3 Tips For Letting Employees Work From Anywhere: We live in a time when many companies’ life cycles are shrinking, prospects often ask about exit strategies in interviews and companies that simply offer the biggest salaries are no longer guaranteed to attract the best and most loyal employees. As McKinsey recently wrote: “The world of work is changing. Artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics will make this shift as significant as the mechanization in prior generations of agriculture and manufacturing. While some jobs will be lost, and many others created, almost all will change.”
This is not the first time a dramatic shift in work has happened, and it won’t be the last. Coming out of World War II, for example, the U.S. had a strong economy, and unemployment rates were so low that there was intense competition for talent. To prevent inflation from getting out of control, the 1942 Stabilization Act was passed to keep employers from increasing salaries to attract and retain the scarce talent in the workforce. Thus was born the concept of fringe benefits. I believe we’re at a similar inflection point now, as more has changed in the past five years than in the preceding 25.
Consider what some of the companies that consistently rank the best to work for do to achieve that recognition. Spoiler alert: Most don’t have anything to do with salary. Instead, benefits often include mental health services, matching charitable donations, tuition reimbursement, child care services and giving back to the communities in which they operate. During Covid-19, UKG, for example, maintained a policy of unlimited time off and held a virtual summer camp for the kids of its employees, Fortune reported. Similarly, Salesforce allowed parents to take up to six extra weeks off, reimbursed its employees for monthly child care costs and is now allowing employees to permanently work remotely, the outlet also said.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as companies start putting people first. As the CEO of a flexible workspace company, I believe another way companies should be putting their teams first is by recognizing how employees want to work. From my perspective, work is something you do, not somewhere you go. And today, more than 70% of knowledge workers now want to work within a hybrid model, so it’s important leaders take steps to support the flexibility and functionality of working from anywhere if they want to win the war for talent.
How can you get started?
1. Recognize that you don’t have all of the answers. It’s important to get comfortable operating without a playbook. In my experience, the best way to create a new operating model is to follow the build, measure and learn method, and it could take years. You’ll need to create a space for open dialogue among all stakeholders so you can collect data to drive business decisions that will ultimately impact everyone.
2. Question everything, and remember that solutions to support remote workers will continue evolving. Are some of the best ideas generated by spontaneous interactions? Absolutely. But do those interactions need to be in-person? Not necessarily. Keep in mind that some of the fastest-growing, most valuable companies in the world have figured out how to engineer serendipity across digital platforms. The overnight pivot to remote work was met with trepid astonishment that the technology needed to keep businesses running was already in existence. You don’t need a time machine to foreshadow that technology will keep getting better at alleviating the pitfalls of distributed work. If there is one certainty, it’s that the advancement of technology is unstoppable.
3. Invest in your people. Provide them with hardware, software and services that can best facilitate a frictionless solution — no matter when and where they choose to work. For example, through my company’s flexible workspace offerings, I’ve seen that some organizations offer stipends for employees who prefer to work in shared workspaces, rather than their home or in the office. Beyond these types of benefits, you should also invest in your people by training employees on virtual human interaction. Communication is vital in a hybrid model, and remote work requires employees to develop new skills, such as interpreting facial expressions over video, writing clearly and in an actionable format, and hosting impactful virtual team meetings.
Hold yourself and your company accountable, and act with intention to ensure structural changes are put in place to support flexibility. Mechanisms, such as team contracts, exist to ensure everyone is treated fairly and there isn’t a stigma around working remotely. Going hybrid is hard, but the companies that move quickly to incorporate benefits that support flexibility will be rewarded by attracting the best and most loyal people.