There is no doubt that the nation’s headfirst dive into remote work has led to profound and lasting changes in the employer/employee power structure.
Traditionally, it was on the employer to define where employees work and develop rules around workplace expectations. But, after being forced into remote work in early 2020, employees took on the responsibility of determining where and when to work. Now, as workforces return to the office, not every employer is equipped to balance flexible employee schedules with the predetermined structure of 9-5 office work.
The psychology of the workforce has completely shifted as the world of work has become utterly transparent. We are not the same people coming back to the office as we are the ones that left.
The Great Resignation
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 38 million workers quit their job in 2021. Mass resignations have been happening over the past 24 months for many reasons.
Historically, first-time parents were the most common demographic to leave a company after a short term. The pandemic caused us all to experience the same thing first-time parents do: a significant event that makes you reconsider your goals and work/life balance. In other words, people are realizing that they want to fulfill their personal lives on their own schedule.
Americans are defined by their work. Career goals are held as major achievements in one’s life. However, when the opportunity to share those accomplishments is removed by no longer working in an office, executive titles can feel empty. Many are realizing that they may not have needed such an amount of work or pay.
Those that are not leaving after a revelation in life destination may be leaving as a means to pivot careers. Remote work gave many people time to reevaluate themselves and reconsider their career trajectory. Some may be hurt after being laid off and aren’t looking to go back to the same job. Many are looking for gig opportunities after they have been exposed to the breadth of possibilities for income.
Recruitment versus Retention
It has long been believed that it’s more expensive to bring on new talent than retain existing. Traditionally, long tenure employees were highly valued as their consistent, predictable results kept companies stable. However, the current climate requires businesses to quickly adapt to change and problem-solve unforeseen challenges. For example, major tech companies such as Microsoft and Google have been wildly successful during the pandemic, but have an average employee tenure of only 2 years. By hiring new minds, they keep fresh perspectives to problem solve.
Turnover can also be beneficial to employees by creating an opportunity for promotion into leadership positions. Turnover, however, may not be beneficial for the healthcare and hospitality industries that thrive on the continuity that stable, long tenure employees provide.
A common mindset now is that the longer your tenure, the less you are challenging yourself. Many believe that the more they move positions, the greater chance they have to find their dream job, dream employer, and their dream location. Moving around is more comfortable than staying static.
Workplace Culture At Home and In the Office
Cultures have shifted along with people in workplaces. While working remotely, new ways of developing culture needed to be defined. Successful company cultures are built by the people, rather than predefined from corporate marketing. Now is the time to build new norms and make people comfortable in this flexible landscape. Watercooler moments need to be translated to the digital realm to enable a meaningful connection between employees.
Employers must continue to be intentional around their people. While working remotely, employees have shared that though they are physically away from their employer, they feel more engaged with their employer. This tells us that working from home makes you feel better about your work as a whole. Employers should leverage this feeling to improve the culture and wellbeing of their employees.
The pandemic has also pushed employers to be more connected with their employees on a personal level. Everyone has become fine-tuned to understanding each other’s emotions regarding health and physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. The best move an employer can make is to foster those deep personal connections and upkeep that humanity.
Creating Your Hybrid
One issue employers are facing now is impatient employees. Employees want new work immediately, and it’s pressuring employers to make quick decisions. Employers cannot waffle. Businesses should be vulnerable and reach out to employees to determine environmental needs and ideas for the future of their workplace.
Instead of focusing on what decision they make, employers must focus on how they make the decision. Employers cannot just say “hybrid” and make it appear. There is a wide range of hybrid work possible. By working with employees to define the future of work and piloting environments, a business can find the hybrid model that works best for them.
A common trend in the modern workforce is the drive for career security over job security. People want to feel fulfilled within their selected career path and want to be made better for tomorrow. Every position should be a learning experience so they can further their career. Once a job doesn’t offer the opportunity to learn or grow, people move on. Offering mentorship programs or professional development will be commonplace in positions moving forward.
What About Pay?
Though the same culture should be fostered with in-office and remote employees, compensation may not be consistent. People shouldn’t and don’t feel unworthy just because they work outside of the office, however, most companies pay competitively based on local economies. Paying an urban income to an employee living in a small, rural area can disrupt the local economy and cause issues for its citizens. Responsible companies may need to alter pay to account for this.
Successful employers will implement a consistent pay grade approach for all employees instead of doing one-off side deals. Many employees focus too much on pay and too little on the additional benefits of working for a company such as culture, bonuses, stocks, and facility amenities. Leaders can leverage their workplace perks as motivation for hybrid over fully-remote work.
It’s Not Easy For Everyone
Hospitality, retail, and food industries are struggling to bring in talent for their daily operations. Those that are not destination employers are challenged with finding new, enticing ways to bring in workers. Industry leaders will survey current employees to understand how to appeal to new talent. Chipotle, for example, understands that a majority of its employees are students working while in school. The food chain has begun offering tuition reimbursement programs to attract like-minded young workers.
As we move towards a more hybrid workforce, we need to continue to make remote employees comfortable and welcome. Remote young talent has been feeling extremely left out because they cannot connect with employers and coworkers during critical professional development phases. Mentoring and scheduled casual meetings can help these individuals.
There is a mounting concern for low-income employees being further stratified by remote work. Those unable to access technology or have a private space struggle with working from home. Employers that offer or require remote work must be able to provide the necessary resources for their staff to complete their jobs day after day.
In the end, compassionate humanity, rich culture, and endless learning will be what moves organizations forward into the future.
This article was based on the k.talk Who’s the Boss?, presented by Steven Cadigan and Carolyn Cirillo.
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