We all know things have changed. The question is, what does the global workforce look like now and for the foreseeable future?
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, remote work was often a perk — something employees earned after proving their worth through tenure or performance. Companies relied on ad hoc flexibility to provide employees with the time they needed to complete personal tasks. This philosophy has become a competitive relic.
The pandemic forced the work from home issue and helped companies prove that a virtual operating model can work. Remote work moved from “nice to have” to “must have.” Candidates and employees are seeking remote work options and the most compelling company cultures are moving from a work from home benefit to a defined remote work strategy.
While embracing the flexibility of remote work is important, that process looks different for everyone. This means that a common set of rules for managers to use for all employees will no longer make sense. Managers will need to really listen to employees and create guidelines that are flexible enough to be equitable. To add more complexity, the job market is currently in a uniquely aggressive hiring period.
Understanding the war for talent
The initial phase of the pandemic resulted in grinding slow-downs and layoffs across industries, but that was short-lived. Businesses are back in growth mode -in many cases stronger than before the start of the pandemic. But there’s a twist: searches for remote work leapt an astonishing 460 percent from June 2019 to June 2021, and that trend isn’t slowing down.
Candidates know they’re in high demand and they are asking for more money and a remote work option. They are often not seeking a 100% work from home routine, rather they would be thrilled with a hybrid work environment as they see the value in coming to the office to build relationships, learn how to do their jobs and to network for career mobility reasons.
We’re also still dealing with misconceptions about remote work, including whether working remotely is a good or a bad thing.
Dispelling remote work myths
Employees who work outside the office are less productive. That is simply not true. In fact, employees have been more productive over the past year and a half. Working from home has boosted productivity by about 5% according to some studies, with employees saving time and energy by skipping long commutes to the office.
Companies talk about bringing our “authentic selves” to work, but employees never really felt comfortable doing so. The pandemic turned that mindset upside down. Today, we know each other’s children, pets, and spouses. We have been in each other’s homes through on-line meetings and “business casual” has a new meaning. Working from home hasn’t made us more aloof—rather, it created a real need for all level of employees to operate with humanity. Employees have found value in this approach and they do not want to revert to the previous way of having a work-persona and a home persona.
The one-size fits all concept that all remote or hybrid work policies should be consistently applied for all employees won’t work. Each employee has their own needs, desires, and opinions. Instead, companies should adopt a philosophy around remote work. I like CBRE’s suggestion of a “hybrid work with guardrails” approach, which starts with guidelines around who can work remotely and when they can do so.
What companies should consider in remote work policies
As remote work continues to evolve, companies do need a strong game plan. Though you can look toward other companies for inspiration, hiring success lies within your own organization’s walls – whether virtual or actual.
Here are three things every company should consider when developing a remote or hybrid work philosophy:
Clearly articulate your remote work philosophy and strategy. Candidates and employees want an easy to understand “what’s in it for me” narrative. A work from home or remote work policy establishes guidelines. It’s a must-have for your organization and should include clear and direct guidance around eligibility and work requirements. It is also important to offer ways for employees to offer feedback to enable your organization to flex your philosophy and adapt. The best companies are acting, listening, and changing based on employee sentiment.
Clearly articulate why you want employees to come to the office. Explaining that you want employees to come to the office for specific reasons like learning a new job, building relationships, team building, collaborating on strategies, etc., gives people comfort that there is a good reason to show up. It is good to know that many people still enjoy the benefits of going to the office two or three times a week and they find value in the “soft work” aspects of being together in person.
Listen, listen, listen. It’s tempting to create a plan based on what you think employees want, but if you are wrong, you could end up with higher attrition and less engagement. Flexibility has a different meaning to each one of us. A recent study from Yoh found that 40% of employed Americans will only accept remote or hybrid work jobs. But what this looks like in practice can vary. Do these individuals expect a location-agnostic approach where they live anywhere and fly in once a year for meetings? Do they expect an “open office” policy where they live locally and come in 1-2 times a week on their own schedule? Or do they expect set days for in-office team collaboration? These expectations could lead to very different hybrid work policies.
Does your company have a remote work policy? Has it changed during the pandemic? Share with us in the comments below.