Has COVID-19 turned the tide for many organisations who have been reluctant to allow employees the opportunity to work from home on a regular basis? New research from analyst firm Gartner indicates 'yes'.
Their recent survey of 127 company leaders (across HR, Legal and Compliance, Finance and Real Estate) confirmed that post-lockdown, most (82%) will allow their staff to continue working remotely – at least part of the time – and in some form. And almost half of them will support employees who wish to work from home full time, while the rest expect flexi-days and flexi-hours to be the new norm.
Looking at our own employees and their feedback about working remotely from home during lockdown, we're not surprised by Gartner’s findings. While we're pretty much back to business-as-usual, we know that our team's expectations – and our own experience of managing a remote workforce - have changed forever. And as a people-centric employer, we acknowledge that we need to realign our retention and recruitment strategies to reflect a more flexible work-life balance.
Together, but apart - the ascent of the hybrid workforce
For employees who have a suitable home working environment, and a job that can be done remotely, this new flexibility is great news. The benefits of fewer distractions, higher productivity, more convenience, and less time and money wasted on commuting are all hugely appealing. But it's not without complications for employers (us included). It's going to be a learning curve, and without purpose-developed strategies and tools, it's going to be easier said than done for many.
In their report, Gartner says that organisations with employees working both onsite and remotely will have to work hardest to adapt to the challenge of a new, more complex hybrid workforce. The challenge will be how people can work together – but apart - to get their job done.
Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice, says "The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a huge experiment in widespread remote working. As business leaders plan and execute reopening of their workplaces, they are evaluating more permanent remote working arrangements as a way to meet employee expectations and to build more resilient business operations."
"The question now facing many organisations is not how to manage a remote workforce, but how to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce," says Joyce. "While remote work isn't new, the degree of remote work moving forward will change how people work together to get their job done."
Gartner says that as employers move toward a hybrid workforce, the productivity of remote employees is a frequent topic of conversation. But it's not as big a concern as you'd think, with only 13% of business leaders voicing concerns over sustaining productivity.
While reporting that 61% of business leaders surveyed have implemented more frequent manager-employee check-ins, Gartner says that 29% are not taking any measures to track productivity remotely. (Or perhaps they just don't have the ability, rather than a lack of interest or demonstrating blind faith in their employees?)
Keeping corporate culture front and centre
So, what do business leaders see as one of the biggest challenges of managing a hybrid workforce? The subhead of this section is probably a giveaway!
Yes, 30% of business leaders are most concerned with maintaining corporate culture.
As an aside, 13% of respondents are also concerned by their ability to create parity between the remote and in-office experience. And HR departments take note: a further 13% are concerned about providing a seamless employee experience to a widespread workforce.
"It is critical that employers get their corporate culture and employee experience right during this period of uncertainty," adds Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. "Both facets help ensure organisations achieve the financial, reputation and talent outcomes that will drive business outcomes and competitive advantage."
Turning the hybrid challenge into competitive advantage – using flexible working to improve retention
Now we get right down to what's important. This sentence: "It is critical that employers get their corporate culture and employee experience right during this period of uncertainty."
Why is this critical? Because stability in your workforce strengthens your company resilience via better morale, constant access to company IP held in the minds of loyal staff, lower costs associated with recruitment and training, and generally putting less strain on all people in the business. In essence, when you have great people, retention of those people should always be HR’s focus. And businesses who recognise the new hunger for flexible working, and turn this to their advantage, will not only have a better retention rate, they will find it easier to attract first class talent.
How about taking this quick hybrid workforce self-assessment?
- If you look at your HR strategies and HCM tools, are you honestly capable of supporting and managing a hybrid workforce? Right now, with your existing HR solution and policies?
- Can you turn employee expectations into concrete flexible working policies which delight your workforce and cement their loyalty, and attract new talent?
- Can you maintain the corporate culture you have developed and invested in?
- Can you make sure that those who work from home (full or part-time) enjoy the same employee experience as those who front up to the office environment and are 'seen' by their managers every day?
- Can you off and onboard remote or flexible workers easily and securely?
- Can you deliver a remote induction process, and provide mentoring?
- Can you enable seamless manager-team interactions and reviews in a hybrid environment?
Post-lockdown, employers and employees have emerged into a new world. The old rules are gone, and we have to forge new ways of offering and managing workplace flexibility. Ones that enable our carefully cultivated company cultures and seamless employee experiences to flourish across the remote divide.
If you didn’t score 7 out of 7 in our mini quiz, then perhaps it's time to take a fresh look at your HR solution. And then take a look at Jemini.