Implementing a Flexible Work Culture: a How-To Guide


Although, the subject of “the pandemic changing the way we work” has been discussed over and over, with hundreds of managers from various size companies stating their opinions on it. However, with the plethora of opposing views on the new working culture, we noticed a specific trend within most organizations: striving towards having a flexible working culture.


5 mins read

flexible work culture

Some companies already had that in mind and just needed a nudge to get started. Other businesses, however, seemed to have jumped on this trend rather constrained by employee demands than by their initiative.

No matter the reason a company decided to implement a flexible working culture, we believe it’s best to do it right and not play “pretend”. We’ve been on the market for the past 23 years, and flexibility has always been at our culture’s core. So, what I’m going to talk about next are some points we want to make clear and offer some examples from our own culture to help other people out.

First things first: What’s a flexible working culture?

Fortunately, it’s not just another buzzword people use to seem inclusive or understanding. It’s a consequence of a human-first approach to the organizational culture. Flexible work culture accommodates employees by replacing strict rules with general and rational guidelines.

Working from home or remotely is just one example of flexible work culture. Another one, to match both types of employees’ (the WFO vs WFH ones), would be hybrid work. However, there’s a thin line between flexibility and rigid rule when it comes to hybrid working. But we’ll get to that later in the article. 

The flexible work culture encourages team members to connect, regardless of the when’s, where’s, and how’s of their work. It allows employees to work at their own pace, avoiding commuting hours or in-office disruptions. 

Working remotely while taking advantage of some flexible work arrangements resulted in significant advantages such as increased productivity and a better work-life balance. Meaning that flexible work culture can also be implemented in-office, providing employees with a myriad of benefits to increase productivity and happiness at the workplace. 

We are, at our core, a flexible workplace. However, we still do look after each other: before you take a few hours off, you have to check with your team and see if they can cover for you. Or, when you need a few days of vacation, you should check first if there’s someone else from your team off in that same period, and so on. 

Why? Because we are trying to keep the workload for each individual as balanced as possible. Since we do not encourage overtime, we should also pay attention to the workload-working hours’ ratio for our colleagues, right? Therefore, we see flexibility as an effort from both parties.

flexible working culture

Key Elements to establish a flexible working culture

Having a flexible working culture doesn’t begin when you start naming it your company’s new way of working. It starts long before when you begin to progressively implement some key elements into your company’s culture. 

Shifting from policies to principles

Flexible work culture is strongly linked to ditching those strict rules and adopting principles that can be followed by every employee and manager. After you plan out your flexible arrangement (as having no plan can lead to chaos). Those principles should focus on the outcome, not how often is the employee in the office, nor how many hours are they working, but rather the quality of it.

After all, everyone is saying “quality over quantity” right? We have a series of principles that are guiding the way we approach everyday tasks, our work, each other, and how we’re recruiting. They keep us grounded and focused on the same objectives, and we can 100% say for sure that it did make a big positive difference.

Establish good communication

Communication is the key to success, won’t you agree? Especially in flexible work arrangements. An essential part is to have scheduled check-ins with each employee to see if they’re happy with the new shifts and changes if there’s anything they’d improve if anything has happened recently, and if they require aid. 

One of our principles is “Proactive Communication” and by that, we mean that we are accessible and open. We encourage people to discuss any idea, issue, suggestion, or problem. This way, we can clarify any aspects, gets on the same page, find alternative solutions and raise any occurring concerns. Depending on the company’s size, those meetings can either be held by HR managers or the project’s team leaders, which takes us to the next point.

Second step: Getting to know each other

Train managers and team leaders

As we all may know by now, not everyone that has specific seniority at a job can also possess the skills needed for a team leader. So, aside from having an X amount of years at a company, a future team leader should have a few months before fully shifting to their new role. 

Those months should be focused on training them for a leadership role, offering 1:1 consultation, letting them encounter several situations, and having a mentor to guide them. Moreover, requesting feedback from other employees and revising specific approaches can outline a future great leader! 

But what’s most important is that those leaders would understand, accept and implement the flexible approach in each team. If your company is planning to shift to flexibility, but the team leader still requires you to come to the office and check on you constantly to see if you’re at your desk, well, there’s an inconsistency, isn’t it?

Team leaders are essential when making changes in the company, as they know how to progressively implement those changes into their teams, so there’s not going to be any confusion or chaos.

Accountability and personal responsibility

A flexible work culture should include the concept of accountability and personal responsibility. If you start holding people accountable for their results, be they positive or not, it will motivate employees to involve themselves fully in their tasks, no matter their workstation location. 

We have been emphasizing accountability for a long time now, as it is one of our company’s values. If we say “yes”, we’re expected to keep our word and assume responsibility for the decisions we make. We encourage everyone not to wait for others to solve their challenges, but to take action and come up with their solutions. 

Recruiting the right people

Hire the right people, or, as we like to say it: put the right people in the right seats. Before creating a successful flexible work culture, you need to find the right fit for your positions. Review your company’s values and principles, review your candidate persona based on how you would like your work culture to become, and start looking for your people. 

Moreover, it doesn’t always have to be the hiring process. It can also be done internally. Does George from the development department have the skillset of a team leader? Or has Anna from the Digital Marketing department proven to have the necessary skills for digital strategy? Maybe Rebecca, the copywriter, could thrive as a social media specialist. 

Before recruiting for specific positions, review your employee’s skillset. Changing careers isn’t a taboo subject anymore, and we all know that at some point in our lives we’d like to try something else. See if your employees would like to take specific open positions that you have, if they have a course in mind to improve a specific skill, check in with them and train them to become the best new Business Analyst, Social Media Manager, Chief Marketing Officer or Project Manager. 

For example, throughout time, we’ve noticed and heard our employee’s wishes. From content marketing to business analyst or digital strategy, from digital strategist to a thriving Account Manager, and vice-versa. Whenever we see talent and a calling, we like discussing, testing, and planning a way to help that employee shift, if that’s their wish and our company’s needs. 

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How we do it

With each passing year, we have increasingly incorporated flexibility into Grapefruit’s organizational culture. Why? Thankfully, the members of our team have their uniqueness, hobbies, and way of organizing their time. Some are parents, others are passionate about sports, others have dance classes or would be taking an extra course to further advance in their career or are finishing their master’s degree, or sometimes they just need to go to the doctor’s office for some general check-ups. At the root of all things, we are humans, and we need to feel in charge of our lives. Thus, sacrificing important things for us because of a strict working schedule might make us feel less in charge, making us even go as far as despising the company we work in. 

Taking time off, changing their schedules, or even a day off as an appreciation for their hard work, are just some examples of how we could make ends meet for both our employees and the company’s needs. Of course, with flexibility comes more responsibility. Luckily, we’ve found the best balance between employees’ needs and employees’ responsibilities to make ends meet. 

Flexible work culture isn’t hard to implement once it’s planned out and presented accordingly. Moreover, there’s no finish line here. You have to keep up with trends, and employee feedback and keep an open mind for any unforeseen situations that may occur.

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