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It’s a sign of great disruption when governments are ahead compared to big business, but that’s exactly what happens with hybrid work. Flexibility has become a cornerstone of the modern public sector workplace, as we see from the federal government’s recent negotiations with workers and New York City’s agreement with its largest municipal union.
It’s a sign of great disruption when governments are ahead compared to big business, but that’s exactly what happens with hybrid work. Flexibility has become a cornerstone of the modern public sector workplace, as we see from the federal government’s recent negotiations with workers and New York City’s agreement with its largest municipal union. It’s clear that flexibility is more important than ever, and private companies would do well to take notice and implement a data-driven, employee-centric approach to hybrid work.
Related topics: Employers: Hybrid work is not the problem – your guidance is. Here’s why and how to fix it.
The federal government’s position on remote work
Negotiations between the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Canadian federal government have emphasized the importance of telecommuting. The government has agreed to review remote working arrangements on a case-by-case basis, moving away from a “one size fits all” policy. This score demonstrates a commitment to tailoring working arrangements to the needs of individual employees.
In turn, the US federal government recently asked agencies to evaluate how to strike a balance between increasing in-person work when necessary, while ensuring the flexibility of remote work. This balanced approach—focusing on personal work only when necessary—is consistent with the Canadian government’s new case-by-case approach, and reflects the US government’s negotiations with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). It goes against the command-and-control, top-down, one-size-fits-all policies of companies like Amazon, Starbucks, Disney, Apple, and many more.
This gradual approach to remote work signals a major shift that could affect the private sector. Companies looking to stay competitive should pay close attention to these developments, as federal government policies often act as a trigger for the broader labor market.
New York City embraces flexibility
In a move mirroring the actions of the federal government, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a preliminary contract agreement with District Council 37 (DC 37), the city’s largest municipal union. That agreement includes a plan to allow some non-essential city employees to work remotely starting in June, with the creation of a “flexible work committee” to oversee the pilot program.
The contract reflects a shift in Mayor Adams’ stance on hybrid work. Previously an advocate of strict back-to-office policies, Adams has acknowledged the need for flexibility in the face of high vacancy rates and increased demand for co-op opportunities. This decision by New York City, the global business hub, sends a clear message: Flexibility is the future of work, and organizations must adapt to stay relevant.
Lesson for the private sector
Both federal governments and New York City’s actions are valuable lessons for private businesses. As the world of work continues to evolve, embracing flexibility isn’t just a perk — it’s a necessity.
First, flexibility boosts employee satisfaction and morale. As evidenced by negotiations with PSAC, AFGE, and DC 37, workers increasingly value the ability to work remotely or on a hybrid schedule. Companies that accommodate these preferences will find it easier to attract and retain the best talent.
Secondly, flexibility leads to higher productivity. Studies have shown that employees who work in a hybrid or remote environment are more productive than their office-bound counterparts. By allowing workers to choose where and when they work, companies can take advantage of this increased efficiency.
Finally, it promotes holistic flexibility. Remote and hybrid working arrangements can level the playing field for employees who may face barriers in traditional office settings, such as those with disabilities or caregiving responsibilities. By promoting a more inclusive workplace, companies will benefit from a diverse range of perspectives and ideas.
The private sector’s path to resilience
As the public sector continues to support resilience, the private sector must follow suit to keep pace with these changes. Companies that embrace a flexible work environment will position themselves as desirable and forward-thinking employers. Here are some steps for private organizations looking to adopt a more flexible work culture:
- Scene assessment: Identify positions and roles within your organization that can be performed remotely or on a hybrid basis without compromising productivity. Evaluate the feasibility of integrating flexible working options and the tools and infrastructure needed to support this transformation.
- Set guidelines: Set clear guidelines and expectations for employees who work remotely or on a hybrid schedule. This includes communication protocols, performance metrics, and procedures for requesting and approving flexible working arrangements.
- Invest in technology: Ensure that employees have the tools and technology to work effectively from anywhere. This includes videoconferencing software, secure remote access, and cloud-based collaboration tools.
- Foster a culture of trust: Empower employees to manage their own schedules and workloads, and trust them to deliver results. Encourage open communication, feedback, and transparency to build trust and maintain strong working relationships.
- Monitor and adapt: Regularly review and evaluate the success of flexible working policies, making adjustments as needed. Ask for feedback from employees to identify areas for improvement and potential obstacles.
The multiplier effect of flexibility
As governments pave the way for flexible working, the private sector must follow suit or risk losing top talent. The benefits of embracing flexibility are numerous: increased employee satisfaction, improved productivity and a more inclusive workplace. By adopting flexible working policies, companies are not only strengthening their internal operations, but also contributing to a broader cultural shift that values work-life balance and well-being.
Indeed, the cascading effect of flexibility is far-reaching. As more organizations adopt flexible working practices, cities and communities may experience reduced traffic congestion, better air quality, and lower demand for office space, leading to a more sustainable and resilient urban environment. Moreover, the widespread adoption of flexible working policies can help address social issues such as gender inequality, as they allow for more equal participation in the workforce.
Related: The Future of Hybrid Work? A new survey confirms what we all know.
A flexible future awaits
Union negotiations between the two federal governments and New York City show the growing importance of flexibility in the workplace. As the world continues to grapple with the ongoing pandemic and its lasting effects, the demand for flexible working arrangements is expected to increase.
By learning from the example of the public sector, private companies can stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of the benefits of a flexible working environment. As we move forward, the key to success lies in the ability to adapt and the willingness to embrace change. The future is fluid, and it’s time for organizations to rise to the occasion.