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Where, when, and how? Designing flexibility for the future of work

By Vidisha Mehta | November 29, 2021

Employers in Asia Pacific have an opportunity to adopt a fresh, holistic, and sustainable mindset when designing flexible work, to elevate the employee experience.
Work Transformation|Ukupne nagrade |Benessere integrato|Inclusion-and-Diversity

The number of employees in Asia Pacific working from home and working anywhere tripled over the past two years, according to our 2021 Flexible Work and Rewards Survey. Alongside this accelerated shift, the pandemic has changed the way we think about flexible ways of working. Gone are the days of this being a discretionary arrangement – it’s now a necessary part of the future of work.

This figure shows how much working arrangements in Asia Pacific have changed significantly in the past two years.
Figure 1. Working arrangements in Asia Pacific have changed significantly in the past two years

It’s evident that flexible work is an under-utilised opportunity in Asia Pacific in terms of retaining talent. Only 42% of employers in the region offer flex work to drive talent retention, compared to 61% globally. This is echoed by the lower portion of employees expected to work remotely in Asia Pacific, with 26% expected to work remotely, compared to 52% globally.1

of employers in Asia Pacific offer flex work to retain talent
of employers globally offer flex work to retain talent

With employees increasingly preferring flexible, remote and/or hybrid work arrangements, it is important to adopt a holistic and sustainable mindset when designing flexible work.

There are three imperatives for holistic flexible work design: where work gets done, when work gets done and how work gets done. It’s a common trap for employers to focus mainly on ‘where’ work gets done, and less on the ‘when’ and ‘how’. Equal consideration of these elements drives critical decisions that help balance employee experience and organisational requirements.

Balancing the needs of employees and employers

Figure 2. Flexible work is about balancing organisational culture, capabilities and requirements with employee’s need for work autonomy, personal wellbeing and equitable rewards.
Employee experience Organisational requirements
Pay (compensation) Sustainability and stakeholder management
Benefits Human capital, risk, and cost optimisation
Skills and career development Coordinated governance and decision approach
Wellbeing (emotional, financial, physical, social) Regulatory compliance
Fairness (diversity, equity, and inclusion) Creativity, collaboration, and innovation
Workplace culture Customer service and product delivery
Leadership Productivity and business performance
  1. 01

    Flexing where work gets done

    To boost flexibility in where work gets done, employers first need to consider the work type, and consider solutions for automation, alternative talent, their digital ecosystem, and low-cost locations. The type of work with the most potential for location flexibility is independent/mental work. Meanwhile, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and creation of new location-agnostic work can flex the location for some roles. Organisations may also consider hiring gig or contract talent and adjusting their work volume to eliminate the need for additional spaces.

  2. 02

    Flexing when work gets done

    With a more dispersed workforce, there is also an opportunity to consider when work needs to take place. Is 9-5 realistic in the new world of work? Interactive work will likely remain time dependent, but independent work is a good candidate for time flexibility. For 24/7 work requirements and coverage, organisations can use automation, pre-programming, alternative talent platforms, and globalise their digital ecosystem and work locations.

  3. 03

    Flexing how work gets done

    Driving flexibility in how work gets done means flexing the ways in which work is delivered. Through the process of reinventing jobs – employers can deconstruct work into tasks and identify routine activities that can be substituted with RPA or social robotics, which can improve efficiencies and minimise variance and error. Meanwhile, independent/mental and variable work can be augmented with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to optimise performance.

    Skills are an essential basis for connecting talent to work. Outsourcing and/or alternative talent can help to cover necessary skill gaps and improve the scalability of work, as these options can provide additional labour on-demand.

Driving the employee experience

Where: Many employees want to return to the office in some form, but above all, they want the ability to choose.2 Organisations that provide workers with the flexibility to work where they want through remote or hybrid arrangements, can enjoy a competitive advantage over their less flexible peers.

When: Employees are seeking greater levels of flexibility to fit their lifestyle and non-work obligations. Employees report significantly more positive views around their work/life balance and greater engagement with their jobs when they can work more flexibly2.

How: Reimagining work and building a skills ecosystem creates an opportunity for employees to upskill or reskill. Enhanced skills and a new focus on higher value, more strategic tasks, can give employees a renewed sense of purpose, and drive the employee experience.

Enhanced skills and a new focus on higher value, more strategic tasks, can give employees a renewed sense of purpose.

Design a holistic flexible work model to advance in the future of work

It’s helpful to have a framework in place when designing of a flexible work model. Here are the core areas to consider:

  • Reimagining work (future of work)
  • Total Rewards
  • Wellbeing
  • Inclusion and diversity
  • Employee experience
  • Policy, programs and governance
  • Leadership and change management

Our recent webcast ‘Reimagining the future workplace’ delves into why it’s the right time for employers in Asia Pacific to rethink flexible work and holistic design. Our speakers share case studies and examples of effective implementation. As hybrid and flexible ways of working become the new normal, expert guidance and insight can help employers in Asia Pacific to thrive in the future of work.


1 Flexible Work and Rewards Survey: 2021 Design and Budget Priorities (Asia Pacific)
2 2019/20 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey


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