The arrival of COVID-19 changed a lot about how we work and run our nation’s businesses in the US and all around the world. The threat of a contagious pandemic forced many companies to shut their doors or transition to a remote workforce to keep their employees safe and maintain a positive brand image.
Many companies have seen the benefits of a remote workforce and have decided to keep this work model in place. However, now that vaccines are readily available and the pandemic is hitting a low point, many businesses are deciding to bring their employees back to the office.
Many company owners feel that employees are more efficient in a physical office and that it is also easier to keep them on task. While that may sometimes be the case, they are really hurting their staff retention and worker engagement.
Let’s talk a bit about in-house versus remote work and how hiring and HR professionals can increase retention and employee satisfaction by meeting their staff halfway.
Pros and cons of remote work
It’s worth noting that some companies must have people on-premise. Food service and industry workers who act as part of a production floor for physical goods aren’t able to simply do their jobs from home.
Additionally, remote work can lead to a decline in company culture or at least a huge shift in the way camaraderie and connections are made within the company. You’ll also have to spend money on a unified communications platform if you haven’t already.
Nevertheless, there are many pros to remote work. For example, there is a lack of a commute. Employees who work from home may have the opportunity to wake up, roll out of bed, log into their computers, and start working.
Many prefer that arrangement over the idea of putting mileage and wear and tear on a vehicle during a long drive to get to the corporate office. In addition to the time lost and the car issues, commuting can also be bad for an employee’s general well-being.
In addition to the potential ailments that can develop after sitting for prolonged amounts of time (blood clots, obesity), there are also many mental factors. Traffic can cause stress, and if their car breaks down and your people can’t get to work, then that can cause additional anxiety.
Employees don’t want to return to in-person work
Many employees who were given a chance to work from home during the pandemic were dreading the inevitable email that would tell them that it was time to go back to the office.
Now that they have received the order, they are making big decisions as they think about their families and what is best for their well-being. The numbers show that a majority of people want to continue their remote arrangement, even if their offices have reopened.
There are many reasons why employees choose to stay at home. Some have family obligations that require them to look after their children while they work. If they are forced to put their kids in childcare instead, then the cost may be too much to take.
Other people simply enjoy the freedom of staying in their own house. They may feel that it is much more comfortable to be at home when the alternative is to sit in a stuffy office while wearing professional attire and a mask for eight hours.
Other reasons that people choose remote work include a general feeling of freedom, fear of COVID-19, and better work-life balance, among others. Your company needs to take these factors into account.
How poor retention will hurt your company
It shouldn’t be a surprise to many managers and HR reps that employees would rather work from home.
However, some company owners are adamant that they have their staff in the office at all times and they assume that their employees will get over their reservations and come back since they need a paycheck and job security. On the other hand, forcing your employees to return won’t help your retention efforts.
Even if you get most people to comply, you will likely face a less efficient workforce. When employees aren’t happy, they start to show it in their work, and these negative behaviors can start to cost the company money.
Unhappy employees are more likely to call out sick or to be so stressed that they put less effort into their work. Over the years, this lack of engagement has cost companies billions of dollars.
Eventually, unhappy employees may quit their job or be so unsatisfied that they fail their responsibilities and may need to be fired or relocated. So you are losing money and good people. Many employees will even quit and search for a job at a different company just because they will be able to work remotely.
No matter how company executives may think about it, they need human bodies in those office chairs. Even if you consider the idea of replacing people with artificial intelligence and technology, AI cannot do every job or replace the attributes of a human.
For instance, AI can’t understand differences in human tone, and if the customer asks for something outside of the program, then a robot may not be able to help them and react as a person could. The point is that HR and corporate management need to start thinking about solutions.
How your company can solve this issue
Companies can and should make adjustments to their policies in order to allow an employee to be happier when they are at work.
The biggest focus should be on providing your staff with a work-life balance. Since every employee is different, their treatment should be handled on a personal level. The HR team needs to have an open-door policy where a worker can come to them, express their frustrations, and then get a solution to help them feel happier overall.
If your organization absolutely must have employees in the office at some point during the week, then consider implementing flexible schedules whenever possible. Flexible schedules have become far more common in recent years, and many employees appreciate the ability to choose the days that they come into office.
So, if an employee needs to organize their family lives and drive their kids to school, then consider a revised schedule where they can start later in the day or make up the time when they can. Giving employees some level of power over their schedule is a powerful compromise if they must be in office.
You can also consider a hybrid arrangement, where employees work a portion of the week at the office and the other portion at home. By planning coverage and offering part-time WFH options, many employees will be more incentivized to stay and put in their best effort - whether from home or the office.
If it is not absolutely essential that your employees must be there in person, then heavily consider letting them work from home. Employers can use project management tools like Asana and Monday.com to assign and monitor employees' work.
There is also the option to use video conferencing software so you can have in-person meetings several times a week. You can keep your employees engaged and productive, even from home by practicing good communication.
As you can see, there are many downsides to requiring your staff to return to the office, including the potential to lose your most important employees. Consider the pros and cons of such a move and make the best decision for your team.