At-home work, once a necessity during the pandemic, has become a make-or-break characteristic for future career choices. Access to a wider selection of jobs and personal flexibility has made remote job positions incredibly tantalizing. Many workers ask, ‘why go back?’
This leaves the American workplace at a crossroads. Tensions surrounding the pandemic appear to be decreasing, polling from Morning Consult found that as of Feb. 2022, 68% of remote workers surveyed are comfortable returning to the office, compared to 46% in Feb. 2021. But there are many who remain uncertain or adamant not to return to pre-pandemic working conditions. Research from Jabra showed that 77% of workers want more flexibility in how and where they work.
It’s essential to retain talent who may gladly turn to a competitor. With the Great Resignation in full swing, a record 47 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021.
Here are 3 employee experience strategies to keep your remote and hybrid workforce engaged in 2022 while balancing a return to the office.
Strategy 1: Engaging a remote workforce
First, we must recognize that some of employees simply do not want to return to in-office. In fact, they may rather leave than work for an organization that requires so. Research from Prudential showed that one in three workers don’t want to work for a company that requires them to be 100% in-office.
Inspiring and retaining a completely remote segment of your work population means understanding what makes this environment essential to their success and how to accommodate it today so their career can flourish.
Connect the communication gap
Remote work has increased accessibility for a larger spectrum of employees from various backgrounds. In a statement on CNBC’s Make It, Maria Town, president and CEO of The American Association of People with Disabilities, said, “Now we know these jobs can be done remotely—and people don’t want to see these options go away the moment we decide the pandemic is over.”
Retaining employees who see remote work as an opportunity to remove barriers begins at a human level: Connecting the social divide that isn’t present in-office. In a Remote Work report by Nira, communication and social opportunities were the top two challenges with remote work.
Inclusivity with virtual game nights, fitness and mental health activities, happy hours and discussion boards can help bridge that gap between coworkers who may never meet in person.
It’s also incredibly vital to maintain individual or small group conversations with leaders and coworkers to discuss employee needs and ambitions without the interference of larger virtual calls that may be recorded.
Note this can be easier said than done, as webinar and virtual chat fatigue are also factors in the remote and hybrid workplace (which we will discuss in the next strategy).
Recognize the nature and needs of remote work
Remote work is not the same as in-person work. It’s an obvious statement but organizations need to see that the perks and benefits of the traditional office place do not always apply to at-home. While remote work in-itself can be viewed as a perk, employees need recognition and incentives to continue a successful at home career.
This begins with rethinking the at-home schedule. Research from Reclaim AI conducted between Feb. 2020 and Oct. 2021, revealed some of the time-consuming stats behind meeting fatigue:
- The total amount of meetings has increased by nearly 70%
- Over 40% of one-on-one meetings are rescheduled weekly, taking on average over 10 minutes each to coordinate again.
- Professionals average 21.5 hours in meetings a week, over half a 40-hour workweek
Dropbox is acting to solve this problem at its core. As a part of its Virtual First initiative, the file sharing company embraced a non-linear workday approach. This enables employees to choose their own workhours, cutting out unnecessary time that has no effect on a day-to-day work schedule or conflicts with personal responsibilities. It also deployed a Virtual First Toolkit, which shared tips for collaboration, time management, inclusive language and team unity skills.
While a non-linear format may not be applicable for various industries, an important takeaway from Dropbox is to listen on a personal level to the concerns of at-home employees. Remote work has opened the door to employees of various backgrounds to collaborate meaningfully. Sometimes the best perk isn’t a free t-shirt, it’s being to hear your team and skip a meeting that isn’t essential.
Strategy 2: Mix and match a return to the office with at-home work
The choice to return in-office or remote is not cut and dry. Don’t assume employees want it one way or another.
Measure your workforces’ actual needs and desires for digital activities with internal discussions and surveys before being put into action.
Ask them and see how you can balance what they want with operational needs to return to the office. Determine what is necessary to do in the office and what’s ok to do from home, then build employee schedules and job responsibilities around those. Then agree to a hybrid schedule with employees. But don’t forget to have individual discussions and consider the entire team’s impact on some people’s choice to work from home or in the office.
Strategy #3: Bring employees back to the office and outsource remote talent to a CX partner
In some cases, a return to work is the most logical business choice. This decision may be met by resistance, leading to potential employee turnover and churn from those with critical brand knowledge and expertise. But there is one way to compromise so that both parties will win.
Team up with a CX expert to outsource on behalf of your brand with remote workers (who worked for you remotely). TTEC’s Retain 2.0 deploys a safe and secure approach to keep valuable, expert talent engaged and supporting customers from home, even as others go back to the office. Employees who choose not to return to the office can become TTEC employees working on behalf of your company. TTEC manages the remote staffing, and your brand keeps institutional knowledge and employees happy.
Forge a new future for at-home
Retaining exceptional at-home talent is a balance of managing the right mindset and resources to keep employees engaged and productive outside of the office.
Staying one step ahead of your competitors means making remote work not just an alternative but an opportunity to build on amazing employee (and customer) experiences.