Summary: Many leaders have been reticent to a permanent shift where their teams work opting for varying levels of pressure in returning to office settings. Reasons for the resistance are logical but there are benefits to a shift to a nonstandard option that create opportunities for leaders and the companies they lead. Upsides to remote work or hybrid schedules aren’t realized by talent alone. It’s the companies themselves that very well may manifest a better outcome.
Every leader has heard and experienced the realities and challenges of the aptly named Great Resignation. A byproduct of the Pandemic was a reset within the hearts and minds of talent across the world. The dream of work-life balance shifted from a theoretical desire with varying degrees of realization to fully realized, especially in the highly skilled labor markets. If one was unfortunate enough to lose their position, the viability of freelance or temporary work also shifted. Having been forced past the fear of uncertainty, large swaths of talent from entry-level to highly skilled experienced a path more lucrative on multiple fronts.
In a 2021 Upwork study, 81% of highly skilled freelancers said they had more flexibility to care for their families. 74% said that freelancing gave them the flexibility to address personal mental or physical health needs. To add to the benefits, 62% of respondents said they either make more or the same amount of income as they did with full-time employment. Freelance, it turns out, isn’t the struggle many perceive it to be. It’s easy to see why many members of the workforce are pushing back on a return to what seems at this point to be archaic.
With inflation at a high point, speculation of recession in full swing, and savings accounts of the average American dwindling, the luster of freelance work will start to rapidly tarnish. Before you start to perk up in the notion that talent will beg to return to the office, it would be good to remember why said talent resisted that return. Furthermore, understanding that the benefits are not solely held by the talent can help leaders envision a better, more lucrative future.
The power dynamics between employer and employee may seem to have shifted in favor of the employee, but that does not have to be the case. While compensatory needs from employees have shifted in the form of maintaining or fostering work-life balance, exploring alternative work environments, and, of course, salary and benefits, employers can capitalize to make it mutually beneficial. If employers and leadership deliver on those wants, there is a path for companies to simultaneously grow stronger and more successful.
Expanded talent pool
By embracing remote work, freelancing, and previously unorthodox work environments, leaders can realize a broader talent pool. If the world has become our office, then that same world has become our talent pool. With that comes the advantages of a free market as supply drastically increases compared to demand. No longer must companies be restricted by locality, regionality, and costly relocation costs.
When the traditional office exists in a major city, this may not be as big of an issue, however, companies in smaller cities and towns now have access to top talent in a scenario that has rapidly become accepted and adopted. 70% of respondents in a recent PWC survey stated they have either implemented remote work options or have a plan in place. With such a broad talent pool from which to choose, the power shifts back into the hands of companies that are prepared and optimized for remote, hybrid, and non-traditional work and collaboration spaces.
Stronger teams with higher satisfaction
As most leaders know, job satisfaction is the key ingredient to retaining highly skilled talent, and attracting it which are critical to cultivating a strong company culture and providing top-notch client experience. Highly skilled talent reported being 82% more satisfied as remote workers or freelancers. Why fight that? Instead, embrace it and make it easier to collaborate and interact. Make alternative work environments the standard, not the exception.
One primary key to fostering remote-forward working arrangements is in establishing strong processes and clear procedures. Not with the intent of making the company factory-like, but to provide the structure and guardrails necessary to assure client, team members, and company success.
Fast track to diversity and inclusion goals
Having a team of diverse backgrounds in an inclusive environment is a goal that’s easier to attain when the footprint of the company expands outside of its brick-and-mortar epicenters. With the ability to search in every market across the country, and the globe, identifying talent that results in a diversity of culture, perspectives and ideas are much easier compared to the restrictions of geography.
This opens the door to accessing underserved communities that may have little access to transit options, or have difficulties with mobility in general. While we must be careful as to not create deserts for health and other services, the upsides to access to these communities could have measurable positives.
Inclusivity may be more of a challenge in a remote-forward scenario, but no more difficult than in the office. Policies and procedures must be established for communication channels, meetings, and leadership interactions to avoid caustic realities like those notoriously experienced in the Slack-tiverse at institutions like the Kraken Crypto where accusations of hateful, culture war commentary have rattled the company.
Heightened agility in budget management
The financial upsides of a hybrid or fully remote approach to the working environment are multifaceted. If leaders can let go of the signage on the building ego stroke, those massive footprints with equally massive leases can be downsized and replaced with environments optimized for connection and culture.
Studies conducted by Human Resource Executive found teams were four times more likely to give a positive Net Promoter Score (NPS) to their employers. Those same teams were 1.6 times more likely to have high engagement with the organization. If leaders optimize the interior experiences of the office for the new work reality, the positive benefits are rapidly realized.
Leaders can optimize teams to work from geographic areas that have lower costs of living which results in lower salary requirements. In order to make this work, companies must tighten up the training programs, tools, and procedures to ensure teams can be effectively onboarded.
Investments in the training programs result in both rapid onboarding and clearly defined career paths which have positive effects on employee retention. Higher retention rates mean less money invested in finding new talent while making that search easier as happier employees usually attract top talent.
More productivity and a higher quality of output
CEO Marsha McVicker of LYLA stated that “making work as productive and collaborative when it needs to be — and as thought-provoking and introverted as some work needs to be — I think they involve very different spaces and very different mindsets, and as employers, we need to be ready to support all of that.”
Hybrid schedules empower the team to adjust mindsets and optimize their work product and quality. Connectivity and culture are strengthened with face-to-face interactions. Therefore work environments should be laser-focused on fostering those qualities as much as possible with areas created specifically for connecting inside the four walls. Additionally, home office environments should be maximized for productivity. Employers have an opportunity to help inspire that goal within their people.
When companies prioritize connectivity and culture they are 1.5 times more likely to hit business goals, according to a Human Resources Executive study. Connectivity and culture must be fostered in all environments of work.
Arguments for avoiding a remote workforce have run the gamut, most were squashed when businesses were forced to make it work due to the pandemic lockdowns. As a result of the lockdowns, the behaviors and expectations of both employers and employees have shifted. Rather than forcing teams back into pre-pandemic realities, leaders have profound opportunities to redesign the work experience where both parties realize massive benefits across financial, experiential, and cultural fronts.
In order to realize those benefits, leaders must dare to re-approach what has been the standard for over a century. They must embrace the new and collaborate to identify a smarter and more profitable work experience.