‘Give us remote or we’re off!’ How remote work is goingmainstream
The rumblings are there. A recent announcement by a top insurance company that they will mandate a three-day a week return to the office for all staff, with compulsory lateral flow tests every day, has seen some users taking vocally to Twitter. Many are voicing their opinion that this will result in an exodus of employees to rival companies offering full-time remote working opportunities, of which there are several in the same industry.
Known as an organisation that has a raft of policies dedicated to inclusion and flexibility, it is startling that a business seemingly so in tune with its staff can cause an exodus of talent simply by obliging them to come into the office, not even full-time at that. So what does this say about the future of remote working and employee retention? Post-pandemic remote work is very different from its lockdown counterpart. Yet even during that difficult time, the benefits of remote working were stark, and employees are reluctant to return to the old way of working. Below we examine some of the reasons why this is so.
Productivity doesn’t decrease Pre-pandemic, remote working options were paid lip-service across industries such as tech and finance, with PR puff-pieces celebrating a flexible working culture. In practice, this was always going to be hard to achieve when a ‘who works hardest stays the latest in the office’ lifestyle was very much the norm. Employer mistrust that staff could work from home and still be productive was proven to be misplaced, however, as enforced homeworking during the pandemic revealed that employees could be just as productive, if not more so, from their home office. In fact, this Airtasker study demonstrated that ‘On average, remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year, than those who worked in an office.’
Goodbye commuting hell The benefits of working from home can be obvious and not so obvious – for instance, not everyone hates their commute, but a significant proportion appear to do so. According to the Airtasker research, 1 in 4 people have changed their jobs because of their commute. This means the commute was bad enough to quit – however there is still a large proportion who hate the commute, just not enough to change jobs because of it. This study shows that commuting can negatively affect both worker’s enjoyment not only of their jobs, but also affect their home lives. We have all had the ‘Sunday night dreads’ of having to get up early for the drudge into work the next morning, so it follows that not having to do it can greatly improve quality of life.
Improvement in work/ life balance pays dividends across society With Millenials becoming the biggest sector in the workforce, it is important to note that research confirms overall quality of life is a major factor in their choice of employer, with one survey reporting that ‘81% of respondents say having a work/life balance makes them more productive’. For this and successive generations, it’s not enough just to turn up every day until they hit retirement. They expect more out of their professional lives and their employers. Employees who work remotely are able to spend more time with their friends and families, so children see their parents more with both parents being able to take an active role in their lives. Remote workers tend to exercise more (25 mins extra a week than their office-bound counterparts according to some estimates), while a convincing 86% of people feel that working remotely reduces stress.
It’s arguable that remote working benefits not just individuals, but wider communities and society as a whole. Rush-hour traffic could be a thing of the past, money saved on commuting, less fossil fuel consumed, less pollution and a lower burden to health services as stress levels are reduced. Extortionate commuter-belt real-estate prices then even out as employees are no longer location dependent, but can be picked for their talent and expertise, wherever they are based.
Significantly, a move to remote working also opens up opportunities for those who were previously unable or unwilling to commute long hours, such as parents, carers or people with disabilities, leading to an unprecedented shift in employee demographics which can only benefit society as a whole.
Focus on employee engagement in a systemic reassessment
The benefits of having the choice to work from home are clear and moves are already underway to make it part of mainstream post-pandemic employment conditions. The UK government made flexible working a part of their manifesto in 2019, and have just begun a consultation aiming to give employees the right to ask for remote working from day one of their employment, not after six months as the law currently stands. One government source stated, ‘The business case is compelling. If you’re happy at work, you’re less likely to leave, and companies benefit from motivated employees’.
There will have to be a systemic reassessment of how companies treat their remote employees. It’s not enough to simply carry on as before, but on Zoom instead of in the meeting room. Employee engagement, while certainly part of most corporate’s HR strategy, is going to move to the top of the agenda. Once the freedom of remote hiring really comes into its own, companies will be competing to employ the best candidates regardless of geographic location. It then follows that in order to retain them, their employee engagement strategy must be of the highest standard. Here’s where Schoop can help – offering an engagement tool that’s fully featured, quick and easy to implement and simple to use.
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