Work with Balance

Flexing the Flexibility Muscle: Essential as companies navigate the new working world

Opinion piece by Danae Blundell-Wignall, Vice President of the American Express Colleague Experience Group, Australia & New Zealand, Philippines, and Malaysia.

As we continue to come out of the crisis and settle into the new normal, I find myself taking more moments to reflect on what we are grateful for and ensuring we are prioritising the learnings we gained, whether this is with my family, my team, or colleagues.

Working for a global organisation like American Express, that’s been in business for 172 years, we’ve seen and experienced so many major disruptive worldwide events. Coming through each of these stronger is not by chance.  One of the reasons we remain so strong as a company, is that we allow disruption to create further opportunities to enrich the experiences of our colleagues, customers and communities.

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With a diverse community of more than 60,000 employees spread across 110 countries, one of the fastest realisations we had at the start of the pandemic was how agile we can be when needed.

Within days, we mobilised our colleagues to work from home, seamlessly maintaining our commitment to backing our customers and backing each other. Our priority was caring for our colleagues, providing them with certainty and empowering them to take care of our customers.

More than two years on, with the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us, it was important that we stayed future focused as we designed our new way of working. The voice of our colleagues was and continues to be essential to the design; understanding what our colleagues value the most in terms of flexibility and connection with their colleagues, and the sense of purpose they gain from their role in delivering outstanding results.

As a global colleague-centric company, flexibility has been an important aspect of our culture since I joined 15 years ago. We were already well ahead of the curve in terms of our colleagues working in ways that best suited them and the teams they work with.

We have always been in the business of empowering and trusting people and culturally creating the right space for teams to perform at their best. We knew that emerging from the pandemic it was time to formalise a new working model and today we have what we call: Amex Flex.

Underpinning Amex Flex is the philosophy that there is no single approach that works best for any one person or team. Some people love the buzz of the office, while others relish the opportunity of working from home. A handful of guiding principles led us to where we landed, but most important was trust and the empowerment of our people.

With Amex Flex, colleagues have the choice of one of three work styles:

Onsite: colleagues work in the office 4-5 days per week

Hybrid: Colleagues work in the office 2 days a week on average

Fully virtual: Colleagues work from home exclusively or for most of the time.

Since we introduced Amex Flex we have seen a marked increase in colleagues opting to go fully virtual – in fact double the number compared to before the pandemic. Many colleagues undertook a personal sea or tree-change and we’re proud to back their personal ambitions while still enabling their professional growth and development.

For colleagues who are coming into the office, we have encouraged purposeful connection and collaboration with peers and stakeholders – using your time in the office to meet others, as opposed to being consistently at your desk or phone.

We’ve learnt there needs to be flex in the flex. What may work for one team, might not work for another. In consultation with colleagues, we are enabling a model to suit a range of professional and personal ambitions.

We’ve seen more regional and global roles come into the market because of the additional flexibility and there have been new career opportunities created that would have been previously hard to solve for.

Regardless of where our people work, creating a sense of purpose around work is essential. At American Express, our workplace culture has long created purpose and connection for colleagues through our Colleague Networks and communities that unite people with shared experiences and perspectives, enhance diversity and create a sense of belonging.

Recent surveys tell us that Amex Flex has had a positive impact on our colleagues’ lives, both personally and professionally. There have been satisfaction increases in areas including work flexibility, sentiment about safety and work-life balance and appreciation for the office environment. We continue to survey and check in with colleagues to ensure we are continuing to meet their needs and be flexible within the model.

Providing colleagues with purpose and meaning, together with flexibility enables our colleagues to have a successful career, pursue their passions, contribute to society, and be connected to their families and loved ones. With this backing, we are investing in our colleagues, our strongest asset, which we believe this is the long-term strategy for colleague satisfaction and retention.

About the author: Danae is an accomplished Human Resources leader with over 20 years’ experience creating and delivering innovative and transformational colleague solutions aligned to business strategy. A trusted business partner to Country Executive Teams and passionate about organisation culture and the colleague experience, Danae is recognised for setting and driving ambitious change initiatives.

Danae joined American Express in 2007, holding several roles across the Asia-Pacific region. She currently serves as Vice President, International Colleague Strategic Partners and is a Director of the Board for American Express Australia Limited.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.