The shift toward the employee being the center of the work experience has now become a dinner table discussion. Employees are quitting, finding new jobs, getting raises, or considering a job move at some of the highest rates ever, as the response to the Great Resignation continues to be a talent retention and attraction issue.
Employee stress, burnout, and wellbeing are all top-of-mind issues in the workplace. Burnout rose by almost nine percent between April and July 2021, according to the Glint Employee Well-Being Report, a 12 percent increase from the prior July. Stress has become such an important topic that research organization Gallup plans to launch a Worldwide Stress Index for 2021, after finding it was the most stressful year in history.
The key ingredient to putting the employee at the center of the employee experience is bracing flexible work models, including hybrid office and remote work experiences. This blog will explore what that means in practice.
What do employees want?
Firstly, it’s important to consider exactly what is driving current employee sentiment. Obviously this will vary from country to country and from business to business, but some key trends have emerged:
- Higher rates of pay. Money remains a major motivator for lots of employees, and this has been reflected in increases of remuneration across the board. According to data from Bank of America, wage rates grew by 4.6% year-on-year, compared to 2020.
- Open communication. Employees increasingly feel that their views aren’t listened to by their managers, and that their managers don’t treat them as well as they would like. Grant Thornton has found that 40% of employees don’t feel that they’re heard, and 34% say their manager is the most stressful element of their working stay.
- Employees are looking to their employers to give them more flexibility in a number of different areas. The same Grant Thornton research suggests 56$% of employees want to return to the office, and 51% would give up a salary increase to get more flexibility in their working arrangements.
- More ‘me’ time. Work/life balance has become a much increased priority for employees. SHRM researchhas found that 42 percent of people who quit their jobs do so for better work/life balance, 36% do so for better benefits, and 33% to take advantage of better career advancement opportunities.
The truth about working from home
To many companies, facilitating these employee preferences simply means sending them to work from home – but this isn’t necessarily the right approach. After nearly two years of home-working being enforced to varying degrees, it’s now emerging that many people want to work with their co-workers face-to-face instead of through video collaboration.
Gensler has found that of the top eight reasons Americans have for working from the office, six of them are social in nature:
- Working with colleagues and team
- Impromptu, face-to-face connections
- Brainstorming with others
- In-person meetings
- Being a part of the community
This means a different approach is required, one that gives employees as much flexibility as possible, while still enabling them to work from the office as and when they want to.
Flexible work employees love
The answer is to cede control over defining flexible work to individual employees themselves. They should be allowed to decide where and when they want to work, with the only limits being the fair operational constraints of the business. That way, they can be sure of getting a working model that they want, one that allows them to work where they feel most comfortable and at times that fit better with the rest of their lives.
Businesses that get this approach right will quickly see that the benefits of doing so can be transformative:
- Reduced unwanted employee turnover, as the best and brightest employees feel more inclined to stay at a business where they’re happy
- Reduced absenteeism as employees feel more motivated to work
- Increased productivity through employees who feel more positive, and more comfortable in their chosen working environments
- Improved employee well-being through a better work-life balance, and through feeling more valued by their employer
- Reduced per-employee office costs as the lower daily headcount in the office generates opportunities to downsize
All this goes to show that, with the right flexible work model in place, companies don’t have to fear the Great Resignation.