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Beyond the four walls: Four steps to build a flex work culture

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Canadians want choice. This is not only evident in the growth of consumer services like Netflix and Uber, but also in the widespread adoption of flex work and mobility in the workplace. Employees want the ability to design their work day around their personal work style. In fact, a Citrix study found that 19 per cent of employed Canadians would be willing to give up their job for the ability to work remotely up to two days a week.

However, mobility isn't just beneficial for employees. Citrix estimated it has saved between 10 and 15 per cent in facility costs by reducing the seat density at its offices as a result of flex work policies. Not to mention the immeasurable advantages that result from an empowered, happy workforce, with 91 per cent of staff saying the change positively impacted their morale. We've identified four questions corporate decision-makers must ask to successfully establish a flex culture in the workplace.

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What problem are you trying to solve?

New policies can spur a serious transformation in the overall corporate culture of an organization. Before undergoing this culture change, decision-makers must clearly identify what they intend to accomplish through a flex work culture. Do you want to break down departmental silos and increase collaboration? Do you want to redirect resources away from brick-and-mortar offices to support other organizational needs? Do you want to attract and retain new talent? Establishing overall corporate objectives draws a clear path between what you have, and what you want to achieve. Looking at the bigger picture also allows you to evaluate existing company resources that might ease the transition to a flex work culture.

Have you designed a collaborative workspace?

Embracing mobility doesn't mean throwing out desks and shutting down offices. Decision-makers must also consider the alternative working styles of their employees when creating a mobile workforce. Some employees will spend more time working remotely than others and, at times, a team will need face-time to work collaboratively. To account for this, an organization should cut down office space and use the remaining workspaces to create a hybrid work environment. This office space should cater to both employees who prefer open-concept spaces, as well as those who prefer closed-door offices. Open-concept workplaces are especially conducive to creative collaboration and increase social support in a workforce. This way, when employees do stop by the office to collaborate, they're given the means to do their best work.

Do you have the right tools and technology?

An organization that lacks the right tools to establish a flex work culture will inevitably frustrate the process and people involved, causing mid-transition inertia. Adopting the right technology plays a big role in how effective flex policies will be for your organization. It's important for an organization to consider how its workforce will adapt to a paperless environment, host meetings and share files. Duplicating the in-office experience requires secure, enterprise-grade mobility solutions that ensure the seamless delivery of applications and data to any device, while still providing the IT department the ability to have complete control over who and how data is being accessed. Without this, employees will be unable to perform their job adequately and more likely to reject the shift to flex work.

Can you change people's perceptions?

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Changing the employee mindset can be the most challenging barrier in the process of implementing flex work policies. The most effective way of going about this includes using a structured methodology to introduce change into the workforce gradually, one person or department at a time. The implementation strategy should build awareness of the change processes, highlight the benefits of change, educate staff on the tools and technology, and explain how to adapt to the changes. Reinforcement is also an effective technique to ensure the lasting power of a newly created flex work culture. Keep employees in the loop about changes, and reassure their understanding of what's to come. Encourage workplace influencers to become invested in and champion your flex policies. This structured methodology ensures a smooth onboarding process when implementing new policies and mobility technology.

Michael Murphy is VP & country manager, Citrix Canada.

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