By Jeff Dewing CEO of CloudFm and No1. best-selling business author and podcaster
Recent stats show one-third of Britons are still working from home despite the rule changes. Working from home has proven to be successful over these last 2 years. On average, those who work from home are 47% more productive. Therefore, if it is not adversely impacting business, forcing people back to the office just for the sake of it, simply does not make sense. At the end of the day, if someone gets the job done quicker and faster remotely then why not let them.
Leaders worldwide need to accept that employees don’t want to go back to the old way of work – the world has changed and they need to embrace it or they could risk employees jumping ship to join more progressive businesses. To flourish in the ‘new age’ of work CEOs should consider the following:
In today’s world flexibility is a must in one shape or another. The pandemic has changed the way we work forever, with a third of millennials saying they would leave their job if they had to come back into the office more. This highlights the importance of this factor and demonstrates many people have gotten used to the freedom that flexible working provides and do not want to give up the benefits associated with this such as time and money saved commuting. Although it is not a one size fits all approach, it is clear that rigid rules and barriers are outdated and should be a thing of the past.
Firms should be as flexible as they possibly can to enable the better work-life balance that employees seek. Whether that is relooking at the standard 9 am to 5 pm hours by being flexible so employees can work around things like the school run and doctors’ appointments or whether it is providing the option to choose your location and setting- ie working remotely in another town or country, or in ‘offices’ as and when they want to. This empowers staff enabling them to make their own decisions and structure their workday to suit their needs.
Now remote working isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Some people prefer working out of their homes going to an ‘office’ environment or just want a change of scenery every now and then. That is why it is so important to have those options. Shared workspaces can be great for this where employees choose when and where to go in allowing employees to work in a hybrid mode if they want to. If you want your employees to come in more often entice them with ‘attractive facilities’ (coffee machines, free food, refrigerators, options to rent a desk/desktop, private room options if needed, community events etc).
Then there are some things that just work better in-person like brainstorms or collaborative projects. It is important these environments are optimised for this to stimulate creativity. Ideally, offices should be re-designed with this in mind. If you are asking people to commute hours to come to an office to do what they can do at home, it is not worth it. Value your employee’s time and instead use these in-person formats as space for networking and team building, something they cannot do remotely, make it different from the average working day.
Your employees are valuable assets, a company’s very essence is built on great people and giving employees what they want will benefit you more than them. Therefore, looking out for their well-being should be your no.1 priority. Implementing care packages, increasing social activities, or rethinking traditional structures like the 5-day working week could be beneficial – experiments thus far have been resulting in reduced stress levels and overall, more positive mental health.
It is important businesses consider everyone’s individual needs, especially taking into consideration various situations like coming back from maternity leave, dealing with bereavement or recovering from an illness. We recently had instances where a few women were easing back from maternity leave and we offered each of them the flexibility to work a few days a week, the hours dependent on what personally suits them. We worked around them because you are going to get the best out of employees when they have sorted life and are happy.
The ‘Great Resignation’ is down to people putting their lives first and the want for better balance and flexibility post-Covid (which showed we can work productively from pretty much anywhere). The more an employer limits things like flexibility, the higher the employee’s intent to leave. They don’t want to feel constrained by lack of freedom and choice. Returning back to the ‘old way’ of work will encourage employees to look to more forward-thinking companies.
The UK Labour Force Survey shows resignations and job-to-job moves in the UK are at the highest level in 20 years. If your employees are thinking of leaving, there is probably something you could be doing better as a company to improve employee satisfaction. Investigating the reasons people leave is paramount in order to both attract and keep people.
Gartner surveyed more than 3,500 employees around the world, and 65% said the pandemic had made them rethink the value that work should hold in their lives. Also, 56% said it made them want to contribute more to society and 52% questioned the purpose of their jobs. This highlights how the pandemic has been a catalyst to elevate personal purpose and values.
The ultimate attraction for an employee is to join a true purpose-driven organisation. If staff members truly believe in the purpose and that they can make a difference, they feel there is a real value behind what they are doing. This culture and belief is one of the most powerful tools any company will have for retention to avoid the impacts of ‘The Great Resignation’. Remember, when an employee is hard working, driven and believes in the purpose of the organisation, this is called passion. Whereas when an employee is working at something they don’t believe in, this is called ‘Stress’.
There are various other factors that should be analysed to help improve retention. The Employee Retention Report has found that career development is one of the top contributing reasons why employees leave their jobs. Lack of growth and development opportunities can cause job dissatisfaction leading to staff leaving their role in search of better career opportunities. Therefore, it is important to ensure people have a sense of advancement within the organisation. If you do not invest in your staff, they will not invest in your business. You get what you put in at the end of the day.
To navigate in today’s world firms need to recognise the ball truly is in the employee’s court. We need to relook at our traditional structures and put people’s happiness at the fore. Listening to staff is essential to create a sustainable environment to optimise productivity and growth where people feel heard, trusted and empowered. Those that refuse to change will no doubt fall behind.