Flex Work as the Norm
These are ‘Process’ & ‘Framing’ Inclusion Nudges. You can learn more on pages 120-123 in the Inclusion Nudges Guidebook.
Flexible working is often seen as the exception to the norm and as a benefit or arrangement for just some employees (i.e. women with children). As a result, managers often regard it as a cost and burden, while many employees fear asking for it. A bias prevails that ‘successful employees’ work traditional ways (the norm), and the ‘less committed’ work using flexible models. Yet, research & results show many benefits on productivity, engagement, well-being, and talent attraction when flexible work arrangements are widely available in organisations.
How These Inclusion Nudges Work
PROCESS INCLUSION NUDGE: For organizations to reap the benefits of flex work, they need to make flex work the default and the norm for all employees and not just for a few. To do this, change the default to all roles may be worked in a flexible manner. Make the organisation’s flex work model that all positions are flexible. Working flexibly becomes ‘the norm’. Not working flexibly becomes ‘the exception’. For any roles that are deemed not suitable for flexible working, then the manager has to argue why not and ‘opt out’ of the norm and the standard approach for work. Now, it’s not the employee having to argue to get ‘flex work arrangement’ (as an exemption, as a minority, as an outlier).
FRAMING INCLUSION NUDGE: To support this ‘Process’ Inclusion Nudge, make sure to communicate about the organisation’s commitment for flexible working models in job descriptions, performance reviews, manager communications, etc. Showcase role models (across a wide profile of people & all levels) who are successfully working flexibly and tie this default way of working to achieving the organisation’s strategic goals. Some organisations use phrases like:
‘Flex Work for All’
‘All Roles Flex’
‘Agile Work Models = A More Agile Successful Organisation’
Why it Works: Behavioural Insights
While many organisation say they support flexible working and offer reasons why it’s a good thing, the frequently missing step is to carry this further by de-biasing their processes on working models and making it the norm.
These Inclusion Nudges ensure a shift to a new normal of flexible working for many. They disrupt the status quo on work which no longer fits in today’s workplace and marketplace, and also doesn’t fit for many people. By shifting the process & perspectives on how work gets done, we can interrupt unexamined biases on ‘who is a top talent’, ‘who is a leader’, ‘who is committed’, etc. These biases present real career penalties to those who go against the status quo / the norm, and it limits the talent pool especially for senior levels.
Also, in a workplace where flex work is not the norm, it can be a career risk to have to ask to receive this. This holds many people back from achieving their optimal performance. By making flex work the norm, the ‘burden’ is shifted to the manager / HR to make the decision on opting the role out of the newly established standard operating approach of all roles flex. It removes any potential stigma from the employee having to ask to receive this.
Weekly Inclusion Nudges by Tinna C. Nielsen and Lisa Kepinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on a work at inclusion-nudges.org.