Flexibility is the Foundation of the Future of Work

Dr. Autumn D. Krauss

Chief Scientist

Chris Panigel

Future of Work Strategy & Innovation

In 2020, the word “Hybrid” took on a whole new meaning. No longer was the term only about a gas and electric combination vehicle or crossing a donkey with a horse to get a mule (!?). With the need to figure out how to balance onsite and virtual working arrangements came the introduction of the hybrid model of working, a concept that has dominated (and continues to dominate) HR trends. In fact, our team of Research Scientists in SAP SuccessFactors’ Strategy Office conduct an annual content analysis of HR trends and predictions from reputable sources all around the world to identify the “meta-trends” for each year. In both 2021 and 2022 analyses, hybrid was the number one meta-trend. And while the overall gist of the trend stayed the same, the nuances of how it was defined and the specific focus areas within the broader hybrid conversation had shifted. More specifically, the initial idea of workplace location equating to hybrid transitioned to a more holistic exploration of all the elements of what hybrid could and should include – most notably where, when, and how work gets done.

There’s good psychological and scientific rationale for thinking more broadly about hybrid to incorporate multiple types of flexibility into this new way of working. It has been well demonstrated through organizational science theories, frameworks, and research that all forms of control over one’s experience at work (e.g., autonomy, empowerment, decision latitude) are positive characteristics of a job that can lead to meaning, purpose, and well-being at work. Flexibility in where, when, and how one works is a fundamental way to empower employees and give them autonomy over their work experience. Further, a highly effective management model embraces the “tight - loose - tight" concept of work oversight. Be tight by clearly articulating objectives and KPIs at the onset, be tight with how the end product and results are evaluated against those objectives and KPIs upon completion, but be loose with how the work is actually executed. This, in essence, is the flexibility that employees are yearning for and what a hybrid working model can really offer in its full realization.


An exemplar for how to embrace the full definition of hybrid and all the components of flexibility that it should encompass is SAP’s Pledge to Flex Strategy.

In today’s world, flexibility in when, where, and how to work has become a basic expectation, especially in the tech industry. Creating and delivering a work experience centered around empowerment and flexibility is a crucial element in being recognized as an employer of choice. We, as SAP, implemented a holistic framework to ensure that we are doing hybrid right for our employees and customers.

For SAP, flexibility and virtual collaboration are a unique part of our DNA. Building on our culture of trust and empowerment, we made the strategic shift to a hybrid work model, called Pledge to Flex, delivering a leading, productive, collaborative, and flexible work experience.

Our Pledge to Flex provides a setup that most employees prefer, empowering teams to define working schedules around business requirements and individual needs. We enable flexibility across the work experience through a holistic approach addressing time, location, and workspace. With Flex Time, working hours can vary throughout the day and week. Flex Location focuses on the physical place where we work where we strive to create an inclusive environment in which people can work from home, at the office, or remotely, while fostering productivity, connection, and collaboration. Flex Workspace refers to the physical office environment with various workspace areas best suited for different types of work.

During our Flex Work implementation, we aimed to provide every employee with all legally possible country-specific Flex Work offerings, ensuring we position SAP as an employer of choice on a local level.

Focused on this objective, the global Pledge to Flex program team, part of our Future of Work organization, identified specific focus areas and key levers that were central to our successful transition to hybrid work.

These focus areas served as guardrails to bring Pledge to Flex to life for over 110,000 employees in 75 countries, knowing a one-size fits all approach is not an option.

Building on our efforts empowering SAP employees to work across various approaches, including remote to office to hybrid, we believe that the Future of Work at SAP is more than creating a new “where” of work. Navigating the Future of Work requires a holistic and broader approach and perspective.

With our long-standing track record to lead rather than follow, a dedicated, cross-functional global Future of Work team was established with the mission to design and orchestrate SAP’s holistic agenda for the Future of Work – laying the foundation for SAP’s continued attractiveness as an employer of choice.

To remain successful in our dynamic environment, retain the best staff, and attract new colleagues, SAP will continue to evolve towards greater agility, innovation, and resilience. To do this, our Future of Work agenda focuses on the future of SAP’s workforce, innovative people and workplace experiences, as well as the future of HR itself – leveraging leading-edge workplace concepts, people insights, and technology.

We are thrilled by the opportunity to reimagine how the world experiences work and are ready to leverage the power of our people and leading-edge technology to shape our joint future successfully and sustainably so that employees and customers alike profit from greater productivity, flexibility, motivation, and innovation.

Now back to the annual HR trends, anyone think that hybrid will be an HR meta-trend for 2023?

Learn how SAP is shaping the Future of Work

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