Bosses need to accept that employees choose what the future of work looks like

Not a day goes by without some indication that the dynamics of work have changed, perhaps forever.

Whether it’s the phenomenon of “silent resignation” or stories of employees outsourcing their work, it all suggests that the pandemic may have helped workers feel empowered to expect and ask for more because they’ve experienced first-time flexibility hand and have found ways to do things differently… in some cases very, very differently.

These are the kinds of stories that somehow irritate CEOs and other leaders. If you’re an old-school executive, there’s little about these trends that feels good. However, I am here to say that employee empowerment is the best thing that can happen to your workforce.

Start by thinking about work in terms of what, where, when and how.

My generation of leaders has always been clear about what needs to be done. What it has always been non-negotiable. I where i when they were already taken care of: Before COVID, it was expected and accepted that workers would walk into an office or travel to another workplace, traditionally from nine to five, but usually more.

The how depended largely on employees. The greatest leaders are those who empower their people. They don’t micromanage, and that means they don’t mess with the way top people do their best work. Today, the how it’s very different compared to just a couple of years ago.

In our era of flexible and hybrid work, businesses of all types are scrambling to find ways to bring their employees back to the office. We are focused on the when and where of work, although the what i how they remain the most vital.

Unexpectedly, recent survey data shows that Gen Z and other young generations actually express more interest in entering the workplace than older colleagues, but it makes sense if you think about it.

Post-college social lives used to depend largely on where you worked and who you worked with. Younger employees want things that some older employees have given up trying to get out of work or have found in other aspects of their lives, such as direction, belonging, and camaraderie. However, instead of carrots, too many companies seem to want to take advantage of the sticks that focus on previous ways of doing things.

Finding the right managerial balance in the post-pandemic and rapidly evolving era of work is difficult. Leaders don’t want to be too prescriptive because that won’t have power, but they don’t want complete chaos. These fine lines certainly become more difficult to navigate when not everyone is required to be in the same place at the same time, in any given week.

while where i when can grab all the headlines, let’s be real: what i how are more important, a constant that should be reassuring to any leader, as long as he is willing to do his part in empowering the new flexible workforce.

Anne Chow is a senior director on the FranklinCovey Board of Directors and co-author of the best-selling book, “The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias.” Chow is the former CEO of AT&T Business and was twice featured as one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in Business.

Opinions expressed in comments are solely the opinions of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of the fortune.

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