Allowing employees to work where they want, when they want and how they are most effective can improve both morale and your business’s bottom line.
“Companies have always been focused on meeting the customers’ needs, but the employee experience has become equally important,” says Cindy Donohoe, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Highmark Health, parent company of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. “It’s no longer about where people work but how; less about where they go and more about the things they do.”
How has the pandemic changed how people work?
The pandemic was an opportunity to test out flexible and remote work. Before, people mostly worked on-site, and then overnight, they were working from home. Coming out of the pandemic, many companies are taking a more hybrid approach to how and where people work.
Many companies had never considered flexible work, and some employees didn’t want to work away from the office for fear of being passed over for promotions or losing their jobs. But a lot has changed. Many companies that were forced into this situation are seeing the best financial results and the highest employee satisfaction ever. It’s been long enough to create new behaviors, giving people a more healthy, balanced lifestyle.
This opportunity has shown that if you take care of your people, they’ll take care of their customers, and the rest will take care of itself. That allows employees to work at their highest peak of efficiency, doing higher-quality work, resulting in happier customers. There’s been a cultural shift, and companies are leading with what is best for the employee, putting employees first and having a higher level of trust in people.
How should employers approach a potential return to the office?
A hybrid model, in which employees have the option of working in the office or elsewhere, gives people the opportunity to work in the way that works best for them.
While many employees may prefer to work only off-site, others have missed the social aspect and inspiration of the office. Others may not have a space to work off-site without distractions. Some people thrive in a traditional environment, like the physical separation of work and home, and appreciate the social connection and the sense of belonging to something bigger. There is a different sense of energy that comes from seeing people in person.
A hybrid model allows people to work how and where they choose, with the flexibility to meet their needs and complement their lifestyle. And the key to that is trust. Work from anywhere requires trust on steroids. Trust that people will do the right thing. That they will produce results.
For too long, leaders have managed by walking around, and when that went away, they worried that if they couldn’t physically see the employee, that person was not working. Employers should measure performance based on results, not on whether someone is putting in the time.
Are they meeting their business objectives? Are they contributing? If employees are off-site, employers need to be more intentional in their approach, building one-on-one relationships, finding new ways to celebrate successes and getting comfortable with collaborative tools. You may need to try a new way to interact with employees, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
How does work from anywhere benefit both employers and employees?
Think about what customers need and what the business needs, and determine if it is feasible to meet those needs from a different location. Think broadly about trust and flexibility. Anything that gives people more control over their lives and work allows them to be better at both. Think about whether you are offering enough flexibility to keep people, because other companies allowing people to work from anywhere opens up opportunities unhappy employees.
Empowering people to work when and where they are most effective allows them to do the job where and when it makes the most sense for them, resulting in happier employees who choose to stay.