by Luke Doyle
When we finally venture back outside from our coronavirus quarantine, the world will be a changed place. But, more accurately, we’ll all be changed on the inside.
A financial depression always causes big changes. But for much of the world’s population to completely change their work- and lifestyle for weeks or months is to usher in irrevocable changes to our culture. In short, a lot of people won’t want to go back to the office and a lot of managers won’t see the sense in maintaining premises if things have worked well with their impromptu remote team.
Sure, some people will be desperate to get out of the house and back to the workplace. But others, furloughed or laid off, will have suddenly discovered they can make a living from the comfort of their living room. Employers face many big challenges during the fallout from the pandemic, but a key one will be how to attract and retain talent when attitudes are changing.
If you decide to hold on to your bricks and mortar premises, it will be time to drag the way you do things, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. Many of the most profitable companies also rate highly for their HR policies, workplace culture, and perks of the job. Employees of Google, Apple, Cisco, and Telefónica will likely be chomping at the bit to get back to the office, because it’s just a nice place to be.
What will you do to compete with top employers if your current workforce starts to disperse into work-from-home jobs?
If the social distancing experience has convinced you to save money and travel time by closing your premises and making your team permanently remote, you’ll need to start worrying about those employees who desperately miss having somewhere to go and working in a team each day.
This will be a process of figuring out what was valuable about your company’s office experience, and finding ways to replicate or replace the strengths of the work hub through your remote strategies.
To a large extent, these factors will differ from company to company, and role to role. For example, if your warm company work atmosphere revolves around informal social moments around the office, establishing a ‘virtual watercooler’ is the first thing you should think of doing when you permanently close the office doors.
But you need to get creative, too. Ask your team for ideas of what your company culture might look like when nobody’s meeting face to face and, of course, ask them what you can do to make the transition and ongoing work format easier for them. Asking your crew what they need and want not only gets you valuable answers, it makes them feel involved and wanted, which is particularly important when you’re no longer sharing the same air-conditioning.
And don’t forget to do your own research for good ideas and practices. A recent survey revealed that employees place the highest value on benefits that are relatively low-cost to employers, such as flexible hours, more paid vacation time, and work-from-home options.
But careful thought must be given to each of these options, including the aspects that many employers fear about running a remote team:
- How do you ensure everyone is working hard, and that they’re available when you need them?
- How do you foster trust, motivation and keep people engaged?
One answer is to make sure the bells and whistles of your company perks scheme are shiny enough to encourage loyalty, hard work, and engagement.
Remember, your company has to be the best at being your company if it is to retain its top talent, whether you decide to keep your familiar office setting or let your staff remain at home even after the curfew is lifted.