- To compete for top talent, companies are inflating their dedication to remote work, luring in workers with false promises of autonomy and work-life balance, a practice called “flex-washing.”
- The 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index found flexibility ranks among the top benefits employees value.
- There are six topics companies can cover during the interview process to prove to recruits that they’re the real deal and not just paying lip-service to flexibility.
People want flexibility, and they’re not afraid to make a change to get it. The latest People at Work report from ADP found that 64% of employees would look for a new position if they were forced back to full-time office life.
Unfortunately, this demand for flexibility has given rise to a new term: “Flex-washing.” To compete for top talent during the Great Reshuffle, companies are inflating their dedication to remote work, luring in workers with false promises of autonomy and work-life balance.
Many organizations are guilty of not fully embracing flexibility. Despite evidence that giving employees freedom to choose when and where they work leads to increased productivity, motivation, well-being, trust, and inclusion, only 20% of employees globally say they have true autonomy.
With high competition for talent, people can afford to be picky about their next opportunity. The 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index found flexibility ranks among the top benefits employees value, so being able to demonstrate dedication to remote work and remote workers may be the determining factor for landing a new hire.
To prove to recruits that you’re the real deal and not just paying lip-service to flexibility, cover the following topics during the interview process:
C-suite buy-in to remote work. The biggest red flag for flex-washing is if the company’s leaders mostly work in the office and don’t take advantage of the flexibility they claim to offer their workforce.
Talk about why your company has embraced remote or hybrid work and the benefits you’ve seen since making the switch. Offer proof points on leadership support to assure recruits there’s no risk of a sudden switch back to full-time office life. Do your top leaders take advantage of the flexibility? Do they regularly work from home and trust people to do their work?
Your remote work policies. Unlike organizations guilty of “flex-washing,” companies that truly support remote work have an intentional, detailed remote work strategy — they’re not just winging it.
Clue recruits into your company’s approach, covering topics such as the organization’s definition of flexibility, stipends for optimizing their home office, rules around when they need to be at their desk or in the office (hopefully, there are very few!), and how remote workers are evaluated and promoted. You want to make it clear that your company has thought through all the complexities of remote work and has an approach that aligns with true flexibility and autonomy.
Pathways to promotions for remote workers. The worst scenario for a worker who wants true flexibility: landing at a company that evaluates people based on visibility, with proximity bias leading to promotions only for those who choose to regularly work from the office. This is an all-too-common concern: Jabra’s Hybrid Ways of Working 2022 Global Report found that 55% of employees are concerned about the career implications if they fail to make regular appearances at the office.
To prove this isn’t the case at your organization, talk about how remote workers are evaluated and promoted and whether you have a strategy for ensuring proximity bias doesn’t come into play.
What a typical day looks like for your remote workforce. The difference between true flexibility and “flex-washing” is autonomy. Companies that are serious about remote work have mastered asynchronous collaboration and don’t shackle employees to their desks for designated hours or for endless virtual meetings.
To demonstrate your company’s skill level at asynchronous work, describe a typical day for your remote workers. Do people block out “deep thinking” time on their calendars? Do they regularly take breaks throughout the day to refresh and recharge? Are people empowered to design their day to align with when they do their best work or around other life responsibilities, such as coaching kids’ sports teams or caretaking for an elderly parent? What collaboration tool does your company use to allow people to have this autonomy?
How remote workers are integrated into the team and company culture. Companies that are skilled at remote work have mechanisms for ensuring their remote workers feel truly part of the larger team and company mission — they’re not just out of sight, out of mind. Talk about how your teams develop relationships and remain connected, even if they rarely meet in person.
At my company, Centric Consulting, for instance, it’s company policy to spend the first few minutes of every virtual meeting connecting on a human level. This helps our remote workers get to know one another better and signals that our culture places a high value on developing trusting relationships. We also are very intentional about our in-person gatherings — while infrequent, these are designed to deepen relationships formed virtually, help employees expand their network at the company, and get them excited about being part of the organization.
How employees use your office space. Companies that have fully embraced the new normal of remote work probably aren’t using their office space in the same way they were in early 2020. If you have an office, talk to recruits about the role it plays for workers. How often do people go in? Do they have a choice on when to make an appearance? When they’re there, what kind of work are they typically doing? Are there any plans to redesign the space to better align with how employees now use it?
Talented employees everywhere are seeking jobs that align with their desires for flexibility and work-life balance. Companies that can demonstrate to recruits that they’re dedicated to flexibility, have frameworks for career advancement for remote workers, and have successfully transitioned their in-office culture to the online world are more likely to land top talent.
Larry English is a remote work expert and author of Office Optional: How to Build a Connected Culture With Virtual Teams, a roadmap to virtual work success. The book draws on his insights as cofounder and president of Centric Consulting, an award-winning business and technology consulting firm that has been virtual-first since its founding more than two decades ago.