Does workplace flexibility help or hurt your business?
It’s clear that remote work, hybrid workspaces, and virtual-first operations are the future of work in 2022 and beyond. The combination of workforce preferences and real estate savings is motivating employers around the world to rethink when and where their employees should be working. In fact, Gallup predicts that less than a quarter of remote-enabled jobs in the US will return to the office permanently.
But is workplace flexibility the right choice for your business? You’ve probably heard the tantalizing stats on how increased levels of remote work are increasing productivity and employee retention in organizations, but is that a guarantee for your team? What if you underwent the monumental change management process to move your operations from on-premises to virtual, only to find out in a couple of years that it was a mistake? Overall, how will you know if hybrid or remote-first working is actually successful and sustainable for your team?
Concerns and concerns about having employees work from home permanently are very understandable as, on average, they are based on individual perceptions and experiences. But good business decisions are not based on feelings, they are based on facts. So what measurable data should your company analyze to break the hype about hybrid working and strategically decide whether or not it works for your business?
Hybrid Success Metric 1: Employee Attraction and Retention
When assessing the value your employees get from Hybrid, think about the entire employee lifecycle from the day they submit their application to their exit interview. Do remote-friendly application rates attract higher volume or diversity of candidates? In engagement surveys, do employees cite flexibility as one of their preferred employment benefits? Are you able to reduce turnover and turnover by offering more flexibility? Your application management and HR management tools should have the answers.
Hybrid Success Metric 2: Employee Involvement
“Proximity bias” is the dreaded decline in hybrid team sustainability that occurs when some employees are onsite more often than others and then begin to exclude or unfairly judge external colleagues because they are regularly separated. It’s important to address this disparity by ensuring that anyone who is able to do so works remotely, at least occasionally, so they can understand the complexities and challenges of the virtual employee experience. A manager’s ability to model hybrid meeting best practices, spot warning signs of behavior from a colleague, or effectively measure productivity and performance is directly related to the time they themselves have spent working remotely. So, dive into your HR software to confirm that all relevant employees are working off-site at least a few times a month. If not, analyze the results to find revealing patterns, paying particular attention to demographic categories such as seniority, job type, gender, age, tenure, etc.
Hybrid Success Metric 3: Operational Optimization
Yes, flexibility is a major advantage for employees. But what are the rewards for the company? Any company-wide change should be a strategic decision to strengthen the company’s profitability. So if important financial metrics such as real estate costs, employee productivity, human capital or digital infrastructure are not optimized, it simply does not make tax sense to invest the company in the change. For a temperature check of the financial impact of telecommuting at your organization, start by reviewing each department’s quarterly financial reports – compare how the averages for quarters 3 and 4 in 2021 compare to the same period in 2018 and 2019. Commission for a more in-depth investigation (or customization into which financial metrics are the biggest savings opportunities for your business), a remote work consultant specializing in virtual organizational development.
Hybrid Success Metric 4: Consistent Productivity
Let’s face it, the whole “remote versus return” controversy all boils down to performance – are employees just as productive in the office as they are out of the office and vice versa? Employee surveys are a good place to start to gather the data that answers this question, but qualitative answers are slightly subjective. So, to supplement employee feedback with more quantitative results, compare and contrast data from your project management system and your desk booking software (or your information security system or any other tool in your digital infrastructure that tracks user location). When looking at these reports, be sure to look at them by location (“Do all flexible workers produce more output in one location than another?”) and by person (“Does this person produce more output in one location than another? “) to rate. Also remember that “productivity” is more than just “performance”. So make sure the KPIs you measure are diversified enough to measure different types of success, such as: Etc.
Analyzing these four success metrics should give you and your organization’s leadership team a better understanding of whether or not hybrid working is beneficial for your business. However, this is not a one-off research project. Continuously monitoring the impact of teleworking on the employee experience, team merging, increasing financial ROI, and increasing productivity will enable your organization to make more informed, data-driven decisions about what is and isn’t working when it comes to remote work.