What Are the “Non-Negotiables” of Your Future Workplace Strategy?

Helena Sampayo
Helena Sampayo|

Businesses worldwide are working hard to determine their future workplace strategies. But at Hubble, we understand that this can be challenging. So, we’ve started a video series to help organisations figure out their future plans for returning to work.

This week, we’re talking about the “non-negotiables”. 

What does that mean…? At Hubble, we believe that clarity and balance are essential when figuring out your future workplace strategy. So in our latest video, Tushar Agarwal, CEO and Co-Founder at Hubble, outlines the expectations that employers should set in their hybrid workplace policies—the non-negotiables—so that you can avoid confusion and boost team morale and productivity.

You can watch the full video at the link below:

Prefer to read? No problem. Here’s your writeup:

Today, let’s talk about setting “non-negotiables” and expectations as part of your hybrid working policy. What we mean by that is the expectations you’ll set, as an employer, around how much flexibility your employees can have when they work. 

This is something we come across a lot. It’s also a topic we write extensively about in our Back to the Future (Of Work) Guide, which you can download at the link below: 

As an employer, talking about non-negotiables is crucial—and this is because we’re seeing companies make these two key mistakes:

The first is that companies are too draconian, too top-down in issuing a back-to-work order. We’re starting to see some companies requiring employees to return to the office, nine-to-five, Monday to Friday, once the pandemic is over. But many employees aren’t too happy about that, because they value flexible working. 

The other mistake we’re seeing is on the other side of the spectrum—and this is that some employers aren’t thinking about it enough. As a result, chaos and confusion ensues about how and where people will work after things start to open back up. 

And it’s the best companies, pioneers and clients of ours like Oddbox, that are getting ahead of this. They’re creating constraints and guidelines around how and where employees can and cannot work—and Spotify is an exciting example.

Spotify has 6,500 people based worldwide, and they’ve come out and said they’ll have a “work-from-anywhere” policy. But the non-negotiable is that you must decide what that means with your direct manager. And as Spotify works in autonomous cross-functional teams, this decision is super relevant. 

They’re essentially saying; as long as your team can work in the right way, we don’t care where you work—as long as you guys decide together. 

So, without further ado, let’s get into the non-negotiables you should set in your future workplace strategy: 

Non-negotiable #1: Set days in the office

There are three themes of non-negotiables that we’re starting to see at the moment; the first is days in the office. So, if you expect your team to be in the office—and this decision is compulsory because of culture or communication—then it’s important to set that expectation upfront. 

Doing this shouldn’t be a problem, as long as it’s not particularly onerous and it gives people flexibility. The other thing employers should be thinking about is what happens when employees are expected to be in the office.

As long as there’s a good reason why the expectation is there, people will generally be happy to follow suit.

Non-negotiable #2: Determine your locations

The second non-negotiable is about location. So, you may ask yourself whether you expect your team to continue living within commuting distance to the HQ, or whether you give them access to on-demand workspace. Not only does this allow them to decide where and when they work, but it also means they may only have to come into the office once a month, or even once a quarter.

Non-negotiable #3: Set expectations for activities and roles

The third tip is around activities and roles. So, if you have some client-facing employees, it’s important as an employer to be clear on whether you expect them to meet clients in person or if you’re happy for them to contact them remotely. 

For some employees, this may be obvious. But for others, you may have to set that as an expectation, because it may have a big commercial impact on your ability to win clients. 

Employers should also determine what you expect to happen in person and what you’re happy to have employees do remotely. Some companies who are especially creative may say that creative brainstorms or creative activity must happen in-person—whether in the office or an on-demand location. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re there physically, together. 

On the other hand, some companies may say it’s perfectly fine to have hybrid meetings, as long as the tech and software works, and will have hybrid-specific Zoom rooms where these sorts of meetings will take place.

Key Takeaways

So, setting these sorts of expectations and non-negotiable elements are really, really important. It’s these guardrails around where and when your employees work that’ll give them some element of freedom and certainty of flexibility—rather than receiving them as draconian. And actually, they’ll appreciate how open that dialogue is with their employees themselves.

If you’d like to learn more about setting expectations, we’ve put together an eight-step Back to The Future of Work Checklist, where we discuss everything you need to consider to ensure a smooth and seamless transition into the new world of work. 

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