One of the biggest business impacts resulting from the pandemic is the work from home (WFH) quandary. Why is it a quandary, because make no mistake about it, it is here to stay. The sooner businesses and its leaders realize this, the sooner they can pivot and find long-term solutions that can reduce the negative side effects and retain their top talent.
The initial transition to WFH was a success, and the prospect of transitioning back into the office similar to pre-pandemic is not realistic. It’s no secret that employee-employer tensions about heading back to the workplace are growing. As more employers push to get employees back in-house, the workers themselves are taking a harder stand. In a survey by FlexJobs found that 60% of women and 52% of men would quit if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely at least part of the time. Sixty-nine percent of men and 80% of women said that remote work options are among their top considerations when looking for a new job.
What employees love about WFH
There are certain advantages employees love about WFH, such as, it is as if we all gained a 25th hour in our day due to the lack of commute. Less stress and anxiety resulting from no longer feeling like rushed to get to work, to get home from work, and not having to deal with traffic and rush hour, flexible work schedules, the ability to juggle at-home responsibilities with work.
What employees hate about WFH
While those are huge positives to employees, once the dust finally settled, people found there are numerous unintended consequences from WFH, besides just blurry eyes from zoom fatigue. Initially, many employers feared employees would work less when working from home. However, in a significant number of professionals have found that with no clear end to the workday, they are working a lot more, always on.
Employees who WFH have reported emotional neglect, professional isolation, a lack of energy, chemistry, collaboration, and sense of community. The interaction they are having virtually, are fewer than they had at the office and the quality of those interactions are more transactional. They’re not having a feeling of genuine connection. They feel less seen, recognized, heard, and appreciated.
There is also a legitimate concern, that an uneven playing field has been created between employees who choose to return to the office versus those who continue to WFH. Being seen by your boss, having the opportunity to interact more often, share your input, may mean career advantages favor the in-office employees. While the WFH workforce are out of sight – out of mind.
In a recent interview with TIME, GoFundMe CEO Tim Cadogan laid out the big question that’s plaguing C-suites: “What are the sort of clear three or four rules that you’ll have to adopt to make sure that everyone is an equal participant in the conversation?”
Equality. That’s the sticky part of hybrid work. Not equality of personhood — but parity of opportunity and voice. And that’s dependent on the communication mediums employees can use.
Another major side effect that people started realizing was that their commute time to and from work actually served as a buffer time, allowing people to decompress from a hectic day. Today, when they are done working, they open their home office door and step into the kitchen. Many are finding it hard to go from professional mode to parent/spouse mode in a blink of an eye.
Solving the WFH Quandary
Flexibility is the key, customizing hybrid options that work for your workforce. To do this, leaders need to be trained on an entirely new skillset; “How to lead from a distance.” First in order to restore a sense of connection and collaboration, leaders need to replicate Keurig conversations that happened naturally at the office. To do this, leaders have to start having more one on one unstructured virtual check-ins with their employees. During these check-ins helps build emotional capital, by leaders truly demonstrating they care and want to know how their employees are “really doing”. These allow for conversations to morph down rabbit holes. Trust and relationships are built in rabbit holes. Leaders also must be willing to show vulnerability, how they are dealing with similar set of circumstances both personally and professionally, how they are handling it.
One of the biggest causes of The Great Resignation era is the lack of purpose motive. Employees, especially the younger generations are not willing to trade hours for dollars. Today, more than money, employees actually care about making an impact. Leaders need to be constantly teaching and demonstrating how the employees’ jobs impacts the company and their customers. Purpose is a key driver in employee engagement and motivation.
Leaders have to be constantly sharing the vision of the organization and tying the employee impacts that vision. As Stan Slap, corporate culture guru, says, “To get people to commit their careers to your vision, you are asking for the deepest level of trust possible: You are asking for faith in you and your word. To reach your vision, your team has to believe that you believe it. This will only happen if your vision is about what is right with the world that must be protected and wrong with the world that must be corrected.”