There is an old story about an employee stopping by his office, greeting several people including the company president. He tells the president that he is heading out to a surf fishing competition and will stop in next week. “Great Bob” his boss says, “text me if you get any nice pictures”. A new executive, standing nearby,overheard the exchange.
After Bob leaves,the new guy asks the president if Bob works here. “Absolutely”, says the boss“he comes and goes as he likes, and he also likes to go fishing”.Then, seeing the questioning look on the newer employee’s face, he explains, “Bob is responsible for 60% of this company’s new product patents which generate. . . . well, let’s just say, a whole lot of money!”
The obvious moral to the story is that “Productivity is what counts, not on how many hours you spend in the office”. Although it may not be as dramatic, working remotely can bea “win-win” for both the company and the employee.
Although it did not invent it, the Pandemic exponentially increased the “working from home”model. And, for the most part it has worked very well. As the pandemic receded and we returned to more normal work, employers discovered a relatively new “demand” for this type of employment.
One of the biggest reasons for the enthusiastic embrace of this style of work by employees is closely related to the increased employee desire for greater flexibility in the standard 40 hour 8 to 5 routine.
We wrote about this last October (2021) in a blog post article titled “Top Ten Reasons for Reluctance to Return to Work” particularly in “reasons” 6-8 where we discussed (in order) “Better balancing of work and leisure, better pay, benefits, and working conditions, and Flexibility.
It was interesting to note then (and now) that in the worker surveys and articles we researched for that October article, greater “Flexibility” came up very often.
In a “Harvard Business Review”survey of “The Most Desirable Employee Benefits”, more “flexible hours” and “working from home”were numbers 2 and 4 of 17 listed benefits.
Even more interesting and surprising was a survey Forbes magazine reported on in May 2021. The survey question was “Would you give up $30,000 to work from home?” The question was asked of 3,000 employees from some very well-respected companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Salesforce, etc… The average response was that 64% would give up the 30 thousand to work from home (Salesforce employees response was 76%).
There were only two companies out of the 45 sampled whose employees opted for the $30,000 rather than the Work from Home” benefit.
Just one more article on this subject I would like to site before moving on and that was from the publication of the “Society for Human Resource Management”(SHRM) published 6 years ago titled “Workplace Flexibility Necessary for Business, Speaker Says”.
So, the issue of flexibility in the workplace has been out there for a few years thatis, flexibility in working arrangements which are important for employees and therefore their employers.
This development is closely related to the desire of employees for a greater “work-life balance”, more time for children and families, etc. This desire has been noted anddocumented in worker surveys for several years, but the Pandemic has forced an “exponential” increase in the actual implementation of more flexibility in how work is accomplished.
“Working from Home” and the “Hybrid” Solution
One of the most dramatic effectsfor the “working from home”option, andduring the height of the Pandemic, was thestark and visible difference in the reduction of air pollution.The World Health Organization (WHO)has long reported that air pollution causes and contributes to chronic morbidity and actual mortality of millions worldwide.
The major reasonsfor this reduction in air pollution was the millions of fewer cars on the road and the billions of gallons of gasoline that were not burned. But we do not need a pandemic to get cleaner air.Having millions of people working from home can have a huge and positive impact on both human health and the health of the planet.
Obviously, this option is not possible for many occupations but for the millions of jobs where it is possible,it gives workers greatly increased flexibility in arranging their work days anddramatic savings in the non-productive time, stress, and related monetary costsof their daily commute.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the average daily commute for American workers is 27.6 minutes one-way and 55.2 round trip. Assuming the average time and261 workdays per year, thisnon-productive time totals 240 hours annually which is the equivalent of thirty 8-hour days each year.
In terms of “flexibility” and the ability to achieve “a better balance of work and leisure”, this additional time each morning and afternoon can be greatly significant for workers and their families.
Then there is the savings in the cost of gasoline and vehicle maintenance. At an estimated $315 a month it would save $3,800 per year and would pay for a modest but nonetheless very nice annual family vacation.
So, working from home is great for the planet, world health, and workers, but what’s in it for the employer?
There are certainly benefits for the employer in the working from home model by having a happier workforce, better recruiting, and even increased productivity that has been reported. They can also reduce their real estate needs.
But what is in danger of being lost is the employee identificationwith and attachment to the corporation and its culture which is important for stability by keeping turnover rates lower.
Also, employers are concerned that there is a synergy in having workers together in one location that increases. Tom Barkin, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond has been following this trend in a series of articles. In his latest publication just a few days ago, May 26, 2022.1568 words) and titled, “Rethinking the Office” Barkin says “Proximity facilitates the exchange of ideas among workers, which fosters collaboration, innovation and productivity.”
He elaborates on these ideas by talking about the casual daily connections between managers and coworkers, the verbal cues, friendships, personal meetings, and casual conversations over coffee that fosters teamwork where innovations are born and developed.
It is for all these reasons (and more) that he comes down on the side of “The Hybrid Solution”even though there are differences of opinion among employers on how much time should be scheduled for each.
What seems certain is that thefuture of work is going to include the hybrid solution of remote and office work where the best of both is preserved.Newer technologies have enhanced the experience and effectiveness of remote work (Zoom meetings, Cloud storage etc.)
A good article on this subject with lots of good survey data is one from this past October (2021) in Gallup titled,“Remote Work Persisting and Trending Permanent”.
The Hybrid Workplace Solution.
The hybrid workplace, defined as thecombining ofremote and in-office work seems to be the most agreed upon solution by both employees and employers. It is a solution that provides the best of both worlds. It gives a great deal of flexibility and savings to the employee and satisfies the need for the direct interaction provided by the traditional office.
Modern communications including on-line Zoom meetings, cloud-based software and database access, mobile apps and other innovations seem to also bridge the gap and bring together the variouslocations. This will only get better over time.
The staffing companies we work with have businesses that readily lend themselves to the hybrid model.
The core staff of a staffing company is generally quite ableto work remotely. Their comprehensive staffing software is available online with secure segregation of access so that most all activities can be accomplished online.Increasingly many tasks can be conveniently done with any internet accessible device including the standard smartphone.
Thousands of other businesses can also easily accommodatea Hybridwork solution,and many have already done so. Several articles and webinar recording are available based on this experience so that newcomers can begin with some solid guidance.
Employers are always focused on productivity and profitability so, most of them are generally open to other ways to get the work of their businesses accomplished.
Other Ways to Increase Flexibility in the Workplace
Certainly, the hybrid workplace is not the only way to increase flexibility in the workplace.
Many companies have adopted full-time work schedules that can be accomplishedin a four-dayworkweek making the “long weekend” ten times more numerous than today’s norm.This alone can provide some important flexibility for many employees.
Some companies now offer 3-day workweeks (with adjusted compensation) which can work very well for many women (and men) with children. Hours that allow women or men to be home when their children arrive back home from school has worked well for many.
Creative solutions based upon individual needs and desires can facilitate greater stability via reduced turnover, greater productivity, and generally happier employees.
Much of the change we see coming will be in the area ofgreater flexibility in how and where work is carried out. If quality, productivity, and profitability can also be maintained, “why not?”
Stay Safe and Pray for Ukraine.