense business value when engaging with these untapped talent pools.

Well-being

I’ve talked a lot about the concept of choice, and this connects directly to well-being. If you have workers that are empowered to choose where, when and how they work, you’ll have a more productive and happier workforce with more ownership of their work. Hybrid workers may also be finding a work-life balance that is best for them to better manage distractions and stressors.

The bottom line is, to help employees feel the most fulfilled and productive, give them the choice to work remotely, at the office or both, and deliver on their evolving expectations of connectivity, mobility and well-being.

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