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Kevin has been with his company for the past four years. He is a developer at a fast-paced tech company downtown. For his first two years, Kevin commuted one hour in each direction (assuming no delays). He would arrive in the office at 8:45 and typically leave between 5 and 6 pm. He really enjoyed his work and liked his colleagues, but the commute and the demands of the job were taxing at times. His biggest concern was that he didn’t get to spend enough time with his five year-old daughter, who was home from school around 4 and who would typically go to bed an hour after he got home. On nights where he had to work late, he wouldn’t get home until after she was asleep. Kevin liked his company as well but kept his eyes open for positions that could potentially offer more work-life balance.
When the Covid pandemic began, most businesses started operating remotely. Like most families, Kevin’s had to play a delicate balancing act for a couple of years, managing child care, as well as the working needs of both he and his wife. When the dust settled and the world started returning to some semblance of normalcy, Kevin’s company gave employees the choice of whether to return to the office, or work remotely. Kevin realized that his current work arrangement had made him happier than he had been in a long time. Instead of commuting to work he spends more time with his daughter before or after school. He exercises more frequently, sleeps more and feels healthier and less-stressed than he did when he spent two hours per day in his car. While working, he doesn’t have to tune out distractions as much, because there aren’t nearly as many of them as when he was in the office with all his colleagues.
Cheryl is a colleague of Kevin’s. She’s been a developer at the same company for three years. Like Kevin, she’s married with one child. Like Kevin, she spent a lot of time commuting prior to the pandemic and it definitely wasn’t a part of her job that she loved. However, Cheryl did her best work in the office. She is a great communicator and collaborator. When working remotely she felt isolated and at times frustrated because her opportunities to give and receive feedback on projects was limited to a handful of scheduled meetings per week and when she could find someone on the company slack channel and they happened to be able to chat. For Cheryl, she was eager to return to the office as soon as possible and hasn’t looked back since.
Remote work has been quite a fraught topic in the last 6-12 months as employers in North America have been trying to find what the right balance could be when it comes to remote work. Many employees and employers alike see it as a great way forward, to ensure greater employee satisfaction and reduce turnover. But many others feel it can be the death of company culture, where individuals work in a vacuum and there is less personal investment in a company’s performance.
Neither side is completely right or wrong as there are clear pros and cons to the in-person/remote approaches. Commute times, money spent on gas or transport, time with family, company culture, collaboration, productivity etc. can all be affected in different ways depending on where your employees are located. Different people with different personalities or lifestyle requirements are likely to feel differently about where they would prefer to do their work.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned loud and clear these past two years is that employees, regardless of how they feel about remote or in-office work, would very much like to have the ability to make that choice for themselves. Cheryl may be the first to the office and the last to leave. She might be the one to decorate the office for the holiday party. But Cheryl can be comfortable in knowing that, should her situation change, she has the flexibility to to change how and where she does her work. Similarly, Kevin would prefer to be at home 5 days a week (or tucked away in the corner of a coffee shop), working on his laptop and getting all his work done on his own schedule, free from distractions. But he also knows that, if needed, he can catch up with all his colleagues for a handful of days here and there when needed.
Employers who insist on either fully in-office or remote employees are the ones likely to have the most trouble in recruiting the best people and fostering a healthy culture. Of course there will always need to be considerations for the type of work that employee is doing. Sales, marketing, product development, operations finance, HR, will all have to consider their own factors that drive policy, but ultimately, providing employees choice and flexibility in their work arrangement will be the best first step in ensuring that your company is an attractive destination for top talent.
So if you’ve decided that you will give employees the option to work at home or in the office, here’s a few factors to consider:
1. Have a frank discussion with employees about their needs and expectations. Employees want to know that their employer has their best interests at heart. Set clear guidelines about what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. This is a two-way conversation and they should let you know the same.
2. Consider different perks and benefits for employees that make different choices.This one is tricky, because in no way do you want to use perks and benefits to influence an employee’s choice, but rather to support that choice equally. For example, employees that work from home may end up working longer hours, because they are no longer commuting, and in some cases this leads to employees not shutting down until far later than normal. While this may mean the employee is greatly productive, it will probably end up leading to the burnout that they were expecting to avoid. Ensuring they take the proper breaks or mental health days will go a long way to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
3. Periodically check in with employees and, if warranted, remind them they can change their arrangements at any time. These concepts are so new to people that they may assume they prefer one option over the other, but they may actually be missing out if they haven’t tried both. For example, if a workplace is 50% full, vs 100%, there’s less noise and distractions than there used to be, so someone who has chosen to work 100% remotely might be surprised to learn that the good old office is a bit quieter these days and actually a pretty good place to be productive from time to time.
Whether it’s work from home or work from office, OrangeHRM offers you the ability to manage every aspect of your employees wherever they are. From People Management to Culture and Talent Management to Compensation, OrangeHRM offers it all. Find out how OrangeHRM can help set you up to managing in-office or remote teams effectively by booking your FREE demo here.