Testing the flex: what is the real future of flexible living and remote work?

What remote work looks like in the new world - Zoom, Webex and Teams collaboration

I feel there’s a perception that remote work or flexible working arrangements are only valuable for parents or carers. But, the truth is that many groups of people value flexibility and the freedom that comes with it.

I’m not what you’d call a ‘typical’ candidate who ‘needs’ flexibility, but here, I’d like to share why flexible and remote work arrangements are now so important to me. I’m willing to bet, some of you will relate.

Also, within this piece I explore the future of remote and flex work. How close are we really to being able to easily base ourselves anywhere in the world to work? Find out what global companies are doing about this now 👇🏻

As we mark International Women’s Day, it’s come to light that a hot talking point in 2022 is ‘flexibility’. Adjusted start/finish times, or a working from home day, were once considered a ‘luxury’ or a ‘favour’.

Since COVID, flexible arrangements are now ‘normal’, if not expected in roles where it’s possible to work remotely.

Working from home and flexible work is for everyone - read on to find out why

Flexing my professional options

For over ten years now, I’ve tested flexible and remote working models in several roles.

At my last workplace I was an early adopter of a compressed work week trial (four days, 10 hours each).

I was granted approval to work a compressed work week, so I could have an extra day in the week to pursue other personal and professional interests. These pastimes had the potential to enhance my productivity in the workplace.   

I’ve enjoyed the privilege of working for open-minded employers who were happy to grant ad hoc working from home days.

This has enabled me to strive for better work-life balance and to take care of my mental health and wellbeing.

In some of my roles, such as editing magazines like Get it, I supported in establishing fully remote teams. We set up staff around the globe and implemented collaboration tools and ‘keeping in touch’ strategies. Together, we successfully rolled out new publications each month based from our home offices.

A typical work from home or remote work setup

Remote working: how I learnt to see things differently

The early days of my career were forged within traditional 9 to 5 environments. In 2012 though, through attending conferences with other comms and marketing pros, I met people who called themselves ‘digital nomads’.

I was inspired by their “work from anywhere” approach.

Of course, there are caveats to this remote work arrangement. It is imperative to meet deadlines to keep and attract clients, and the quality of your work must be excellent.

I learnt from digital nomads that as an employee, contractor or freelancer working remotely, trust is key. If they were trusted to return high quality work, on time, every time, it didn’t matter to their employers where they were.

I took this insight on board, and firmly believe it to be true to this day.

Remote work arrangements mean we can work where we're inspired

…Then along came COVID

I found it fascinating to watch the media stories ramp up in 2021 around the “flexible and hybrid working revolution”.

COVID forced businesses to change tack, but I’ve known these arrangements to be alive and well for many years.

Forward-thinking companies have operated like this for years, with people based everywhere from Prague to Bali to Medellin.

These employers know the secret. Keep your best workers engaged by empowering them to feel inspired an energised.

One of the few silver linings out of COVID is that more businesses appreciate the value of implementing flexible work arrangements. Or, in the very least, they’re now open to the conversation.

Remote and flex working is multitasking and managing multiple stakeholders: trust is imperative

To flex or not to flex? That seems to be the question

While it must be obvious that I’m an advocate for flex, it would be remiss to ignore the downsides.

For anyone ‘forced’ into a working from home situation, they face very real risks. These include experiencing loneliness and loss of motivation.

Having the choice however, I find that scheduling a regular work from home day(s) enhances my wellbeing.

I know that ‘balance’ works best for me, here’s why: over the past year and a half I’ve been making my mark with a new employer (my current employer). If I had not had the opportunity to meet and work with colleagues, leaders, and stakeholders in person, and to develop the working relationships that I enjoy today, I would have possibly missed out on several significant points of recognition and opportunity.

I understand this is what Australia’s Productivity Commissioner Peter Achterstraat was alluding to in media statements earlier this month.

He was quoted as saying that “working from home is bad for your career”.

I don’t believe his argument extends so far that it supports us reverting to old fashioned ways of working.

However, there is something to be said for ensuring you balance traditional and contemporary approaches. This is especially true if you’re new to an organisation or your valuable networks have diminished.

Remote work city living: work from anywhere

Demand for flexible living and working

Recently, Airbnb has seen a serious spike in the number of guests booking stays of 90 days or longer. Over 100,000, in fact, between September 2020 to September 2021. Many of these bookings were specifically for ‘work friendly’ accommodation.

At the beginning of February, Airbnb published some interesting insights about ‘flexible living policies’.

👉🏻Businesses get creative with flexible living policies as remote work becomes more permanent.

Amazon was featured supporting the rise of ‘flexible living and working’. The company actively empowers corporate employees to choose working arrangements that best fit with their lifestyle.

Salesforce too, were highlighted for the introduction of their ‘Success from Anywhere’ policy. The initiative enables staff to choose where, when and how they work, and supports safe meetups with colleagues whenever possible. Just this week, Reuters reported that Salesforce is enjoying “upbeat results on hybrid work boost”.

The article goes on to share that global communications agency Weber Shandwick has also announced a permanent hybrid model. Their policy allows staff to work remotely for one month a year, whether from home or a new location.

And tech company, Paddle, through their ‘Navigate’ program, allows every employee to work from anywhere for six weeks per year. They even give their team members US$340 each to cover Airbnb costs for their remote work experience.

Remote work predictions, in summary:

“What was a temporary solution to the onset of the pandemic has become a permanent reality for millions of professionals. It’s the ability and desire to live and work from anywhere.

Survey after survey shows employees’ desire for workplace flexibility even after the pandemic recedes. A 7,500-consumer survey we commissioned across five countries found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of all respondents have come to expect more flexibility from their employers – and employers around the world are taking note.”

Remote work and lifestyle balance: what the future of 'liquid borders' might feel like

A future of ‘liquid borders’ and a global workforce

According to Relocate.World, we’re headed towards a future with “liquid borders”.

They say, “as skills gain mobility, so do those who possess them”.

Two facts:

  1. The European Commission has published research that found over 18% of global roles can be performed remotely.
  2. Labour and skills shortages and an ageing population means the current active workforce will shrink by 50 million in the next 30 years.

Higher demand for the right people will inevitably mean those people will want the work on their terms. We’re already seeing this trend, as mentioned above via insight from Airbnb.

Putting the ‘flex’ in flexible

It’s exciting, all this talk of a flex work revolution.

I don’t have children, but I appreciate that flexible working arrangements make parents’ lives so much better. Similarly, those caring for ageing family members (and often kids too) need flexibility. It’s a game-changer.

For me, I value flexibility as it enables me to work in environments where I’m motivated and inspired. This isn’t a pipedream, it’s absolutely possible.

The key term for me in all of this really is ‘flexible’.

One size does not fit all.

Whatever ‘flex’ might look like for you, I’ll bet that you feel a sense of freedom because of it.

It goes to show that freedom (and associated balance, wellbeing and ease) is attainable. If we can continue to design our lives and working arrangements to benefit all involved (ourselves and our employers), then I see that flexibility is, happily, the future.

3 Fantastic Internal Communication Podcasts

3 Fantastic Internal Communication Podcasts to listen to now

I can’t believe how many internal communication podcasts there are now! It’s fantastic to see (or hear, as the case may be).

A few years ago it was difficult to dig up a wealth of knowledge on this almost unknown communications field. But, with COVID came some serious evidence to support the value internal comms practitioners provide in advising on comms in a crises, and keeping teams connected.

The benefits of internal communication podcasts

I cut my teeth in the world of internal comms when I lived and worked in London. Living in that wonderful city, I had the chance to learn from the best comms practitioners in the business. I learnt how to turn good comms into great comms, and I did this both in the workplace and by attending conferences and events with peers. I absolutely loved soaking up that knowledge.

But, COVID hit along with an illness in my immediate family, and so we had to return to Australia. Borders shut, and that was that.

One of the biggest losses to me, not living in ‘the centre of it all’, was that chance to learn and to become better at what I do. I relish in discovering new ways of working, creating and helping others thrive and grow at the same time.

What’s filled that void?

The discovery of some wonderful, informative and enlightening internal communication podcasts has done the trick!

3 Fantastic Internal Communication Podcasts

Where to start?

I’m going to be honest: I am time poor. But many of you are too. I know there’s dozens of awesome podcasts out there. I want to listen to all of them, but I simply do not have time. If you’re up for exploring more than my top 3, go for it 🙂

This Top 22 of 2022 Internal Comms Podcasts list by Staffbase is comprehensive. I’ll certainly revisit it.

Contact Monkey has also developed a terrific list of podcasts that features content about internal communication as well as HR, Marketing and PR comms topics.

It’s brilliant to see so much out there. But I can only consume so much. If you’re like me, maybe you’d like to dip your toes in here 👇🏻

My top 3 Internal Communication podcasts

Candid Comms

I listen to Candid Comms on Spotify. It’s hosted by IC superstar Rachel Miller of All Things IC. She has a fantastic reputation in the industry. I love her episodes because they break topical subjects down into bite-sized chunks of 20 to 30 minutes. Rachel gives listeners one thing to know, one thing to do, and one thing to think about. Achievable and actionable.

Listen to Candid Comms

Engaging Internal Comms

Craig Smith hosts this informative podcast and like Rachel, he covers subjects that matter to us now. I listen to this one on Apple Podcasts. The format of this podcast is interview style, with episodes generally ranging from 30 to 60 minutes. Through his conversations with experts in the field, Craig shares great case studies with the listener. It’s terrific to hear ideas and insight from others working in the IC field, and helpful to think about how you might adapt their solutions to your own unique comms challenges.

Listen to Engaging Internal Comms

Calm Edged Rebels

Another one that I listen to on Spotify. This nicely produced podcast is conversation based between three IC industry experts, Jenni Field, Trudy Lewis and Advita Patel. They touch on typical issues we face in the profession, and bring differing views to the table for our consideration. Episodes range from around 45 minutes to an hour.

Listen to Calm Edged Rebels

Do you have a favourite, whether it be a podcast dedicated to internal comms or knowledge sharing more general communications best practice? Do share – let me know in the comments below.