People say "trust is earned." And perhaps that's why, historically, supervisors wait for their direct reports to prove their worth before giving them access to flexibility. But as the global workforce heads for a flexible future, these workplace conventions of yesteryear are falling by the wayside. These days, especially with more and more employees working out of the office, supervisors are trusting their employees from the jump, and those employees are returning that trust with productivity and loyalty.
Consider the insights of Heidi Abelli, Senior Vice President, Content Product Management at Skillsoft. "Rather than static groups of direct reports charged with executing plans handed down from above, leaders today manage diverse, global teams," Abelli writes in her new white paper, The Hero Leader Has Exited the Stage: 6 Truths of Leadership Development in the Digital Age. And these diverse, global teams, she writes, "must be empowered to operate with agility, autonomy and a constant emphasis on innovation."
Or heed the words of Adam Henderson, a modern workforce consultant who has observed creative types return to the office following after-work drinks to capitalize on their most productive hours. "Flexible working should mean that you have the flexibility to manage your time and resources in a way that is most effective to you," he writes in a LinkedIn treatise picked up by The SHRM Blog. "This allows you to be the most productive so that the work is not only done, but gets done to the best quality possible whilst maintaining a better work-life balance."
But flexible work requires trust, he writes, citing former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's 2013 flexibility clawback as an indication she didn't trust her employees to stay productive outside of the office. (Mayer, for the record, is also the same leader who claims a 130-hour work week is possible if you're "strategic.")
"If businesses cannot trust their employees to work flexibly then surely they cannot trust them with anything else such as confidential business information and financial details," Henderson argues. "And if businesses do not trust their employees, then it begs the question of why they hired them in the first place."
As we previously covered in this space, research has shown that employees who perceive trust from their employers are more likely to meet managers' expectations. And that trust pays dividends in engagement, productivity, and loyalty. "When you work with people to customize their work-life fit, you aren't imposing anything on them," Talent Culture CEO Meghan M. Biro concur wrote for Forbes. "You're treating them with respect and trust. Which will be returned."
Sindy Warren, Warren & Associates LLC principal and HR consultant, expressed similar views. "Offering such flexibility shows a tremendous amount of respect: I trust you will fulfill your responsibilities, albeit it not in a typical 9-5 manner, and I understand where you are," she wrote for Legacy Business Cultures. "That's a powerful message to send an employee."