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How Providing Hybrid Work Flexibility Can Help Companies Outcompete in the Market

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It took a pandemic to revolutionize the way that companies work. Companies’ forced adoption of remote work over the past two years has revealed that physical presence is largely an anachronism. With video conferencing, digital workspaces, and other tools, employees can login anywhere in the world and get their work done. And they can do so without experiencing grinding commutes; arctic office air conditioning; and stress when personal commitments, such as caring for sick children or appointments, intrude on work time.

Now, many companies want to bring employees back to the office. CEOs cite the need to collaborate and innovate in person. Meanwhile, CFOs fret about the huge capital and operational costs of maintaining unused space. Globally, 12 percent of offices are vacant, while in the U.S., multiple cities have office vacancy rates of 25 percent or greater.

Companies’ attempts to force a full return to the office has been thwarted by the continuing pandemic, as well as employee resistance. As a result, many companies have backtracked. A typical hybrid model these days involves requiring staff to come to the office one to three days a week for meetings and collaboration, while enabling employees to stay at home to do deep work.

Build a Happy Hybrid Workforce by Offering Extreme Flexibility

Here’s a radical proposition: Why not give employees the flexibility and power to make the work location and time decisions that are best for them? For decades, workers have had to subsume their personal lives and family needs to work and commuting, which has created undue hardships for many. Now, with hours back in their day, employees get to balance work and personal goals, with the opportunity to outperform at both.

At Cubic Transportation Systems (CTS), a business division of Cubic Corporation, we are providing employees with greater work flexibility. Some 60 percent of our staff are eligible for remote work, because of the roles they have, such as marketing and sales, finance, IT, and more. These staff can opt to stay fully remote, design their own hybrid work model, or return to work in our offices full-time. And they can also pick their own hours, as long as they work several hours during the “core” workday, so that they can brainstorm and collaborate with peers. As a result, our employees have incredible control over how and when they work

So, why is CTS pushing its work flexibility – and what do we expect to gain from this move? Our leaders believe that our company and staff will benefit multiple ways with work freedom:

  1. Demonstrating trust and care for all employees: As we’ve talked with our staff, we’ve heard a wide array of stories of how they’ve navigated through the pandemic, some with great difficulty. Over and over, we’ve heard that employees value the ability to engineer each and every day to make the best decisions for themselves, their jobs, and their families.
    And when employees have this trust, they’re productive and innovative. Despite navigating changing responsibilities, U.S. employees in a work-from-home study self-reported increasing productivity by seven percent.

    We’ve seen this to be true at our company. On January 26, 2021, CTS and Cubic officially launched Cubic Umo, an ambitious project to develop an urban mobility platform. This represented the culmination of many years of hard work, including the first year of the pandemic. Cross-functional teams created a seamless experience for consumers, signed on new partners, designed inclusive features, and rolled out the service to new markets – all while working remotely. And when Cubic Umo won Mobile App Innovation of the Year, it proved that our staff could be just as innovative apart as together.
     
  2. Creating a diverse workplace where all can flourish: It’s no surprise that the pandemic’s effects have been unequally borne. A McKinsey study found that diverse individuals, including women, LGBTQ+ employees, people of color, as well as working parents, have suffered more than others. Three examples help paint this picture. In September 2020, only 53 percent of the U.S. adult Black population was employed vis a vis 57 percent of their white peers, and 39 percent of their jobs were vulnerable, compared to 34 percent of white workers. Meanwhile, U.S. mothers reduced their work hours four to five times more than fathers to take on higher childcare, homeschooling, and household responsibilities. And for single mothers and fathers, of course, leaving the workforce typically wasn’t an option. As a result, these individuals managed extended days for months on end, experiencing acute stress as support systems frayed or disappeared.

    At CTS, we hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. However, what it has revealed is that diversity isn’t just about demographics. It’s about how we live our lives every day. By providing employees with flexibility in where they work, we hope to appeal to a wider range of workers. Remote work is a boon to working and single parents, the immunocompromised, individuals with sensory disorders – and the list goes on. Providing staff with more work options is a logical step in our journey to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce.

    Our parent company, Cubic Corporation, has been honored to receive a score of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index, achieve a score of 100 on the 2021 Disability Equality Index®, and be designated a Military Friendly ® Employer and Brand. However, like all organizations, we’re a work in progress and are always looking for ways to make our company a welcoming, respectful culture where all can flourish and build the careers they want. We believe that flexible work can help us attract more diverse talent who can help us innovate a new era of mobility.
     
  3. Leveraging a thriving culture to achieve business outcomes: It seems logical that pivoting away from monitoring office attendance to focusing on business outcomes should drive profitability and make employees happier. After all, as leaders, we should care more about results than vanity metrics. That’s why we respectfully disagree with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who says he doesn’t “see any positives” to working from home, and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who says it “doesn’t work for people who want to hustle, doesn’t work for culture, doesn’t work for idea generation.”

    Regardless of what leaders think, the people have spoken. A recent survey found that 68 percent of U.S. employees prefer remote work to returning to the office, and 45 percent would quit or search for a new job if this option was taken away. The multi-million monthly quit rates during the Great Resignation thus likely include many individuals who, told they must return to the office, are now voting with their feet.

    We believe that providing employees with voice and choice in how they work will help CTS create a great culture that attracts top talent, improves employee engagement, and increases workforce retention.


Since we’re competing for top talent against other technology firms, our culture could easily be the deciding factor for new hires. We certainly hope so. How amazing would it be to woo and win exceptionally talented individuals away from other industries – new hires who have great ideas and skills, but don’t want to be monitored at offices like grade school children? Similarly, we’d love to keep staff because they know that they can build the best career -- and design the best work-life model at CTS.

Conclusion
Organizations are experimenting with different hybrid work models, and many of these efforts are positive. However, it will be tempting for the C-suite and HR to mandate processes with this shift, such as requiring that staff work specific days in offices.

We believe there’s a better way: trust your employees and free them to do great work. At CTS, we’re busy optimizing urban traffic flows, integrating mobility options, and delivering easy-to-use tools that simplify travel planning. By so doing, our employees help improve usage of public transportation, reduce pollution and congestion, and make our cities great places to live.

So, if you’re working for an employer that doesn’t offer flexible work and a mission that matters, we say: Come join us. You’ll get to make a positive difference in people’s lives every single day, as you work with freedom and purpose.

Learn more about Cubic careers.




Edited by Maurice Nagle
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