Buzzword: “work-life balance” and we all want it.
Earlier this spring, the work-from-home pendulum began edging back to the pre-pandemic norm — showing up to the office for work. However, this return was not embraced by all employees after two years of saving time and money from no daily commute, restaurant lunches and, in many cases, child care. The buzzwords were “work-life balance” and everyone wanted it.
But now leadership at a growing number of organizations wants its employees back on company soil, with America’s largest corporations leading the challenge. In March, CNBC reported that about half of all companies are asking for a full-time return to the office, despite the grumbling of many workers who feel they can work easily and more efficiently from home. So why should they give that up?
CNBC based its report on a Microsoft survey of over 31,000 workers from around the globe in last January and February. But the challenge lies in the 52% of employees who said they would switch jobs before stepping back into the office every day. And in the software field, another study found 72% of employees wanted the flexibility of a hybrid or fully remote schedule.
Before COVID-19 changed the rules and standards of how organizations do business every day, management could call the shots. However, the shortage of skilled employees has reversed this dynamic. What’s interesting is that the pandemic brought to the forefront a skilled-worker challenge that was long in the making, according to a lengthy Bloomberg article published in February. Falling birthrates, a lower percentage of people joining the workforce, and the plateauing of the number of high school graduates entering college all were trending before COVID-19 hit.
The question for management is, do we change policy to give employees the flexibility they say they want? Or do we hold to a hard line in the belief that the management-employee dynamic will shift and it’s possible to find the right person who’s willing to show up at the office every day?
“The return to office requires a need to assess business, client and team needs,” Boost Midwest President and CEO Marie Stacks said. “Yet in the long run, as leaders we should always strive to do right for our people and by our people. Taking care of our team will never be the wrong choice."
Boost Midwest knows that these kinds of decisions can affect operations and revenue in the future. Additionally, every organization has its own specific needs to meet its goals. Here, we highlight three major benefits to employees and their company from a full-time return to the office. Plus, it comes with a new buzz-phrase: Workplace Value Proposition
Workplace Value Proposition
In the effort to return employees to the office, organizations should consider defining a “workplace value proposition” that enhances employee engagement. These are the reasons employees should want to show up at the workplace and represent the culture, benefits and interactions among employees.
1. Connections. After two years of digital communication through videoconferencing, chat apps and telephone calls, employees may feel socially distanced in an emotional way.
Chatting with colleagues in lunchrooms and hallways outside of conference rooms and team meetings strengthens the employee bonds. In fact, research by Gallup shows that employees with a best friend at work are 7 times as likely to be engaged in the workplace.
So make sure your workplace environment brings employees together to engage through policies, practices and planned social activities employees can attend.
2. Innovation. Remote work often left a void in creativity and innovation precisely because of the decrease in connections and interactions among employees. Innovation often occurs spontaneously during an exchange of ideas, brainstorming for solutions or even at the morning’s stand-up team meeting. Research finds that employee satisfaction is tied to creativity and innovation. “Even the ability to move about the room and easily break into subgroups and side conversations are effective creative processes that can be difficult to replicate virtually,” Gallup Workplace notes.
3. Collaboration. Information sharing often occurs informally in brief conversations that just don’t happen in the virtual workplace. In addition, employees can easily lend a hand to colleagues struggling with a specific issue or provide some quick, spontaneous tips. These valuable interactions not only increase efficiency but boost employee morale. While employees might not have actively missed these collaborative moments when working remotely, they positively impact individual employee success —a strong selling point for return-to-office initiatives.
For organizations that decide to offer employees flexibility through a hybrid schedule, the challenges differ from the ones presented — and mainly solved by technology —during the pandemic. Now those challenges are more organizational. Allowing a gradual return to the office through the hybrid model may be a valuable approach to a full-time return to the office.
Boost Midwest understands that every organization can accommodate remote work with different levels of ease or difficulty. Changing the policies, processes and practices that comprise company culture is no easy task. Often an objective review can offer ideas and solutions that an insider might not see. For a free consultation with our team, contact Boost Midwest today.
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