As Covid restrictions ease up around the country, and indeed the world, many questions loom about plans to return to work. What is the best approach? Should we be urging in-person work, as opposed to allowing a hybrid schedule? How will this affect your bottom line?
The “future of work” is a topic for hot debate, no matter which industry you specialize in. There is an ever-changing discussion about whether people should work in the office or remotely, and how much time should be spent in each location.
Earlier this year, Prudential’s “Pulse of the American Worker Survey” revealed a telling statistic — 26 percent of workers planned to look for a different job once the pandemic begins to wane. This massive position exodus has already become a reality, as nearly four million people quit their jobs in April alone — a 20-year high.
It would seem that employees are in control of their destinies and are voicing their dissatisfaction with their employment situations. So it would be wise to shift the conversation from whether or not to return to a physical office, to how can we improve our work environment so that it improves our employees’ lives and aligns with our organization’s goals? How can we create an amazing workplace?
If you do have an open and honest conversation with your employees, listen to what they have to say. Take it as an opportunity to improve not only their lives but yours as well.
It's safe to say that in the near future, those companies that are able to give their employees both the flexibility and connection to their workplace are likely to thrive, not only in retaining employees but in many connected ways as well, as these offerings will certainly lead to a high sense of loyalty and job satisfaction.
Some major companies have delayed return dates from August of 2021 to as far off as February of 2022. They have already started to ease off on their insistence and return-to-work plans. Google, Apple, and Lyft have all shifted focus from prioritizing return dates for in-person work and delayed plans and hard dates, to accommodating employee flexibility and encouraging masking and vaccination for onsite work.
At this point, some experts are recommending companies provide a trial period for returning to the office, instead of forcing employees into a permanent return-to-work plan. Perhaps the way to go is for companies to offer employees a shortened workweek for a specific amount of time, and then employees can determine whether or not to work more days per week.
On the employee side, there is a combination of concerns. On one hand, returning to a potentially dangerous environment (health-wise) is something that weighs heavy on some people, and on the other hand, many folks have become used to the idea of working from home and are just more comfortable with that setup now.
Either way, leadership will have to negotiate the situation keeping employee concerns very much in mind. Executives will need to consider whether or not company productivity and profitability have increased or decreased (if at all) during the past eighteen months, and have an honest conversation regarding where to go in the future.
There are some interesting conclusions that may arise from a good, hard look at how the pandemic has shifted the lens of how we see our employees and value their contributions, especially in an office setting.
Working from home reveals many inefficiencies and problems in office life that some executives may not have seen before. Remote work empowers those who produce and disempowers those who have (in the past) managed to seem productive by sitting behind a desk looking "busy" or constantly being on the phone. Scarily for some, it might just lay bare how many on the payroll simply don’t contribute to the bottom line.
It really drags the veil off and reveals those who get the job done and those who don't.
So with the looming idea of returning to work, now may just be the perfect opportunity to evaluate some key questions. 1. How can you improve the work environment for when staff return? 2. When staff return to the office, will it be a flexible combination of remote and onsite work? And 3. How can you show appreciation to those who really do contribute to the bottom line?