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The Best Ways to Build a Flexible Office

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Over the last several months, we’ve all been dealing with unprecedented adjustments to our businesses and our lives as a result of the coronavirus. Now, as states pull back from stringent stay-at-home orders, the next new challenge is around the corner.

The issue for advisory firm owner is if they should bring everyone back to the office, and if so, how they should do it.

To decide, owners need to be sensitive to new social norms. They also need to be flexible with employees who may have new preferences.

There are three choices to consider when it comes to the next steps of what to do with your business in this pandemic:

  • Reopen and try to make your business as it was before,
  • Work remotely as you are now and continue to stay remote, or
  • Apply a hybrid approach to reopening and working remotely.

A New Culture

To make the best choice for your firm, it’s important to be intentional about the individual issues of each employee.

While you may want to get everyone back to the office, there may be some employees who lack child care help and/or who still have major safety concerns. Each will have his or her own preferences, and these feelings must be considered.

The right approach is the one that makes sense for all your staff, not just yourself.

To be effective at reopening your office, we are encouraging firms to slow down and really consider a new type of firm culture. Now is a great opportunity to expand your working environment into a culture that allows staff to have more choices than ever before.

This means you can create a “freedom-based” culture. More freeing cultures, with more choices for employees, can create a more productive and happier workforce. In other words, what if every employee had the freedom to choose where they worked?

Applying a hybrid approach to your firm culture creates flexibility for all staff, so why not create this type of working environment in the COVID-19 context?

A hybrid and more flexible culture is centered around your company’s core values and employee programs that create a culture of freedom, with boundaries. The key word here is boundaries.

Main Question to Ask

To create good boundaries in more freeing cultures, firms need to start by asking two questions:

  • How often do our teams need to be in the same location? In other words, how many days are employees required to be in the office each month/year vs. how many days can you work virtually?
  • Where are teams allowed to work? In a regulated industry and in an environment where you are serving clients, working in a coffee shop probably isn’t acceptable for most financial advisors. Where can and can’t you work?

Other questions will arise about how to build more virtual and free cultures. The goal should be to figure out what “freedom” really means to your firm and what works best for it.

Having helped many advisory firms build virtual cultures, I can tell you these free cultures are the most productive.

But they also can be the least productive, if they don’t include a set of boundaries to guide employees about what is and is not allowed. Your first goal should be to understand and clearly map out your policies.

If done well, your employees will have more options coming out of these unprecedented times.