Coronavirus has changed the world more in the last 18 months than we’ve seen in decades. Covid has caused a change in people’s minds, both on the employer and employee side.
Companies face two challenges after the crisis. First, they have to be an attractive employer for potential applicants, and second, they have to retain their employees and motivate them to come back to the office.
For employees, salary is no longer the only factor determining where they apply and ultimately sign a contract. Work-life balance and the opportunity to take advantage of existing employee benefits are further influential criteria. Furthermore, topics such as corporate social responsibility are also crucial to position oneself as an employer in the talent market. It is becoming increasingly important that the values of the employees match those of the company. Employers should ask themselves, does the company make a valuable contribution to society?
There are also other issues that employers need to address. For example, how do you prevent home office workers from being passed over for promotions? According to statistics from Stanford University, the promotion rate for home office employees drops by about 50%. Employees who come to the office every day are more present for their manager and are more likely to be favoured for promotions. Employees who have to work remotely more often due to the distance to the office or a physical limitation are less assessable for the management. How can one ensure measurability of the work done by those working remotely?
However, determining who comes to the office when and how often is not random. Especially for women, who traditionally have to take care of children or older relatives, the home office opportunity comes just at the right time. The double burden of work and family and the social pressure is thereby minimized for them. People with physical limitations tend to work from home more often since the complicated commute is eliminated and everything is set up optimally. However, from a long-term perspective, the home office also has its disadvantages. How does a company and its managers prevent remote working employees from being passed over for promotions?
Furthermore, working models such as hybrid meetings pose challenges for both employers and employees. When a hybrid meeting with participants in a room and others dialled in through video calls ends, the conversation likely continues for the in-office colleagues while it ends for those working remotely. . Disputes or discussions about important topics continue in person. Colleagues in the home office are inevitably excluded from this. They may miss significant developments or facts that are relevant for future decisions. How do companies manage situations like this to keep their home office employees involved in the discussion? An interesting problem to be considered as well as the previous questions.
For companies, working models such as presence, hybrid or full home office are posing challenges that require adaptation and changes to allow for modern working patterns, locations, and times. After all, office work as we know it is a relic of times past. Companies need to take their time here and find the best way for themselves. For example, to solve the problem that employees in home offices are often passed over for promotion, the work of all employees must be made measurable. This is where managerial instruments such as OKRs can be beneficial.
Individual goals set on a quarterly basis enable managers to track and measure the performance of team members and make comparisons between cohorts. This allows for promotions to solely be based on the merits of one’s performance instead of how well the individual gets along with managers while onsite. This then removes proximity bias while allowing for objectivity during the employee review. The challenge for companies remains to create a fair and mutually beneficial balance between in-office presence and remote work from home or anywhere else.
Flexible working hours, offering the latest technologies, greater work autonomy, and employee recognition are just a few examples of how employers can increase employee engagement and thus sustainably increase job satisfaction and talent retention. There is also a need to provide dynamic and applicable training opportunities while also providing a path forward on the career ladder. Talents look for inspiration and engaging work environments. Furthermore, companies need to create supportive climates for a healthy work-life balance with a focus on, family-friendly, and socially responsible working climates. For example, it used to be common to sit out the traditional 9-5 workday in the office. Today, employees can work from anywhere, at any time, while collaborating with their team.
. . COVID-19 has changed the perception of what people seem to prefer. They have unlearned the pros of in-person interactions and the benefits of such personal experiences. This is further emphasized by the comfort and convenience of working from home instead of facing the daily stress of commuting to and from work. It will be essential for companies to show a path forward that leads back to a form of office work focused on individual benefits, safety but also productivity of employees. There is an eagerness to find the perfect solution for a situation that hasn’t passed yet. Starting with a standard solution that is consistently revisited and refined seems to be the suggested solution, especially during the next iterations and evolution of the situation. Often overlooked is the fact that home office work, when used properly, fosters a high level of creativity and inspiration. In addition, Stanford University has found in a study that the opportunity to work in a home office is equivalent to a 6% salary increase. Well-planned and sprinkled-in offsite events strengthen team building and increase employee motivation even further.
The question is then: home office, hybrid, or back to the office altogether? Each company must decide individually and find a suitable model for itself while not being hesitant to rinse & repeat.
One such way could be to ensure that coming into the office makes sense for employees. Management is called upon to find progressive solutions and reinvent the concept of the office. Employers are responsible for making office life appealing, ensuring that employees are getting the value and satisfaction they are looking for.
The office must become a place where interaction, collaboration and team-building measures are implemented on a team and company level. If employees need to finish tasks and would spend their working hours staring at a screen coming to the office quickly becomes a nuisance. Well-timed home office periods for a project or individual work in general allows employees to be more productive and focus.
Regardless of the approach for work after the pandemic, putting their employees at the centre of the decision should position an employer well for the fight for new and with keeping existing talents.