2020 was the year the global ‘world of work’ was upended by COVID-19. Businesses scrambled to help their employees adjust to the crisis and stay healthy and safe - focusing all their energies into building a new, touch-free office environment.
Cut to over a year later, and barely anyone is going back to the office to work 5 days a week.
Even the most traditional companies recognize the importance of offering flexible work options and fully remote positions.
It's what your people need. In fact, research states that companies can expect to lose about 40% of their hybrid or remote knowledge workers if you force them to return to physical offices five days a week.
You will also find SMBs confidently going into a digital transformation overdrive - all in the name of ensuring business continuity and minimizing infection risk to employees.
Clearly, the time is nigh to reimagine workplaces and workflows. Is your business ready to embrace the work from home culture?
What staff expect from today’s work from home culture
- Work life balance
- Ease of doing work
- Hygiene and safety
- Job security
- Strong remote leadership
The formula is simple:
A strong and enabling work from home culture = higher employee engagement + higher productivity = higher revenue.
This is why you cannot allow for remote work culture to take a backseat in the midst of the pandemic. Businesses, large and small, need to be intentional about listening to what their flexible workforce wants and addressing those needs.
To retain and attract an agile,talented and motivated workforce in a this crisis situation, here are some worker expectations that you need to fulfill:
- Work-life balance: In the race to be productive outside of physical office environments, companies have been ignoring the fact that their employees are overworking themselves. Turns out that today, 49% of employees feel burnt out at work. And 8 out of 10 employees want to be able to balance their work and personal life better. Especially for parents and other caregivers this is an absolute non-negotiable, what with home offices usually having no boundaries and schools and care centers being shut.
- Ease of doing work: As everyone is working remotely, many of the traditional workflows need to be completely revamped. This is the only way to enable employees to be most productive in this new normal. So, they look to emerging solutions such as eSignatures, VR, AI to completely transform the world of work.
- Hygiene and safety: Employees need to know that you have COVID-19 safety plan and measures in place even when they are not on the clock. They also expect to have access to a safe physical workspace, especially once the pandemic clears out.
- Job security: Many companies trimmed their workforce (25%) or furloughed staff (34%) during the pandemic. The job market is also seeing a lot of hiring freezes and reduced salaries. In the midst of this crisis, many employees just want to be reassured that their jobs and salaries are safe through transparent and frequent communication.
- Strong remote leadership: The one thing that is sure to bring a company out of a crisis is a strong leadership team. But with everything being remote, C-suite is faced with the challenge of minimizing risk to staff, environment and business operations without having boots on the ground. This is why employees are looking to empathetic, future-focused leaders for guidance and security. They need to also be agile and decisive enough to manage the many curve balls thrown by this dynamic new work environment.
What businesses are doing differently in a post pandemic world
Businesses have been facilitating remote work, automation of mundane tasks, and taking a data-centric approach to HR decision-making for some time now.
But the pandemic has accelerated these trends, transforming the way people work and are hired. Tech giants like Twitter and Square have decreed that employees have the option of working from home forever. Meanwhile small businesses already find great value in shifting the workplace online, especially since the overheads like office rentals, cleaning services and physical paperwork have been eliminated.
So, it's likely that these changes will stay on forever, even after the pandemic passes.
See how in the past 15 months, many startups and established businesses have made work from home a comfortable new normal:
- Employees get to collaborate and connect over video calls: Whether large, medium, or small, every company today is using online collaboration tools like Zoom, Skype, Slack and Teams. And it's not just for work calls. Collaboration tools are fast becoming the watercoolers of organizations, providing much respite by reviving office socialization during these turbulent times. In fact, a 10% increase in social e-meetings was reported in the second half of 2020!
- HR compliance with new policies: Many governments have enforced work from home during the lockdown. To comply with these rules, employee contracts should reflect the same. For instance, “the office” will have to refer to a remote or hybrid way of working. There should also be clarity on revised paid sick leave benefits, payment of wages etc.
Several new clauses are also being added into employment contracts such as the need to report their COVID-19 risk or agree to mandatory on-the-job medical screenings.
Additionally, HR managers of many corporations are getting Covid-19 waivers electronically signed by employees returning to physical offices. This also helps with HR compliance since businesses are typically held accountable for meeting all health and safety necessities of their employees.
Note: Be sure to consult with your legal department to ensure that your documentation is compliant with updated labor laws.
- Greater empathy for personal problems: With changes in school protocols and blurring work-life boundaries, it's important to help-out working parents. This is why Workday recently expanded its childcare benefit to 15 days. Meanwhile, last year, Amazon offered employees subsidized emergency backup child and adult care to get them through the pandemic.
There are also several small businesses that continue to offer health benefits for a period of time after shutting down, pay employee salaries even when offices are closed for sanitizing and offer longer paid sick leaves. Understanding everyday struggles of your employees and offering suitable remedies is what will help garner their long-term loyalty.
- A head of remote work to guarantee better workplace policies and culture: In the summer of 2020, Facebook was hiring a director of remote work. They would be responsible for ensuring that no matter where employees are located, the business continues to flourish. This is a visionary move by the social media giant, as it places fresh focus on keeping remote employees happy and productive in the long haul.
- Transparency around WFH policies and future of work: Today, anxiety and stress is at an all time high, as employees struggle to adapt to new ways of working and new technologies. Thus it's important now, more than ever before, to build a transparent work from home culture.
Being open and honest about its remote work set-up and flexible culture is what helped Lux Afrique, a luxury concierge small business, attract a lot of top IT hires, despite the general scarcity of talent.
8 ways HR can attract and retain talent in 2021
Every HR manager wants to reel in those elusive candidates and keep the current remote workforce motivated and engaged. To that end, here are a bunch of tactics that can be employed to improve the work from home culture:
- Facilitate a comfortable, tech-powered home office: Employes should be offered remote access to collaboration and productivity tools (including eSignature solutions) so that they can function as (if not more) efficiently as before.
To reduce the mundane work and free up your employee’s time, you should also automate as many workflows as possible. Finally, be sure to reimburse them for remote-work office set-ups, from ergonomic work desk and chair to office supplies and tools to get the job done.
- Set guidelines for contact free paperwork: Paperwork has to go on, no matter where your employees are located. So, creating rules for creating, sharing and storing all employment contracts and other documentation in digital format so that it can be easily accessed and shared from anywhere, at any time.
Or, you could simply employ a secure and cloud-based Signature solution like Signeasy to make your transition to digital documentation seamless.
- Keep physical office spaces COVID-free: Often, employees will be asked to come in for important discussions that are best done face to face. In such situations, everyone in the work bubbles should get COVID-19 tests done before the offline meeting.
Also consider changing employee schedules, sanitizing and socially distancing workspaces, conducting temp checks at the entry gate, and using apps to enable contact tracing.
Another precondition to returning to work or employment should also be for employees to be fully-vaccination.
- Create a flexible remote work culture: Most companies now allow for teleworking. But, you could go one step further and, based on personal and professional priorities that each employee has to juggle, allow them flexible scheduling and staggered start and finish times.
Also, set achievable and customized KPIs for each staff member, which is regularly tracked and course-corrections are suggested, so that employees are constantly motivated to do better even when not in office settings.
- Rethink employee training: Today, employees are being overwhelmed with the many new processes, policies and technologies implemented to maintain business continuity. So, this is a good time to offer curated training sessions on the likes of benefits availability, digital skills, hygiene best practices and liability reduction through remote learning.
- Prioritize mental health: A sharp 58% increase in mental health concerns were reported by companies during the pandemic. No wonder employee wellbeing has become such an important goal for most HR departments.
Initiatives range from companies offering access to mental health counselors to apps that help employees reduce stress levels and stay calm. Many companies are also encouraging office mentors and line managers to regularly check in on their reportees to spot signs of distress.
We would also encourage regular small team connectivity events; like B’day party celebrations and yuletide festivities, or simply a remote office lunch on video calls. These informal sessions might seem frivolous, but can do a whole lot to boost employee morale and keep loneliness at bay.
- Build trust: Your employees should know that your company has got their back when it comes to keeping your health data confidential and just about everything else.
Research shows that once you build this level of trust, your employees will be twice as likely to want to come back to work after stay-at-home orders are lifted.
- Restructure compensation strategy: As companies look to cut costs by reducing salaries for those who work remotely, you need to play the game a little differently.
Position yourself as a fair and equitable employer by offering market-based competitive compensation packages. This means, you also need to be a thought leader, calling for contract or gig economy workers to be given health and safety protections and benefits like sick leave, just like the employees on your payroll are.
Lastly, try and get the C-suite to agree to absorb the financial impact of the pandemic so that the broader employee base doesn't have to suffer pay cuts.
Checklist for HR managers to navigate the pandemic
The remote work strategy you have been employing since before the pandemic worked well then, but not enough to manage a hybrid workforce.
Here are the 5 dimensions that HR managers need to be more conscious about when dealing with remote teams:
- Process: Have line managers create a system for regular catch-up and update meetings or processes. In this way, jobs can be completed by employees without having to defer to their managers at every turn. By removing ambiguity from the picture, you also bring a lot more stability to your workplace.
You could also save time and effort spent by employees on following up on signing of documents (like employment contracts) by automating the processes using Signeasy.
- Structure: There tends to be a breakdown in communication when teams work in solios. Hence its best to divide large teams into smaller units that can more easily communicate and collaborate with each other, from a distance. And regularly assign clear, actionable goals so that they may see progress that motivates them to continue doing great work.
- Technology: Technology is what makes the telecommuting world go round. So, let no effort or budget be spared in getting remote employees to adopt the best-in-class technologies from hiring tools to eSignature solutions, file sharing and video conferencing software and other ERPs.
- Data: Adopt a data centric approach to employee motivation and hiring, so that you can constantly improve on your department’s KPIs and make work-life much more enjoyable for the staff. At the same time, be careful about protecting sensitive employee data from security breaches - preparing you for HR compliance audits.
- People: It's recommended that you hire for resilience rather than just productivity, thereby insulating your business from risk. Also, conduct pulse surveys and keep feedback channels open so that you always know what your employees want from the system - be it security, professional growth, shared purpose or better technologies.
The pandemic has disrupted the way work has been done for centuries. So, it’s time for human resources managers to think and act differently. If there is one thing, you could immediately offer respite to your workforce, it is offering them access to a technology that can simplify the back and forth associated with paperwork. Try out the14-day free trial of Signeasy by clicking here.
Learn how e-signatures can help to facilitate a working from home culture.