Recently we launched a campaign on creating flexible work options here at Novo Nordisk. And we’re really proud of that fact. But when I tell HR colleagues from other companies about this, they look at me a bit perplexed. It's true that this approach isn’t "new" and was a very "hot" trend in the early 2000s. Now we’ve seen companies like Yahoo, Best Buy, IBM, Reddit and others pull back from offering work flexibility to their employees. Does that mean we’re at the wrong end of this trend? More importantly, why do we think we need to focus on this?
To answer that, let me quickly define flexible work options for employees at our U.S. headquarters. For Novo Nordisk, these include:
The rationale and benefits of this are obvious. We’re seeing the growth of the remote worker – this work force grew by nearly 80 percent between 2005 and 2012. Commutes are getting longer, and we’ve seen technology enable us to collaborate effectively even when we’re not in the same space.
And, business has taken a different view on flexible work options. When I look back at the flexible work options that rolled out in the early 2000s, it’s clear that organizations were using them as a lever to save space, and ultimately money. This was at a time when companies were looking at low-hanging fruit to get at the cost savings shareholders were putting so much pressure on. I think where a lot of these companies may have missed the mark is their focus on creating the infrastructure to support flexibility but not so much the processes that sustain productivity and engagement.
We believe such workforce efforts must be based on an organizational need that goes beyond a short-term desire to cut costs. As a result, we’ve enhanced our flexible work options as part of a comprehensive workforce plan that considers the longer term.
So why now? It’s simple:
Most importantly, we found that it’s happening anyway: I would be hard pressed to find anyone here who doesn’t use some sort of flexibility in their work, whether it’s a compressed week, remote work, or flexing their start/end times. For example, we have someone in one of our non-commercial functions who prefers to work in the office because he feels more productive here. However, he’s often flexing his hours as it allows him to accomplish more work in the evening hours when it tends to be quiet around the building.
As the person accountable for attracting and retaining top talent, I don’t want a barrier to be location or office hours, both of which are increasingly irrelevant in a digital world. So, yes, we might be late to the party for flexible work options... but we are just in time for what our people and our company need moving forward.