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  • By: Jinnie Nguyen
  • Feb 14, 2022

Why the Future of Work Is Hybrid, Flexible and Balanced

As more economies and industries start to emerge from the pandemic, it is clear that businesses can no longer go back to how things were. This shift is especially true when it comes to the way employers think about the workplace, as safety and flexibility become increasingly important factors in attracting and retaining talent.


Indeed, according to Google Workspace’s 2021 survey, over 75% of respondents believed that hybrid or flexible work arrangements will be the standard practice within their organizations in the coming three years.


Such changes have already started happening at Lazada, which will be implementing its Flexible Work Arrangement program this year for employees, becoming the first eCommerce company and major tech player in Southeast Asia to officially adopt a hybrid work policy.


The future of work is here, said Lillian Jiang, Lazada’s chief people officer. “We recognize our employees’ needs in managing family and personal responsibilities, hence we created a Flexible Work Arrangement program to empower our employees.  More importantly, we want to promote a culture that is based on trust and focuses on performance-driven outcomes.”


Find the Right Flexible Fit

Hybrid working is not a one-size-fits-all solution for all industries, said Na Boon Chong, advisory partner for human capital solutions at Aon.


“Businesses need to consider implementing hybrid work models as a strategic move as opposed to a temporary reaction to health risks or cost-cutting needs. Leaders should be thinking systematically about these questions: What does the future of work look like for our business? What are the biggest opportunities and stumbling blocks? What principles should we develop?” Na added.


He explained that underlying a successful hybrid work arrangement is a new balance between allowing flexibility for employees and meeting collective organizational needs. Businesses with a global presence should also be mindful of different cultural norms, lifestyle habits and circumstances across their different offices and must work closely with their local teams to ensure that any program implemented is inclusive and allows for necessary adjustments. As such, every organization needs to find its own balance and learn and adjust along the way, which involves redefining the employment relationship so that it makes sense to the business and its employees, Na said.


Lazada’s Flexible Work Arrangement was planned carefully with long-term business performance and employees’ wellbeing in mind, said Kornkamol Tantinam, the workplace wellbeing group lead at Lazada. For example, the policy allows employees to work from home for up to two days a week – a number that was decided upon as it provides staff with the needed flexibility while also ensuring business needs are met to achieve organizational goals.


The program also strikes a balance between remote work and in-person engagement by encouraging all teams to meet at least once per week in person. “Regular in-person engagement facilitates bonding and trust between teammates, including new joiners, and as we say in Lazada, trust makes everything simple,” said Tantinam.


At the same time, for businesses with a global presence, they must also work closely with their local counterparts to ensure that any program implemented is inclusive and allows for flexible adjustments. It is more important for global organizations to have a common set of principles and framework, while leaving specific decisions at the implementation level to local management who needs to be mindful of cultural norms, lifestyle and more, according to Na.


Considering the needs of the different markets the company operates in, the FWA program was developed so that local business leaders and human-resource partners can change and implement details based on local country guidelines, government regulations and how the pandemic develops in each country.


Working Together for a Hybrid New Normal

Part of the necessary steps to take before the rollout of any hybrid work model is to establish new purposes for the physical workplace, focusing on intentional collaboration and ensuring that the office architecture facilitates talent mobility and management of remote employees, said Na.


A successful hybrid working arrangement must also be supported by a robust digital infrastructure, which is the bedrock for effective communication among teams in the hybrid-work era. All staff should have access to collaborative communication tools and be able to set the cadence for meetings, be they virtual or in person.

The hybrid work model is the key to driving results in the future of work. By having clear guidelines and policies around new working models to support strategic business objectives while ensuring that their employees’ wellbeing is taken into consideration, organizations can build resilience into their operations for long-term and sustainable success.

Lazada headquarters, Lazada One, was designed by M Moser Associates, Singapore. Photography is by Owen Raggett.

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