This week is National Telework Week (NTW) – a designated week to draw awareness to the benefits to both organisations and employees, in embracing flexible working and, more specifically, working from home.

Microsoft is proud to be a partner in the inaugural NTW because flexible working is part of our DNA.

At Microsoft, we uphold the belief that “work is something that you do, not a place that you go to”. We trust our people to do great work, hold them accountable for the outcomes of their roles and empower them to select the most suitable location in which to achieve this – whether that is from home, in the office or on the go.

Therefore, working flexibly is the norm and there are no set rules.  People will choose the arrangement that suits them and the work they are doing. We believe our staff get up every day with the intention of being their best.  It’s this attitude that allows our employees to choose the environment that lets them do their best work wherever they are. By doing so, it has enabled us to attract and retain really great people. Overall we’ve seen employee engagement rise as well as higher levels of teamwork and collaboration. 

There are three core ingredients to the Microsoft story of flexible work – enabling technology, a deliberate leader-led culture  and design of the physical workplace.

Technology has always been fundamental because of who we are.  A computer and a smart phone together with easy-to-use collaboration software allows seamless interaction and so long as employees deliver on the outcomes of their jobs and uphold our shared values and standards of conduct, work can be done from anywhere there is a broadband connection.  This will only be enhanced by the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Getting the culture right is critical.  Our motivation was to ensure we could sustain a competitive advantage in a changing world.  We determined that organisational capability is less about skill and knowledge and more about attitude and agility to change. The key to getting the right culture is having great leadership.  Our managers apply genuine trust and believe people aspire to do their best – managers empower their team members and in turn individuals hold themselves accountable for doing the right things and doing them well. This challenges the historical paradigm around the when, how and where of work.

People having the autonomy to work when, where andhow they need to execute on the requirements of their role, has required an evolution to our management styles. Managers now operate as if their team is remote, irrespective of whether they are all “based” in the same location – this requires them to think differently about teaming, communication, and recognition. But this is no different to a great manager managing people in different locations or countries.

The physical workplace is the third component.  It made sense for us to adopt an activity-based work style.  The office fit-out has encouraged agility and productivity breaking down some of the unnecessary boundaries or silo’s that can otherwise exist in an organisation and we’re seeing people coming together in new and innovative ways.  The physical workplace coupled with our high engagement culture plus our enabling technology is the key to our success.  It has also enabled us to reduce our floor plan by nearly 25% and allows us to continue growing without having to move to a new building.

Our practices around things such as recognition have also evolved – for example, when no one has an assigned office or desk, things like trophies, plagues and physical awards for recognition have less value. Instead we have created an  application called “SPLASH!” which operates within our local company intranet across our Windows phones, laptops or office TV screens to share peer to peer tributes and comments of appreciation. Other team members can “like” it or “comment” on it, just as they would in other social media forums. This is just one example of how we have brought innovation and new thinking to enhance our fully flexible work environment.  

Melissa Dewick (employee) says, “I get huge lifestyle benefits from being able to work from home. My work - life balance is in check which I think in today’s world is something that not a lot of people can say. You are actually just as engaged in the work of the team and can communicate with people in real time, just as you would in the office- all enabled by the great technology and empowering work culture at Microsoft.”