Future of Work:
Flexibility & Adaptability


Jasmin Mantel

Head of HR
SAP UK & Ireland

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Prior to 2020, HR often had to be flexible to the business needs. Now, everything seems to be about flexibility, adaptability, and agility. It’s common HR theory that to get the best out of people, flexibility is the key but what does this mean in practice – and how does it impact all channels of HR?


Given the choice, would you go back to office full-time for 5 days a week? Chances are your answer is that you would like a balance, the ability to choose how many days a week you want to go into the office. This was the case at least for us at SAP, where less than 10% of our 100K+ employee base wanted to come back to office full-time, the majority preferring a balance between home and the office.

Flexibility to me is a practice in inclusivity – being inclusive of individual needs, personal situations, and environmental conditions. Imagine dealing with a 2.5-hour commute to work or balancing a 9-hour workday with a child at home or a family member in need of constant care. Imagine being an introvert who dreads social situations with multiple people – for many working from home during the pandemic was a welcome relief for an otherwise difficult juggle between work and their personal lives. While one must acknowledge that there are jobs that require your physical presence, the pandemic has taught us that there is a vast majority of roles that can be done with equal efficiency in a virtual setting.


On the other hand, it’s important to recognise the importance of office spaces. Although technology enables us to collaborate and come together virtually, there is something irreplaceable about coming together in a room, sharing ideas and working on projects together.

A flexible working model empowers the employee to choose where, how, and when they are most productive. It gives the individual the choice of where they work (office, home or remote), when they work (hours that suit individual lifestyle and needs), and how they work (workspaces that provide different work settings and flexibility). This variety and flexibility are essential to foster a healthy and productive work environment where everyone is empowered to run at their personal best.


With any hybrid model comes its own complexities. How do you ensure that a new employee gets the same welcome experience in a virtual setting that would have otherwise meant being greeted physically by their new team members? How do managers build team morale without traditional in-person team-building activities? This is where HR comes in. HR is at the very core of this transformation right from setting the policies to delivering tools, best practices and learning materials to enable employees to manage their mental health and productivity. In this new hybrid model, HR has to systematically rethink the employee experience – flexible working models also means flexible benefits (free lunch in the office restaurant may not be an attractive benefit anymore!), employee milestones like onboarding and offboarding have to evolve to consider both remote and on-site employees, and similarly even learning offerings and communications.

As the situation continues to evolve, so will our priorities and our working model. One thing I am confident in is that the need for flexibility will only increase. New process and tools are still a work-in-progress but for companies to be successful, HR is and will continue to be the architects for sustainable change.

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