Flex Basics
April 8, 2024

Unlocking Flexcess: 3 Key Strategies for Employees to Thrive in a Flexible Work Environment

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Tonille Miller
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In today's rapidly evolving professional landscape, flexible work has shifted from a novel idea to a necessity. With technological advancements and changing attitudes toward work-life balance, organizations have increasingly embraced flexibility as a core component of their operations. In fact, 65% of US companies now offer work location flexibility, a 14% increase from a year ago.

Yet, there’s a big difference between merely adopting remote work policies or flexible schedules and genuinely thriving in a flexible work environment. Success necessitates far more than surface-level implementation; it demands a purposeful and strategic approach prioritizing three critical pillars: connection, development, and sustainable performance.

This article will explore these three pivotal strategies, including practical implementation tips for your organization.

1. Build Connection, Belonging, and Culture Deliberately

First, it’s important to discern the difference between being in person physically and feeling a sense of connection and belonging. It's like the difference between being alone and being lonely. You can be in a room of people and still feel alone if no one ‘sees’ you. Likewise, people located across different locations can feel extremely connected because of how they interact and make each other feel.

Here’s how you can cultivate a strong sense of connection within your team:

Intentionally Bring People Together For Connection
Draw inspiration from Atlassian’s extensive “1000 Days of Remote Work” playbook, which found bringing teams together around three times a year to build connection intentionally led to an average 27% increase in feelings of connection, and this boost lasts four to five months.

Create Shared Experiences, Challenges, and Purposes
Host virtual guest speakers and musical artists, or have the team listen to a podcast, read a book, try a recipe, and then discuss it together. Leverage digital platforms like Imperative to build team connections and trust. Create communities such as employee resource groups (ERGs) and topical Slack channels to create a sense of belonging, ownership, and purpose.

Promote Interdependence Across Teams
To build meaning and empathy across teams, connect the dots for them so they can see how their role/tasks impact others across the organization and broader ecosystem. One of my clients did this by rotating people from Customer Success and Sales teams every three or six months to show how the upfront promises Sales made to customers impacted Customer Success downstream.

2. Focus on Development

Flexible work arrangements have revolutionized the traditional landscape of employee development, offering various opportunities for growth and learning in distributed settings. These arrangements democratize access to developmental resources and reduce associated costs, making professional advancement accessible to all. Here are some impactful approaches to developing employees within flexible work environments:

Learning in the Flow of Work
In distributed settings, where spontaneous interactions are limited, allocating time in and after meetings is crucial to engaging with remote employees. Real-time coaching and feedback, emphasizing frequent, specific, and future-focused insights, are invaluable for immediate knowledge application. Adopting the After Action Review (AAR) model, where meetings conclude with a reflection on what went well, what didn't, and plans for improvement, streamlines this process. Leveraging AI-based platforms such as Poised enhances feedback effectiveness by providing insights into meeting dynamics, ensuring a constructive approach.

Virtual Mentoring
While mentoring has historically been an in-person activity, so has work. Now that we’ve entered the distributed realm, virtual mentoring programs offer distinct advantages that often surpass their in-person counterparts. Unlike conventional mentoring, which relies on physical proximity, virtual mentoring transcends geographical boundaries, fostering convenience and diversity. Virtual platforms facilitate progress tracking and engagement measurement, empowering organizations with valuable data insights for optimizing mentorship programs. By broadening the pool of potential mentors and mitigating unconscious bias in selection, virtual mentoring enriches the learning experience and fosters inclusive professional development in distributed environments.

Virtual Learning Communities
Foster virtual learning communities or interest-based groups where distributed employees with similar interests or career goals can connect, share resources, and collaborate through participation in online forums, discussion boards, or virtual meetups to facilitate peer learning and support.

Leverage Augmented and Virtual Reality
As augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) becomes more mature, companies such as Walmart, Bank of America, and MGM use it to develop their people. Using AR/VR for training distributed employees offers numerous advantages. It ensures consistency across locations and time zones, reduces costs by eliminating in-person sessions and travel expenses, and provides flexibility for learning at one's own pace. The immersive nature of AR/VR enhances engagement and retention, while scalability allows for easy adaptation to a growing or dispersed workforce. Virtual reality simulations offer a risk-free environment for skill practice, and AR/VR platforms provide data-driven insights for performance tracking and personalized training programs.

3. Enable Sustainable High Performance

In today's digital era, where work is predominantly conducted through digital means, even within traditional office spaces, most individuals effectively operate in a distributed manner. While important in any organization, a distributed environment necessitates providing trust, clarity, accurate KPIs, equity, updated technology, and well-being to enable high performance in the long run. Here’s how to implement these practices in your own organization:

Building Trust, Autonomy, and Accountability
Leaders often fear decreased productivity in distributed environments where traditional management methods fall short. However, organizations can tap into untapped potential by empowering individuals to take ownership of their work and make meaningful decisions.

Trust is built through clear communication, transparent expectations, and a focus on results over hours worked. Establishing team agreements and organization-wide communication protocols provides guidance without micromanaging.

Aligning metrics, KPIs, and incentives around outputs and impact rather than hours worked reinforces this trust. Implementing organization-wide objectives and key results (OKRs) empowers teams to decide how to meet goals, promoting an ownership mindset. Tracking performance outcomes, such as sales generated, response times, or speed of development and deployment, offers a more meaningful gauge of success.

Practice Extreme Transparency and Listening
Effective communication and keeping everyone informed, connected, and engaged is essential regardless of whether team members work from home, in the office, or a hybrid setup. Communication and listening mechanisms should orchestrate an ongoing two-way dialogue. Organizations that do this well tend to embrace multimedia formats like podcasts, videos, and interactive forums to ensure the messages reach everyone in a way that resonates with them and enables them to provide feedback.

Leverage Asynchronous Work and Technology
Enhance remote work effectiveness by upgrading collaboration technologies for seamless idea sharing and workflow monitoring. Prioritize features enabling both synchronous (phone calls, videoconferencing) and asynchronous (email, shared documents) communications to keep all employees informed, regardless of location. Reserve synchronous communication for team-building activities. Additionally, explore innovative technologies like augmented and virtual reality for lifelike remote work experiences suitable for meetings, training, and onboarding.

Focus On Equity
It's not uncommon for a gap between on-site and remote workers to lead to feelings of inequality and resentment. It's also important to analyze promotion trends to identify any favoritism toward employees who spend more time in person with managers and supervisors. Additionally, every policy, technology platform, and meeting hygiene should be assessed through the lens of on-site, hybrid, and remote employees to ensure a seamless and equitable experience for everyone.

Prioritize Employee Wellbeing
Flexible work tends to blur the boundaries between work and personal life, leading to burnout and decreased job satisfaction if not managed effectively. Organizations must prioritize employee well-being and promote healthy work-life integration. Leaders and managers should encourage employees to take regular breaks, disconnect from work during non-working hours, and establish boundaries to enable them to perform at their highest levels.


As the professional landscape undergoes unprecedented changes, organizations must remain agile, acknowledging that the journey toward thriving in flexible work environments is ongoing. By valuing equity, transparent communication, and holistic well-being, businesses can empower their teams to not only meet the challenges of flexible work but also leverage its transformative potential. In fostering an environment where every team member feels seen, heard, and empowered, organizations can solidify their position at the forefront of the evolving work landscape, driving sustained success in an era of flexibility and adaptability.

About the Author

Tonille Miller
Management Consultant, I/O Psychologist, and Executive Coach; Founder, EXT - Experience and Transformation

Tonille Miller, a Management Consultant, I/O Psychologist, and Executive Coach with 15 years of experience, is dedicated to creating enriching work environments. She founded EXT - Experience and Transformation, focusing on aligning leadership goals with employee needs for peak performance and business success.

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