The past several years have brought a lot of changes and challenges to business leadership. Many have never had employees working remotely, or just a select few. Covid changed all of that. Companies like Zillow decided to go ahead and let their employees make the decision for themselves going forward. Other companies decided to go back to what they were doing before. But there is no one size solution and deciding what works best for your workforce sometimes takes trying different ways of working.
How people work impacts their stress levels and their health and wellbeing. For those employees that are caregivers to children and/or older adults, having the flexibility to better manage personal responsibilities and business responsibilities made their lives easier. For some, no longer having a commute gave them back valuable time. For working caregivers, they also found that there were fewer childcare options, since so many daycares for children had shut down and not reopened. Being asked to go back to the worksite every day, for those companies that are now doing that, has created additional stressors for them. It has also contributed to many employees choosing to look for an employer that works better for their work life balance.
For employees that are more extroverted, that thrive on personal interaction, working from home all the time was not the best for their mental health. They felt isolated. Going back to a work environment with regular interaction was not just something they looked forward to, but was core to their own health and wellbeing.
And then there are those employees that prefer to have a mix of going into a physical working environment and having the option to work remotely, depending on their schedules and needs.
All business leaders want and need their employees to be able to stay resilient and engaged. By giving equal treatment to how people work, everyone doing the same thing, can mean a hit to the bottom line. Employees that feel their needs are not being recognized are actively leaving. The cost for each of these employees, according to SHRM data, is approximately 50% to 75% of their annual salary. Just one employee at $60K a year is a hit of $30K to $45K. Those numbers add up quickly. Saving that money, retaining skilled talent, means less costs, both from a turnover perspective and in the health and wellbeing costs when basic employee needs aren’t being met.
What You Can Do
To find the right mix of ways to work in your environment, start by doing your due diligence.
Who is leaving: Review who has left the company over the past year through a gender lens and a diversity lens and noticing if employees are leaving specific locations or departments. If you are seeing more turnover in one place vs. another, that can help pinpoint issues that need to be addressed.
What’s the cost to the company: Calculate the cost of losing those employees, based on their last salary.
What do employees need: Consider a short survey or including questions about preferred ways of working in your annual workplace employee survey.
Once you have all this information, you can start to look at potential pilot programs. Like any new initiative, it may take a few tries before you get the right policies and how managers implement them around how people in your organization work. The investment you make in doing this can result in much lower turnover costs. It also positions you to attract talent that values the ability to be able to work in the way that makes them most productive and to be able to meaningfully contribute.
What your organization decides about how your workforce gets work done will either end up costing the company and clients, or it can be a key part of helping your employees thrive and grow your company.