Remote work leadership - What Matters Now? See what our Founder, Meghan M. Biro says as she reflects on how far we've come since the 2020 Covid quarantine

Photo: Kevin Bhagat

Remote Work Leadership: What Matters Now

In 2020, our most popular blog post discussed how leaders could move forward when Covid abruptly forced many of us to work from home. I remember writing that piece, wondering which remote work leadership practices would make the biggest impact during those uncertain, turbulent, anxiety-filled days.

At that time, it was impossible to fathom what was happening, let alone how to respond. There were no experts, benchmarks, or guidebooks to point the way forward. I couldn’t predict the future any better than anyone else. Still, my message seemed to strike a chord with our community.

Fortunately, necessity is the mother of invention. And resourceful leaders persevered, relying on trial and error to navigate through those early quarantine days.

Covid CliffsNotes

Nearly three years later, we’ve all learned more about remote work than anyone could have imagined. In fact, we’ve adapted so well that many people want to keep working remotelyat least partially.

With this in mind, I decided to revisit my “early Covid” advice to see how much of it still holds true. So here’s a fresh look at 4 key points that seem just as relevant today as we continue to define new ways of working:

Remote Work Leadership Lessons From Covid

1. Be Tactful (Always a Wise Choice)

Exceptional times call for exceptional tact. I noted it then and it’s still unequivocally true. Times may not be as exceptional as they were in March 2020, but we now know that what we once considered “normal” will never return. In fact, the sudden and scary pivot to remote work turned out to be much more effective than we thought.

What changed for the worse? Among other things, stress continues to rise, inflation has risen to record levels, the economy has suffered, and employees have been resigning in droves. In this unstable environment, everyone benefits from tactful, considerate guidance.

In 2020, I encouraged leaders to give people a break when minor mishaps occur, like being late to a meeting. It seems people are now better at coping with small annoyances. (How often have you said in online meetings, “You’re on mute…” without reaching a breaking point?)

However, stress is real. It continues to mount, as mental health issues increasingly challenge many members of the workforce. My advice going forward? Remember to pair diplomacy with a healthy dose of empathy.

2. Provide Plenty of Training (But Wait, There’s More)

Training is critical. The more training we provide, the more confident and capable remote and hybrid work teams will be. Strong leaders are strong learners. And they believe in coaching and developing others. Remote work leaders that invested to help their teams learn, adjust, and grow are now operating at an advantage.

We didn’t know how well people would embrace distributed work practices and tools. But leaders with faith in their team’s ability to adapt now have another advantage: optimism and support that spread throughout their organizations. It’s easy now to see the value of doubling down on learning. But in those bleak early days, this kind of commitment was truly visionary.

The lesson here? Whatever challenges you face, make sure your people have the knowledge and skills they need to come up to speed with a minimum of friction. The sooner they can work effectively, the sooner they’ll become engaged.

But this isn’t just about ensuring that people complete a course. Smart remote work leadership combines skill development training with nudges, status checks, resources, roadmaps, measurable goals, social performance support, and open recognition.

That’s the win. Why? Because no one learns well in a vacuum.

3. Seek Frequent Feedback (Never Enough)

No doubt about it, regular input and reality checks are vital. In 2020, I was concerned that distance could widen the gap between a leader’s view of work culture and an employee’s reality. Physical proximity makes it relatively easy to close that gap, but remote work requires intentional communication.

I suggested reaching out formally to ask employees about their experience and learn what kind of resources they need to feel comfortable, supported, and productive.

Did leaders actually send feedback requests and surveys to their remote teams? Perhaps some did. But then, we became obsessed with isolation and disconnection. Soon, employee engagement took a hit and leaders started watching some of their best employees walk out the virtual door as The Great Resignation gained steam.  

What went wrong? Perhaps remote work leadership didn’t act fast enough. More likely, these managers have become just as exhausted as employees — but they’ve been overlooked. The truth is, no one is immune. In fact, recent U.S. and U.K. research found that 98% of HR practitioners and leaders are burnt out! 

4. Stay Connected (More Than Ever)

This leads to a final lesson — remote work leadership means staying connected with managers, employees, and teams. Full disclosure:  The TalentCulture crew has worked remotely since Day One. Our vision is a virtual “super team,” leveraging digital tools and processes to manage business functions and grow a thriving digital community.

I’ve always admired other leaders who take it upon themselves to reach out and be present via multiple channels. And the power of that approach became apparent throughout the worst of the pandemic.

We saw remote work leaders who stayed involved, engaged, and accessible, giving their teams a sense of alignment and empowerment. I’ve taken notes and found that their toolkits include quick video chats, daily messages, virtual town halls, and short/sweet messages.

Leaders who adhere to an open-door policy — even in virtual settings — are even more important now. Why? This behavior fosters a culture of inclusion and belonging. If you want to bring your workforce together (and trust me, you do), you’ll focus on this lesson. The more digital touchpoints you develop, the more likely you’ll reach everyone in a way that resonates, and the more “present” you’ll be for them.

Leadership Takes Heart (and Strong Nerves)

A final note:  We’re not yet on the other side of the pandemic, but we’ve learned a lot. And we know the world of work will never be the same.

I’m reminded of how far we’ve come when I recall my 2020 comment:

Peace of mind is as hard to come by as n95 masks.”

Thank goodness we aren’t dealing with a mask shortage anymore! Nevertheless, we still see high levels of stress, anxiety, and disengagement at work. And this is likely to continue for a long time to come.

Here’s where great management qualities count. Empathetic, engaged, resourceful, in-touch remote work leadership makes all the difference. It says your organization truly cares about supporting employees while getting the job done. And that’s essential, because the buck always stops at the corner office — whether it’s at corporate headquarters or at your dining room table.

Coaching Young Talent Through Remote Work Challenges

We all know that hiring young talent can bring a lot of positives to any organization. Younger workers are digital natives, they tend to have a great deal of energy, and their perspectives frequently provide a thoughtful counterpoint to “the way we’ve always done things.”

However, the cliche of younger workers being perfectly OK with staying glued to a screen all day long is unhelpful. This stereotype can unconsciously lull HR professionals into neglecting to address the downsides of too much time spent online. And this problem has become increasingly prominent in our new all-remote or hybrid workforce setting. After all, how are we supposed to interact with remote workers if they’re not connected to a screen of some sort?

The long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health will doubtless fill research papers for decades to come. We know for sure that the pandemic was particularly difficult to handle for college students who had only begun to move out into the world. Many were sent off-campus, often back to their childhood homes. Countless international students were suddenly sent back to their country of origin. The net effect was a deep sense of disorientation.

Pandemic restrictions are lifting worldwide. HR professionals need to remain sensitive to the more pronounced feelings of fear, isolation, and confusion that young talent are bringing to the workforce. When hiring recent grads for remote positions, the burden rests solidly with employers to ensure these younger workers do not get lost in the shuffle.

The Ups and Downs

The benefits of remote work scarcely need to be enumerated. During the pandemic, many of us found it beneficial to stay at home. The environment was relaxing, both physically and mentally. Stress levels went down. Knocking out projects while wearing sweats served as a calming influence.

However, remote work has some downsides. The single biggest loss, of course, is that of community and real-life relationships.

Offices are and perhaps always will be where professional types meet, greet, and bond. Good things happen when colleagues bump into each other in the hallways and breakroom. Things that don’t happen on a video conference call.

WFH status can leave young talent with a nagging “last to know” sensation.

This sense of isolation can be especially pronounced for workers attached to companies where most colleagues are working in-office. As a result, remote workers are often left off essential communications. Unfortunately, though unintentional, this is an all-too-common reality. Every remote employee has at least one story of logging into a video conference only to learn it was canceled, but nobody bothered to tell them.

Long-Term Effects of Remote Work on Young Talent

HR professionals must recognize that those who choose to work remotely may be at a significant disadvantage. For example, a remote worker might push themself to the breaking point to meet an important deadline, but would anyone notice? This is a serious downside that could carry with it implications for future raises, promotions, and perceived value.

The other obvious issue for remote young talent is the lack of easy access to more seasoned employees. Remote work lessen’s any ability to lean over to ask a quick question. When the remote worker isn’t well connected, simple questions may go unasked. As a result, coworkers can categorize employees as “a face on my laptop.” 

Turning the Tables

Like every other challenge, the key to young talent overcoming the downsides of remote work is to adopt simple counter-strategies and stick with them. Here are two to consider.

1. Push your remote workers and yourself outside comfort zones

Not everyone is an extrovert. Research from The Myers-Briggs Company reveals that nearly six out of every ten people prefer introversion to extroversion. Despite this, introverts owe it to themselves to adopt an “I’m getting out of my comfort zone” attitude when working remotely. Accept that everyone will need to push through initial reluctance. 

Katelyn Watson is the chief marketing officer at Nurx, a remote-first company that provides consumers with healthcare options delivered virtually. To ensure that no one gets “lost in the mix” at Nurx, Watson pays attention to everyone’s contributions during meetings and gatherings.

“As a leader of a global, 100% remote workforce, I want everyone to feel comfortable joining into discussions,” Watson explains. “ I empower team members to speak their thoughts when collaborating and always invite them for feedback, even when there is an awkward silence. No one should feel they have to be quiet or can’t veer from popular opinion. I stress that the more ideas we gather, the stronger our marketing will be. At Nurx, all marketing team members get an equal platform regardless of title or tenure.”

2. Embrace mentorship on both sides of the videoconference screen

Mentorship is a great way for HR professionals and remote workers to sharpen their relationship skills. Having one trustworthy person to talk to when a question arises can smooth out the bumps we invariably experience whenever we try something new. In many office settings, remote or hybrid work is new, so both parties should expect to not manage it well at first.

Do mentorships make that much of an impact? Serenity Gibbons, unit lead for the NAACP in Northern California, says they do. “A good mentor can help you achieve more in less time,” she notes. “ Plus, your mentor can serve as your cheerleader and maybe even advocate. For example, when a job is about to open, your mentor may recommend you or smooth the way for a different interoffice transition.”

Set up regular mentorship meetings. Have an agenda for each meeting to stay on track. Your agenda might include talking through some concerns you’re having. Or reviewing how you’ve applied your mentor’s suggestions since your last conversation. In time, you’ll have forged a solid bond with your mentor, even if you’ve never met face to face.

The Great Resignation

The Great Resignation – When Employees Woke Up

2021 turned out to be a year that introduced many new terms into the common vocabulary. One of the most popular terms – The Great Resignation.

  • Pandemic
  • Hybrid Work
  • Non-Fungible Token – and many more 

For the human resource professional, none turned out to be as life-changing as “The Great Resignation”, at least, on the professional front. 

Sure, for HR teams, the pandemic caused a lot of strife. Re-engineering of processes that support the hire to retire Lifecycle of employees, was the need of the hour. Supporting colleagues as the threatening environment led to mental health issues, was equally, if not more, important. Amidst all of this, however, what ended up taking precedence was hiring. Fueled by the aforementioned wave of resignations that corporates witnessed. But, why did The Great Resignation happen? 

Let’s try and understand this by recounting the sequence of events that occurred starting in early 2021.

The Great Resignation – Why?

When the pandemic initially started digging in deeply across the world leading to lockdowns (or curfews or variations, thereof), the expectation was that hiring would stall. That companies facing a business impact would control operational costs by laying off or redeploying their staff. Unsure about the way the economy would play out, most organizations tended to err on the side of caution. Consumers were, after all, expected to become conservative and cautious in their approach.

What happened, however, was quite unexpected. For the most part, consumers changed their behavior while making their purchases. The growing e-commerce world became the gateway to personal happiness in a much bigger way. Unable to visit farmer’s markets and malls, shoppers filled up their e-carts. Clicking away on their screens, keeping the economy going. Restricted from dining at their favorite hangouts, people ordered in, making full use of services like UberEats.

Unexpected Revenue Shifts

Other than in industries like travel and hospitality, executives in most other sectors were pleasantly surprised to see that the dive in revenues and profits was not as sharp as expected. In many cases including technology and healthcare, there was a rise! 

As swiftly as the revenue graphs had sloped downwards, they turned upwards and started reaching new highs! Further waves of the pandemic led to additional learning over the course of the following months. This experiential learning enabled policymakers to change their approach when it came to managing their economies.

At the start of the pandemic, many governments across the world had locked down their entire nations. In more recent times, the preferred approach has been to try and create containment zones whenever there seems to be a fresh outbreak of the virus. This new mechanism of fighting the spread of this disease is extremely beneficial for the world of business. It prevents a complete stop of the production cycle.

So, what has been the benefit of this new reality for our workforce?

The Destruction of Boundaries

For the first time ever in many industries, “human capital” is truly free from the shackles of the physical office space. The past twenty-odd months have shown us that work can continue seamlessly even when carried out remotely. All it needs to keep these running smoothly is an evolution in work practices.

Even in organizations that are in the manufacturing or product space, there are enough roles that can be played off-premises. An additional benefit is the “remote interview”. Candidates can be interviewed virtually (literally and figuratively) at the drop of a hat. No more juggling personal schedules or taking a leave of absence from the current job. Just thirty minutes sculpted out during the day.

The Rise of Digital

A huge reason for the world being able to come out largely unscathed (relative to what was anticipated at the start) is the fact that technology has advanced to a level where the element of distance has been negated. Exploding technologies have been brought into mainstream facilities like video conferencing, showcasing tech-enabled shifts in the way business work is now conducted.

The digital landscape also propelled learning across walls. Aspirational professionals, ranging from fresh graduates to experienced C-suite executives, used this opportunity to pick up new skills and dig deeper into chosen fields of work.

The Availability of Choice

One of the major (positive) side-effects of the pandemic has been the self-awareness that many have gained. This self-realization has encouraged many to decide the operating rules for themselves. From flexibility in terms of work location to flexibility in terms of work hours, workers are looking at customizing the kind of work commitments they make, much like the way they choose to personalize their Subway® sandwich. The talent-hungry corporate world had chosen to play ball – creating work models that suit varied types of individuals. With a shift from ‘pay-for-time’ to ‘pay-for-output’, employees balance their work and personal life, in a more controlled way, putting themselves in the driver’s seat.

Conclusion

In essence, 2021 can be clearly proclaimed to be the year when workers woke up and The Great Resignation started. Truth is that not all may have awakened out of choice. Some amongst us might have been jolted awake by the rude interruption of the dreaded virus, as they found themselves retrenched or having had to leave their work to take care of an ailing family member. But, the end result is the same. It seems, as we get further into 2022, that professionals are indeed awake and about enjoying their days in the sun! What a time to be working!

 

How Remote Work Helps SMEs Reach Global Expansion

How Remote Work Helps SMEs Reach Global Expansion

Developing an international footprint is no longer a task reserved for large companies with sizable financial lungs. While it certainly helps to have stable revenue streams and available cash flow for growth, global mobility is now in the reach of small companies with international growth aspirations.

The latest developments in remote work and digital technology on a global scale are acting as a growth enabler for companies with small headcounts but big international aspirations. Yet, few SMEs (small and medium enterprises) have a fully-fledged global mobility program with dedicated resources.

How can SMEs go about acquiring the necessary global HR expertise and a thorough understanding of the legal requirements inherent to global mobility without breaking the bank? What ways can they meet employee expectations on an individual level with minimal management? What is the right level of support on the ground to capitalize on the globalized practice of remote work?

Here’s how remote work helps SMEs reach global expansion–and it starts with a good global mobility policy.

1.  Draft a Nimble Global Mobility Policy

Since many professionals and companies have become accustomed to remote work, SMEs can now capitalize on a global remote workforce as a viable alternative to traditional employee assignments abroad. Companies must keep compliance in check when looking to hire anyone, anywhere, based on the specific market’s labor laws and changing regulations around remote work. Although hiring local talent remotely in the location of interest may bypass immigration issues, there are still tax liabilities as well as compliant payroll and benefits to consider. Any SME’s effective growth strategy should include a compliant, strong global mobility policy that encompasses:

  • Standardizing and structuring compensation approaches;
  • Providing adequate on-site support to employees (compliant contracts, payroll, and benefits);
  • Establishing a tax policy clarifying the assignee’s role and responsibilities relating to expatriate tax, personal tax, and company compliance.

2. Reap the Savings of Flexible Working

Today, with remote work, SMEs can capitalize on skilled talent working in cost-effective locations. Additionally, they can reintroduce flexible working as a talent retention perk. For instance, perhaps assignees returning to their home country on either business or home leave can extend their reunification periods with their families while working remotely to deliver on their commitments in the host country.

3. Keep Employee Experience Front and Center

Remote work has raised the stakes on how companies traditionally conceptualized employee wellbeing. For the past two decades, the common approach to managing mobility revolved around segmenting assignments by either duration or purpose. Today, employee expectations have evolved at an unprecedented fast pace around work-life balance and mental health, making solid and hands-on employee support a centerpiece of global mobility management.

This adds to the complexity for SME leaders accustomed to segmentation. Segmentation may fall short in connecting with the aspirations of employees. However, community, purpose, and job satisfaction will play a more prominent role going forward. Giving employees a voice and echoing their preferences and concerns is an important element of meeting employees’ aspirations.

A global mobility policy should integrate remote work elements to include a wide array of options for employees to choose from, from the classic expat-lite or local-plus policies to the emerging virtual assignments.

4. Look for Valuable Partnerships

For SMEs  looking to operationalize its global workforce aspirations, the seemingly infinite global talent pool may seem daunting. Building up a global mobility management team with remote work elements can be both time intensive and resource consuming. SMEs that further delay their international growth plans could miss their opportunity. This is especially true considering the increasingly competitive landscape and that remote work has leveled the playing field. To mitigate administrative complexities, SMEs can access the burgeoning Employer of Record. They can tap into this industry to find strategic partnerships that can help streamline and materialize their international footprint aspirations.

Employer Branding: Illustrate your Story with Authenticity

Employer Branding: Illustrate Your Story With Authenticity

Life lessons roll in at an interesting pace. Sometimes they are slow and steady. Other times, they fly at us with momentum and fervor. Let’s just say that COVID has made a difference in how we’ve been learning and adapting these last few years. Some decision-making was simply made for survival; some decisions gave us an opportunity to shake up the status quo. In the world of HR, I just want you to know: WE SEE YOU. And now, more than ever, there is pressure to retain employees and appeal to future team members in a challenging market. Here’s a tip: Employer Branding Matters! Build an authentic brand by taking visible, measurable action. 

What IS Employer Branding?

According to SHRM: 

“An employer brand is an important part of the employee value proposition and is essentially what the organization communicates as its identity to both potential and current employees. It encompasses an organization’s mission, values, culture and personality. A positive employer brand communicates that the organization is a good employer and a great place to work. Employer brand affects recruitment of new employees, retention and engagement of current employees, and the overall perception of the organization in the market.”

Employer branding isn’t new, but the way we look at it has evolved. People have always wanted to work for companies that treat people well, compensate fairly, and provide something positive to the community or society. And younger generations are quick to point out the importance of the latter. They deeply desire an alignment with an organization that walks the talk. The time is ripe to look critically at employer brands – how they essentially sell themselves to current and potential employees – and ensure there is alignment with the truth. 

Why does Employer Branding Matter?

The company Blu Ivy defines themselves as, “employer branding, talent recruitment and culture architects.” Their website hosts a robust section on employer branding – with broad and specific whys and how.  An article that resonates with me is, “Why Strong Employer Brands Are Ahead of The Competition.” It points out that an employer brand may take some time to construct, so start now. And the top three reasons include:

  1. You can stand out from the crowd. (KEY for today’s recruiting challenges!)
  2. You can walk the walk. (Note: let’s not wait to be “called out” on discrepancies.)
  3. You can share real results and stories. (This is where branding, storytelling and marketing play a role in telling the story of YOUR employee experience.)

The article states, “Winning employer brands…know that the best way to attract candidates to their organization is to show, not tell. For example, rather than having the same-old stock photography showing happy people in cubicles, they’re creating day-in-the-life videos that illustrate what working at their company is actually like.” 

Think Creatively About Employer Branding

Illustrating your employer branding requires creativity and fresh approaches. It isn’t as difficult as it used to be to provide a glimpse into daily life. Consider videos, interviews, true snapshots of your workplace culture… Anyone on social media has grown to expect visuals that give insight into what it’s like to live, vacation, play and even work somewhere. Use visual and storytelling tools across a variety of platforms to offer real insight. 

So what are you doing to illustrate a “day in the life?” Stock photography and some group pictures from the holiday party aren’t enough (or even accurate). While industry may dictate what is more or less appealing on camera (climbing a wind turbine vs. coding), take the time to think about how to depict the positive aspects of your employment. How can it be captured? What is our culture and how do people feel as they accomplish their work?

Employer Branding Should Be Authentic

But the most important point here is to be authentic. If you aren’t all happy hours and foosball and golfing, don’t sell that. Frankly, those arcade-like workplaces have already had their heyday. I would argue that you SHOULD have some enjoyable activities, team bonding, family friendly, pet-loving, character-building activities that you can showcase. But don’t promise anything but the truth. False advertising creates a long and expensive path to unsatisfied employees and turnover. Do employees volunteer? Exercise together? Have reading clubs? What is special about how your leaders and employees interact, grow, learn and succeed?

In a fantastic article on BenefitsPro, “2022: Human resources and recruiting predictions”, “Employer branding will make or break companies in 2022.”

It continues:

“Employer branding has risen to a top, dire priority for companies to attract and retain talent – and it will continue to be top of mind next year. Companies need to effectively communicate their company benefits, perks, values, vision, and most importantly culture, leaning into their unique value proposition and conveying what makes them different. We saw that candidate preferences have changed dramatically this year and companies will need to ensure they adjust their value proposition and policies accordingly to stay competitive.

“HR teams will implement more employer brand-focused initiatives, such as hosting and attending industry and recruiting events, updating their career pages and Glassdoor, applying for company awards, and even hiring a Head of Employer Brand to ensure all communications are aligned and consistent across various channels.”

Go Straight to The Source

In an article on Stories Inc., they underscore this point: you need good content from the right sources. It states:

“The past two years have seen unprecedented challenges, and a heavy burden of proof on your employer brand to show how it supports its people. Candidates are keenly interested in how you’ve cared for your team members in the pandemic and in the demands for increased inclusion, diversity and belonging.

They’re interested in how your culture has held up or changed.

They’re interested in what it looks like to work at your company right now.

And, they’re only going to believe it when they hear it from your employees.”

Ask the Right Questions

So what do you do? Start talking to employees and asking the right questions. Here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling. 

  • Why do you work here? 
  • What makes our team or organization unique?
  • What do you wish you had known when you were learning about us? 
  • How do you describe your workplace environment to your friends and family?
  • What would make your daily job better? 
  • How can we better align our ideals with our actions?

This is a content goldmine, as well as an opportunity to make some changes. Think about how you’re going to ask and capture answers (survey, videos, conversations and notes?) Then, ask yourself: What is worth sharing with the world? What improvements can make us more competitive for future talent? Where are we misaligned with how we present ourselves with the daily experience we provide to employees? 

Employer Branding is Worth the Effort

Employer branding is not a simple undertaking, but almost inevitable. And doing it right requires some hard conversations and auditing about the truth of the brand. Bottom line: In the battle for recruitment and retention, it is critical to KNOW your employer brand, ILLUSTRATE it well, and be AUTHENTIC in how to showcase the business. 

How does your organization ensure that the employer brand matches reality? Email me at ctrivella@talentculture.com to share your tips and successes!

Relocation for Hybrid Work From Anywhere

Implications of “Work-From-Anywhere” on Relocation Benefits

With the COVID-19 pandemic still dictating the terms of where and how we work, employees are settling into work from home—just not their current home. According to TechRepublic, 75% of employees would consider relocating if work from home arrangements become permanent. 

That means employers are now faced with yet another challenge: tailoring relocation benefits to support hybrid “work-from-anywhere.” Companies must remain agile in navigating the legal and logistical implications of this uptrend in employee relocation, all while driving performance, recruiting and retaining talent, and keeping their employees–both near and far–safe.

Our Guest: Gary Conerly, HomeServices Relocation

On our latest WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Gary Conerly, Director of Client Advisement for HomeServices Relocation. He’s a trusted human resources professional who has spent the last 20 years developing cost-effective relocation services for employers in a variety of industries.

When it comes to employee requests for relocation, Gary says the pandemic has changed things in a major way:

“Employees are saying…if I can work from home, why can’t I work from anywhere? The employee thinks that’s no big deal. I hope every listener out there is rolling their eyes right now. Because we all know just how big a deal that would be.”

Recruitment, Retention, and Relocation Benefits

In this new hybrid “work-from-anywhere” culture, how a company administers relocation benefits makes all the difference between retaining talent or sending them looking for more flexibility elsewhere. Gary explains:

“When a valued employee comes to you and makes a request to move to another state…most companies are approving that request. Losing an employee who has been upskilled…can have a significant impact on the business’ goals.”

Competitive relocation benefits have often been a critical part of onboarding. Now, Gary says that successfully recruiting top talent may depend on them:  

“One of the reasons an employee says ‘I’m not going to take this job’ is a lack of support when it comes to relocation. So, HR, at a minimum, needs to provide guidance, education, and resources for any and all relocating employees.”

When asked where companies should start, Gary had this to say:

“HR professionals can reach out to a relocation firm asking about the possibility of benefits that are provided free of charge and for guidance on reputable, professional moving companies, or (various) discounts for their employees.”

The Legal Implications of Hybrid “Work-From-Anywhere”

 While employees may not see the issue with relocating, for employers, it’s a different story.

“What if they’re moving to a state that has significantly more stringent labor regulations versus their current state? HR leaders…business leaders would have to look into (this) before they approve such a request,” Gary says.

Relocation and COVID-19 

Relocation has always been a complex process and the pandemic has only made it harder. Employers must now determine what their duty of care and responsibility is to best support an employee looking to relocate. 

“COVID-19 has had a serious impact on…moving services and other services related to relocation. Companies should educate employees about the risks that they face and set realistic expectations about the time involved,” Gary says.  

Gary warns that if a company fails to provide this guidance, it can lead to stress on the employee and hamper their productivity, which affects a business’ bottom line.

Hybrid “Work-From-Anywhere” and the Future of Work

As for what the future looks like in the “work-from-anywhere” culture, Gary explains that employees aren’t the only ones heading for different horizons:

“Here in the past 12 months, we’ve helped over 10 companies move their entire headquarters either a few states away or in some cases across the country…for real financial and quality of life reasons. I don’t see that going away.”

I hope you enjoyed this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Homeservices Relocation. To learn more about facilitating employee relocation in the hybrid work world, contact Gary Conerly on LinkedIn.

Finding Balance Between Business Needs & Employee Needs

Business Needs vs. Employee Needs: Finding the Happy Medium

It’s been a hard year and a half, and as the pandemic continues to fluctuate, illness and lockdowns have taken their toll. The effects extend into the workplace, too, as companies struggle to find a happy medium between employee needs and business needs.

During this time, employees reevaluated what a workplace means to them and how job satisfaction plays into their overall happiness. Many employees found that they’re happier when they don’t have to commute, dress up, or stick to prescribed business hours. Others are ready to get back to the workplace where there are fewer distractions and more in-person collaboration.

Many businesses, on the other hand, are eager to get back to an in-office model without Zoom meetings. Managers want to communicate quickly with employees at their desks, instead of via chat. It’s understandable but short-sighted for employers to try to get back to a pre-pandemic way of operating. As the health implications of COVID-19 can’t be undone, neither can the effects it’s having on the workplace, which is why the need to find a happy medium is important.

These changes create a need for HR teams to adapt to the realities of these changes. Therefore, it’s time for businesses to adapt their return-to-office plans to ensure that they are employee-centered. Now more than ever, balancing employee needs against the needs of the business is imperative.

Listening to Employees

Work-from-home employees are not shy about their preferences and pain points around remote work. Coworkers commonly talk amongst themselves about how much they like not having to dress in full business attire or commute. They also expressed frustrations around digital communications and how, since they’re online, the workday can stretch beyond regular hours.

Before putting forth a return-to-office plan, businesses must listen to what employees truly want. To avoid turnover, some employers plan to skip a return-to-office life altogether, especially since a lack of remote work options is a deal-breaker for many employees and may send them searching for a job elsewhere. Many employees have already made that step, citing lack of remote work options as the main reason for seeking other opportunities. Notably, according to a survey by ResumeBuilder, 15% of workers are planning to leave their jobs before December.

What is the best way to find out what employees need to be happy in their current positions? Ask them. Hold a company-wide meeting to discuss what they like about working remotely, what can be improved, their thoughts on returning to full-time office work, and any questions they may have.

HR teams should leverage anonymous channels like digital surveys to make sure every voice is heard. These tools are perfect for individuals who are not comfortable speaking up in a large group, or for those who worry that their opinions will reflect poorly on them. 

Company leaders should also trust employees. They know how they work best, as well as the ways working from home affects their work-life balance. HR teams know happy employees are more engaged, produce better work, and stay in their positions longer, creating positive business outcomes.

Balancing Employee Needs With Business Needs

While keeping employee needs top of mind is essential, HR professionals must also evaluate how best to serve the company. If remote work begins to negatively impact employee and company performance, that can’t be ignored. Conversely, if an organization consistently meets KPIs, is growing, and employees are engaged, there’s no need to return to the office five days a week.

Instead of assuming performances and company operations will improve in an office setting, HR teams should strive to find balance. There’s no need for extremes. Companies don’t need to decide to keep operations fully remote or shift them entirely back to the office.

Over the course of the pandemic, it’s become clear what job functions need to be performed in person versus remote. Some team members can complete all of their job functions from home, while others have duties that require in-person work.

Companies should try to strike a balance and meet their employees in the middle. Offer a schedule that accommodates working from home alongside in-person work. For example, some organizations can easily let employees work from home three days a week, while requesting in-person attendance for meetings.

Companies can also strike a balance by easing the dress code to make going into the office feel more comfortable. Additionally, they can find cost savings by allowing employees to work from home. Businesses should evaluate whether they can stagger when different staff members come in. By doing so, they can use a smaller office space, saving on rental costs and utilities, among other expenses. At the same time, employees will appreciate the flexibility of being able to choose to work from home on a regular basis.

Looking to the Future

Before implementing a return-to-office plan, HR teams must equally weigh the needs of the business against those of their employees. Therefore, it may be tempting to develop this kind of plan quickly. However, HR teams must take time to listen to employees and measure their needs alongside business goals. This will create a happier and more effective workplace for everyone.

Hyrbid Work Success

Setting Your Team Up for Hybrid Work Success

Today’s employees have strong feelings about hybrid work–positive ones that is. According to Microsoft’s 2021 work trend index, 73% of respondents across over 30,000 people in 31 countries desire more remote work options. 

But managers aren’t so rosy on the subject. Why are today’s leaders having such a hard time adapting? Lack of planning might be the culprit. According to McKinsey, 68% of Oregon organizations have no detailed plan in place for hybrid work.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The point of the hybrid work model is to satisfy employee’s desires for flexibility, manager’s desires for streamlined office management, and everyone’s desire to stay safe. Managers must meet these new challenges head on by crafting a detailed hybrid work plan that reduces their stress while setting their employees up for success.

Our Guest: Reid Hiatt, Tactic

On our latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Reid Hiatt, CEO of Tactic, an innovative hybrid workplace solution bridging the gap between remote and office work. Reid has worked closely with a number of proactive companies ranging from small startups to global enterprises. Therefore, Reid has a unique perspective on how companies can create meaningful and effective workplaces in a hybrid work environment.

When asked how to keep teams productive in a new hybrid model, Ried had this to say:

“The key to making (them) productive is providing transparency into what’s going on at the office,” Reid says. “So that before making that commute…they understand what type of experience they’re going to get when they go there.”

Managing Employee Schedules Effectively in a Hybrid Work Model

For managers, the hybrid work model introduces new challenges, such as handling their employee’s in-office schedules. Reid stresses the importance of creating processes to address these challenges, and says there are new tools to help them do it:

It’s been really interesting over the past several months just to see how much innovation has happened in this area…making hybrid work not just possible, but the best way to work for most companies long term. This is a huge reason why we built Tactic.”

Reid explains that tools like Tactic take the guesswork out of the process. Ultimately, it gives people complete control over their hybrid office space experience. It also empowers companies to set capacity limits at the office and manage collaborative projects.

“I think there’s going to be continued innovation in this area, and it’s going to make the transition even more seamless in connecting people in a remote friendly work environment,” Reid says.

Bringing Employees Back Safely into the Hybrid Workplace

The pandemic is far from over, and as a result, companies are now tasked with balancing their need for occasional in-office collaboration with the burden of keeping their employees safe while doing it.

“Most of the companies that we work with typically will rely on local or federal governments to define what safe looks like,” Reid says. “OSHA is a huge resource for a lot of the companies that we work with in trying to identify how we can get people back into the office safely.”

Reid adds that a company must first understand the local or federal guidelines. Then, they can use any number of tools to outline what safety looks like for their organization.

The Future of the Workplace

Technology has always led the charge in the evolution of the workplace. Reid believes that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg:

“We’re already seeing it now with all of the video conferencing technology that’s continuing to be improved. I think that’s going to evolve very rapidly into virtual reality. I’ve had the opportunity to kind of play around a little bit with some of these virtual workplaces. And it’s honestly—really cool.”

I hope you enjoyed this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Tactic. To learn more about creating a successful hybrid work environment, contact Reid Hiatt on LinkedIn

future workplace

The Future Workplace and How to Prepare

I’m often asked to give my predictions for what the new year will bring to the future workplace. We’ve seen changes we never imagined, from the shift to remote and blended workforces to flexible scheduling—not as a perk but a necessity.  We observed just how critical mental health and family benefits are to our employees. We’ve watched millions leave our workplaces as part of the Great Resignation. And they’re still leaving. Our workforces are shrinking.

Looking back on the past two years, I didn’t know what would trigger the shift to an employee-centric dynamic. But I was sure it would happen. I wish it didn’t take an unprecedented pandemic to push the envelope. But it necessitated changes in HR and leadership that we were already talking about.

Workplace Revelations

Thanks to the pandemic, employers see how critical it is to treat their employees as people. They know that they need to recognize that employees have lives and stresses outside the office. And also, that they have needs well beyond having the right equipment and processes to get their work done.

A prolonged health, economic, and social crisis has sent the walls between work and life tumbling down. Employers who don’t support that reality are going to find themselves on the receiving end of an exodus in the future workplace. An August 2021 jobseeker survey found that 55 percent of American employees plan to search for a new job in 2022.

How can you ready your workplace for the changes already happening?

First, acknowledge they’re happening and they’re not going to stop. This is not a course correction or a passing trend. This is a new reality. Second, address the basic needs employees have—the fundamentals that make their work and lives easier. In some cases, we can follow the examples of front-running organizations. They may not be perfect but are nevertheless the ones innovating solutions to better support their workforce. In other cases, you’ll likely be on your own: no two organizations are alike any more than any two people are. The good news is that we can all learn from each other.

Family Support

One of the hardest parts of managing work and life in the pandemic has been somehow navigating caregiving and domestic responsibilities. The pressures of childcare forced a whole cohort—women—to make a terrible decision between jobs and children. Women are the ones leading the Great Resignation. A Lean In/ McKinsey report found that one in three women contemplated changing or leaving their jobs in the past year, up from one in four women in 2020. Forty-two percent of women and 35 percent of men say they are burned out, up from 32 percent of women and 28 percent of men last year. Women are bearing the brunt, the numbers show.

But solutions need to accommodate everyone and need to meet evolving definitions of what family means in the future workplace. This leads me to Amazon (remember I said they may not be perfect?). Amazon’s Family Flex program offers working parents a whole new level of flexibility—customizing schedules, swapping shifts, as well as care and financial resources—to make working easier. Adoptive parents—too often, left out of family support networks—are included here.

Remote Work

If you can offer remote work, should you? The answer is yes. If you can continue to provide remote work options for your teams, do so. And don’t just offer it to employees, offer it to managers as well. According to a recent study of tech professionals by Guru and Loom, both managers and employees have spent nearly two-thirds of their weekly work schedule working from home—64.4 percent of employees, and 66.4 percent of managers. A full 91.6 percent were satisfied with their working environment; 32.5 percent said they experienced a better work/life balance when working from home or in a hybrid setup.

Remote work is sometimes still seen as a perk or a trend—as if people will “sober up” and want to go back to the office. But remote work is a big part of the future workplace. Of course, this only holds true for industries where remote working is feasible. But even there I’ve been privy to discussions where the question isn’t how to enable more remote work, but when to transition people back—as if we’ve all been on some kind of diet or part of a social experiment. 4.3 million people quitting in August and then 4.4 million in September isn’t a fluke. Employees want to feel better about taking themselves to work every day. Becker Friedman Institute for Economics’ survey on some 30,000 employees found that nearly half of employees could work from home, with employers enabling them to do so an average of two days a week. Depending on your industry, if you can provide remote, you should, or you may lose out to a competitor who does.

Job Security

By April of 2020, more than 30 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits (the highest increase in claims ever recorded). Furloughs, staffing changes, shrinkage, and temporary layoffs left many employees feeling betrayed (and furious).

But some companies took it upon themselves to retain employees any way they could. Inc’s list of top workplaces includes organizations like Autoscribe, who committed to keep all their employees through the pandemic. Likely the move took some extreme budget maneuvering. But the result is a sense of trust that’s going to be priceless in the years to come. When you’re presenting yourself as an employer, how you address the issue of job security is going to be a big deal to skittish talent. Be transparent, dispense with the platitudes, and if you have to, reassess your values and your culture when it comes to supporting employee retention.

Ninety-four percent of enterprises and 93 percent of SMBs reported plans to expand their job opportunities in the coming year. But keeping pace with hiring goals for the future workplace isn’t about numbers. It’s about meeting the needs of people coming to work for you. Every organization has its own culture, structure, and technology. Use these to create the kinds of programs that set you apart. Find ways to provide learning opportunities that extend well beyond the parameters of job skills. Or offer trackable development journeys established between managers and their teams. Other options include financial solutions like student loan benefits or committed DEI initiatives, including leadership development opportunities, mobility, and more.

Key Takeaways

This is a perfect time to do some soul-searching within your organization. Work may have changed for good these past two years—and that may be a good thing. My advice: embrace it. Don’t just ask your employees to bring their best selves to the workplace. Bring your best workplace to your employees. That’s the best way to set up your recruiters and talent acquisition teams for success.

vaccine-mandates-masks

The Impacts of the Vaccine Mandates on the Workplace

As of January 2022, the federal vaccine mandate will require all businesses with a hundred or more employees to impose coronavirus vaccines, or implement weekly testing. This news has already sparked debate and friction in workplaces across the country. According to the New York Times, this requirement has left many companies on the cusp of fielding calls from wary employees.

COVID-19 has been at the omni-center of countless business decisions since March 2020, with encouraging employees to work from home perhaps being the most obvious one for businesses across the globe. But the new vaccine mandate shouldn’t stifle your plans for encouraging your employees back into the office. Instead, the vaccine mandate should simply become a part of your leadership and HR discussions, in-sync with your company’s return-to-work mandate.

If you’re wasting too much time debating the vaccine mandate, you’re wasting precious business hours that could be devoted to staying competitive instead.

Our Guest: Ed Dischner, Proxy Technologies

In this episode of the #WorkTrends podcast, sponsored by Proxy, I was joined by Ed Dischner from Proxy Technologies. Ed discusses shifting workplace priorities to focus on what really matters, without losing sight of COVID-19.

An expert in his field, Ed has years of experience in Enterprise Sales of Workplace Tech Solutions. Previously holding executive leadership positions at Tealium; a customer data platform, and BlueJeans; a video conferencing provider. Ed also spent 6 years at Salesforce, as it scaled its operations from IPO to two billion in revenue.

I asked Ed about some of the biggest problems faced by businesses when verifying vaccines and employee health status. Ed suggests that vaccine mandates uncertainty and maintaining employee safety are at the forefront.

“Is there going to be a mandate?… There’s a little bit of chasing a ghost on regulation,” Ed comments. “We want to make sure that we’re coming back into a workplace in a safe environment. We’re going to do everything we can.”

Best Practices for Vaccine Mandates

Ed then goes on to talk about how employers can learn about best practices for vaccine mandates. He believes that employer opinion on vaccine mandates typically splits into two separate camps.

“One is just saying, ‘Okay, it’s owned by HR.’ … And it’s really a third party or an industry-recognized organization with a lot of content,” Ed says. “The second group, or cohort, is that there’s a committee. Whether or not that’s workplace solutions, and whether or not that includes HR. And we’re increasingly seeing risk and legal involvement.”

Ed notes that there’s implications across it all, especially when you go cross-departmental. Not to mention, when you take into consideration the number of offices your business has, and how many countries you are in, there’s all the local, regional, and national regulations to take into account, too.

What Companies Get Wrong About Vaccine Proof

Proxy recently published a White Paper identifying some of the key things many companies get wrong about vaccine proof. Ed has experienced some of them first hand, from both an employee and consumer point of view, and shares his thoughts with us:

“So, the first one is just asking for physical cards as proof,” says Ed. “That’s maybe one way that a 10-person company can do it, but there’s no way that a 10,000-person company can do it, especially with being remote.”

Ed goes on to discuss another error – daily temperature checks – and questions whether body temperature falling within a certain range is reasonable enough assurance that employees are protecting themselves and each other, in and around the workplace.

“The third one I kind of alluded to is using spreadsheets,” Ed continues. “It’s good for the first day. It’s not good for three months in, eight months in, and how you’re going to continue to scale this with more and more people coming in.”

But, as Ed points out, the tricky thing with spreadsheets and data is not only where to store all of it and ensuring it is constantly up-to-date, but it’s also the issue of consent. Health information belongs to each individual, so as much as employers may like the visual verification, they may not necessarily need or want to retain each individual record.

Incentivizing a Return to the Office

In response to some of the things companies get wrong about vaccine proof, Ed rounds off his discussion by sharing a positive incentive to encourage employees who have been vaccinated back into the workplace.

“If you want to come back to the office and you have a negative test, or you’ve done your vaccination certificate or a certification, then guess what? We’re going to give you $10 every day for you to be having a subsidized lunch,” Ed suggests. “It kind of gamifies some of the things that aren’t necessarily considered fun or games.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends, sponsored by Proxy. Listen to the podcast here. You can learn more about shifting your workplace priorities to what really matters in light of the proposed vaccine mandate, by reaching out to Ed Dischner here.

post-COVID HR trends

The Future of Work: 6 Post-COVID HR Trends to Look Out For

The first time COVID-19 made its appearance, a lot of uncertainty, fear, and doubt ruled many people’s lives. Since all of it was new, absolutely no one knew exactly what to do.

Nearly two years have passed, and we have gathered all the information and forces available to fight against it. The good news is that we have done it effectively to a great extent, and the current recovery situation is looking optimistic.

However, there is no guarantee that we are ever going “back to normal” since what is “normal” has been completely redefined.

From now on, HR professionals will need to adjust to the new normal. Here are some post-COVID HR trends to be prepared for.

1. A bigger focus on remote work

If there is one thing that the pandemic changed for most employees, it’s remote work. With all the video-conferencing calls via Zoom and Skype, the business world is steadily making its way to normalizing remote working.

While reports show that remote working was already becoming popular before COVID, especially amongst the self-employed, it sped up its pace.

The Pew Research Center reports that prior to the pandemic, about 20 percent of Americans were working remotely. Right now, this number has gone up to 71 percent. And out of that percentage, 54 percent want to continue working remotely.

That said, we expect to see working practices becoming more flexible in time.

Some businesses may even need to invest in more permanent communication tools or services. These should help them keep in touch with their employees and be able to support them.

2. Embracing technology

Technology is always at the forefront of change and will play a significant role in post-COVID HR trends.

When it comes to recruiting new talent, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and blockchain technology will bring more changes in HR. With the possibility of streamlining the hiring process and improving the quality of the hires, the possibilities are endless.

But that’s not all that technology can do. Recruiting tech-savvy candidates that come with digital and transferable skills is more beneficial. This can help create a modern and ever-changing working environment that is adaptable and ready to face any potential challenge.

If you a looking for a winning HR tool, check out the TalentCulture 2021, HR Tech winners here.

3. Prioritizing employee well-being

More and more companies are putting their employees first.

Not only that, but they are also showing a willingness to address any health and safety issues. The trend of adopting a more people-centric company culture as opposed to business-centric is a positive turn of events. Now employers are being more understanding, aware, and flexible in ensuring the well-being of employees.

One way organizations can do this is by providing employees with better rewards and incentives. Time off or holistic benefit offerings can address both their mental and physical concerns.

Many famous companies are leading the way, showing others how it’s done. During the season of reduced demand, Microsoft continued paying their hourly workers who were offering their support. While Starbucks started offering more mental health benefits and therapy sessions to all its U.S.-based employees and family members starting in April 2020.

4. Rethinking current business practices

HR managers need to adapt to changing times, and to do so, they need to do a thorough re-assessment of company policies and practices. They need to look into what worked and didn’t work for employees during the crisis.

While some industries were lucky enough to survive the pandemic, some had cut down staff, or worse, close down.

Deloitte’s Workforce strategies for post-COVID-19 recovery workbook offers a helping hand to all managers who are rethinking their business practices. The workbook focuses on three key pillars: 1) respond, 2) recover, and 3) thrive. Considering every aspect of the business that needs to change, this guide can help organizations succeed.

5. Changing learning and training methods

When it comes to post-COVID HR trends, moving away from face-to-face learning and making use of e-learning resources is likely to be especially valuable.

Online learning has proven to be an effective and reliable method of providing training. In fact, it has been a lifesaver during the difficult coronavirus days. Given that e-learning is inexpensive and more efficient, more businesses will choose to invest in it and replace old training practices.

Webinars, virtual classrooms, online courses, video training, and mobile learning are trending. Many tools that can offer this type of training like LMSs (learning management systems), onboarding tools, and course platforms can improve employee training programs.

6. Relying on data to make decisions

When the financial situation of a business is unsteady, the need to forecast workforce requirements and reduce costs becomes paramount.

In order for HR managers to make well-informed decisions that will help sustain a business, they need to focus on data analytics.

Data analytics will provide the most reliable source of information, helping organizations successfully recruit candidates, as well as measure and monitor employee performance, engagement, and productivity.

A Look Into the Future

All these post-COVID HR trends pave the way for a new direction for the HR industry. New HR practices will soon replace the old, and companies will adopt the ones that will help them grow.

Pay attention to employees’ well-being, exploit all the tools available to you, and make data-driven decisions. Help your company survive through these troubled times and thrive in the future.

wfh office

How to Design the Ideal WFH Office

WFH offices have become popular these days thanks to the pandemic. The daily 9 to 5 commutes and rush hours have now been replaced with WFH environments, as statistics show. If you’ve also made the move to remote working, here’s a quick look at how you can design the idea WFH office environment in your home.

Make sure it is a permanent space.

The ideal WFH office cannot be a makeshift affair. Propping a laptop on your legs while working from bed can be satisfactory in the beginning. But, this will be a problem if you have to work from home on a daily basis. In such a scenario, you will need a definite long-term office where you will be able to work in peace. Since it is your place, it would be nice to fill it with everything that you need. This way you will work both more effectively and efficiently.

The ergonomics of your home office

Alluding to the laptop-on-bed example earlier, any unnatural angle of the body can have really adverse consequences. You won’t notice your posture in the first few days. However, soon enough you can end up with back and neck aches. This is why it is vital to work in a good place. Design a workplace that is optimal for your body and back support. After all, your typical on-site office workstation is comfortable and safe to work in. So, why should this one be any different?

Imagine you are writing about the role of chatbots in education and suddenly your back starts hurting. That will not only stop your writing, but it will also bother you in your personal life as well. It is crucial to find the right chair as well as a desktop combination set-up.

Let there be (natural) light!

Studies over the years have shown that having windows that allow the ingress of natural light is healthy. Unlike artificial lights, we can process natural light a lot better. Actually, our bodies work best in natural light. So open the windows of your home office and let all that natural sunlight increase your productivity.

Take breaks in nature.

Research shows that nature calms us. It normalizes our sleep schedule, helps clear our minds, regulates stress levels, and more. If you have a home office with beautiful views of nature, you will have a better chance of feeling calm, collected, and even more creative.

Select the perfect colors.

A home office should be a bright and colorful place instead of being a dull and dreary environment. Vibrant colors inspire a person to give his or her best shot. For example, the color blue can spark your creativity.

Find a quiet place.

Make sure your home office is a quiet place. If peace and quiet are necessary for your work you should consider building home additions for your office. Such a place is your very own dedicated workspace. When you are at work, you feel motivated to work. Similarly, you can work just that efficiently from your home office. In other words, it will become a place that you associate exclusively with your work.

Conclusion

When designing your WFH office, consider incorporating fresh air, natural light, vibrant colors, and a good chair/desk combo. It could greatly affect your productivity and overall happiness at work.

 

future of work

The Near Future of Work: What’s Next for the Office?

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic first upended work and life, business owners, HR leaders, and workers are continuing to adjust to an ever-evolving situation.

Now, as offices reopen and vaccinated workers are brought back into a centralized workplace, the big question is:

What can we expect from the near future of work?

Is it “back to normal?”

Some organizations, such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, are steadfastly going back to their pre-2020 normal.

Other companies are bringing employees back to the office on a part-time basis, while some are going full-time remote. One example is Quora, which announced early during the pandemic that it was switching to a remote-first culture for good.

What’s the best way forward?

The clear answer is that it depends on the individual company. More importantly, it depends on the individuals within your company.

Think about it this way:

We have lived alongside coronavirus for more than 18 months. Employees have been expected to upend their daily routines and find a way to work from home productively while adapting to the terrifying enormity of the health crisis.

It took a great deal of coping, adjusting, and compromising.

As a result, our perception of “normal” has shifted. And the expectations and needs of workers have changed, too.

Unsurprisingly, many people aren’t happy to go “back to normal.”

“The great resignation”

One study found that nearly three in 10 employees (29 percent) would quit their jobs if they were told they were no longer allowed to work remotely.

That’s why the current situation is being dubbed “the great resignation” or “the resignation boom.

Even now, amid continuing uncertainty, people are willing to leave their place of employment in favor of greater flexibility.

Ignoring employees’ needs will only risk demotivating staff, eroding company culture, and increasing turnover.

Is WFH here to stay?

Although working from home is far from perfect, it’s impossible to ignore the benefits of remote work.

Trusting employees to work remotely is empowering.

This leads to motivation, loyalty, and productivity. In fact, studies show that people who worked from home during the pandemic maintained, or exceeded, productivity levels.

The real question is, do your people actually want to work from home?

One study found that 89 percent of people want to work from home at least some of the time after the crisis ends.

However, the same research found that it is actually flexibility that most workers are interested in, not a wholesale rejection of the traditional office model.

Only a relatively small proportion of workers–one in four–would switch to a completely remote work model if they could.

Remember that these are general studies. What happens in your company depends on your own research.

As noted in a recent TalentCulture blog by HR specialist Cheryl Halverson: “It’s imperative to understand employees’ needs and hopes for this new world of work. You can achieve this through active listening via focus groups, ongoing employee pulse surveys, employee advisory groups, and honest discussions between managers and direct reports.”

Armed with these insights, Halverson recommends using them to co-create “an envisioned future.”

This is a future where employees are involved in the development, understanding, and communication of that future so they can adopt, advocate for, and believe in it.

Moving forward, flexibly

For those companies that choose a flexible future, this can manifest itself in various ways.

Hybrid work

Considered the best of both worlds, a hybrid model combines two or three days each week working from home with the rest of the time in the office. This provides plenty of in-person collaboration with the benefits of a reduced commute and home-based flexibility. Some studies show that the sweet spot is two days of remote work each week.

Hub and spoke

Rather than bringing workers back to a central office, employers can utilize coworking spaces or other branch offices to provide a workplace that’s near their employees’ homes. By decentralizing, workers can still enjoy a reduced commute but are free from any home-based distractions.

Full-time remote work

Some companies have shifted to a full-time remote work policy. It’s an extreme move, but after more than a year of working from home, these employers have had plenty of time to fine-tune their strategy.

Alternative options

Some companies that continue to work remotely may want to keep a central office, mainly as a collaboration hub for team meetings or simply to “keep up appearances.”

However, retaining an office lease for the primary reason of keeping a physical presence is an expensive option.

As an alternative, some companies are now switching to a virtual office solution.

A virtual office provides companies with a head office address, a place to receive mail, and access to on-site meeting rooms and private offices when required.

However, the cost is considerably lower because the company doesn’t rent physical office space full-time. Instead, they only rent the address.

When physical space is required, it’s available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

This way, companies can keep an active presence in a specific location without the cost of maintaining a physical office.

The virtual office model has been around for decades, but in response to the pandemic, the popularity of virtual office centers has grown considerably.

The near future of work

Going forward, we can expect to see a medley of workplace models and trends.

Rather than a dominating trend, the future of work is a sliding scale.

At one end is the full-time corporate office, at the other is home-based remote work, and somewhere in the middle is the hybrid work option: the happy medium.

Various strategies accompany this sliding scale, including the use of virtual offices and on-demand meeting room rentals.

What’s absolutely clear is that, following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the future of work is being influenced by those who really matter: your people.

You have the opportunity to co-create a new, positive culture and a stronger future for your company.

What comes next depends on your individual organization and the individuals you employ within your organization. Finally, the choice is where it belongs: in the hands of the people.

 

This post is sponsored by Alliance Virtual.

post-pandemic workplace

Trends That Define the Post-Pandemic Workforce [Podcast]

The pandemic taught us a lot about ourselves. Like how many of us don’t need to go into an office to be productive. That flexibility and benefits are more valuable to employees than a pay raise. How talent management doesn’t actually have to happen in person, but that HR can bridge the remote work management gap with technology.

While it can be difficult to predict what else we’ll learn in a post-pandemic world, facts like these require businesses to adjust and grow right now. As we watch a new work landscape unfold before our eyes, HR professionals are readying themselves to traverse it as best they can. They’re tracking post-pandemic workforce trends and supporting their organizations as they navigate changes and prepare for the future.

Our Guest: HR Analyst and Content Expert Brian Westfall

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Brian Westfall, principal HR analyst at Capterra. He covers the latest trends in HR and recruiting software, supporting Capterra’s mission to help business clients find the right software for them. He is a thought-leader in his field, and his research has been published in Forbes, SHRM, TechRepublic, and TIME.

What have we ultimately learned from the pandemic? For one, Brian says, we’ve learned that work doesn’t have to look like it always has: wake up, get ready, drive to the office, come back home. Remote work can get the job done too–sometimes even better than in-office.

“This past year, a lot of businesses were thrown into the deep end with remote work. And I think they realized the water’s not so bad,” Brian says. “I think we’re going to look back at the pandemic as one of those moments where we reassessed all those sacred cows of talent management. Employees don’t have to be in the office to work effectively.”

With the understanding that employees can be productive while remote, there’s also been a surge in HR tech for managing remote workers–and recruiting them. In fact, HR technology has been a driving force in DEI efforts over the last year.

“When HR leaders were asked what they were doing to make their organizations more diverse and inclusive, DNI software tools came in as the second most cited program or initiative they were going to incorporate–only behind hiring quotas,” Brain says. “Organizations now have access to job description tools to remove biased language. They have candidate assessment tools that offer blind hiring modes. Tech is extremely useful for bringing in diverse candidates to create a more inclusive workforce.” 

Burnout and Skills Development: The Focus of Post-Pandemic Workplaces

Of course, while the pandemic showed that we can optimize tech and increase productivity, it didn’t eliminate other issues, like burnout.

“Seventy-seven percent of small business employees in the U.S. experienced at least some burnout last year. For those aged 18 to 25, that number jumps to 92 percent,” Brian says. “Worse, only seven percent of employees reached out to their manager or HR to let them know they were experiencing burnout. Because of this, I think we’ll see companies being more proactive about mental health resources.” 

While productivity among some employees increased while working from home during the pandemic, that doesn’t mean their skills increased too. In fact, according to Brian, 49 percent of small business employees have not developed any new skills during COVID. Fortunately, there are easy ways to implement development programs and manage these issues in a post-pandemic workforce.

“Workers are behind in skill development. And as roles get more complex, businesses are going to hunker down on skills development programs,” Brian says. “Because of tech, it has never been easier for businesses to set up formalized, complex learning and development programs. The tools are there. The content is there. I think it’s only going to make more sense over time.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. You can learn more about post-pandemic workforce trends and HR future predictions by connecting with Brian Westfall on LinkedIn.

payroll and hr evolved

How Payroll and HR Evolved During the Pandemic

What do you think of when someone mentions payroll? Does your mind immediately conjure up an employee asking you for help regarding incorrect calculations and missed deadlines? Or do you imagine payroll as a strategic partner sitting beside HR at the boardroom table offering up valuable insights?

If you think of payroll as nothing more than a routine function, then you’d be forgiven for not being the first. For a long time, payroll hasn’t taken center stage. Regarded as an administrative back-office function, payroll was often forgotten about. And it certainly wasn’t part of the bigger strategic picture. Unless there was an issue with payment or incorrect calculations, payroll carried on as usual. But the recent events of the pandemic transformed payroll’s hierarchy, boosting its importance. Payroll and HR evolved together over the last year. Forward-thinking business leaders need to take note.

Payroll and the Pandemic

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic first started to disrupt businesses around the globe. The first lockdown began, and as part of the restrictions in the UK, many companies closed their premises. Employees were suddenly furloughed and talent was sent to work from their homes to abide by the local lockdown laws. With that, payroll was thrust into the limelight.

In the beginning, there was panic. Smaller in-house payroll teams didn’t have adequate staff to process payroll if their team members were absent from work due to sickness. In addition, companies relying on legacy technology or on-premises equipment struggled with the switch to remote working. Without this critical business function and the skilled payroll workers delivering it, people didn’t get paid, and businesses came to a halt.

As time went on, new and different challenges arose. Most other business functions had adapted to new ways of working at home, but payroll professionals were constantly battling complex legislation iterations. For example, in the UK, there were weekly changes to policy regarding furlough, statutory sick pay, holiday pay, and salary sacrifice. This became a challenge for even the most knowledgeable payroll professional and HR specialist. Without specialist knowledge or support, businesses were shooting in the dark. So payroll and HR evolved.

The Rise of HR

We talk about payroll’s rise to the top, but we can’t forget about HR. When organizations faced their most challenging time during the pandemic, HR teams led the way. Worried employees were desperate to understand the impact on their livelihoods, and it was HR that provided clarity. Business leaders were requesting workforce data and analytics to help steer their people through unchartered disruption, and it was HR that delivered it.

Payroll and HR are indeed very different functions that come from very different places. Yet when the two parts work together, they can help businesses gain a complete overview of the workforce. For instance, during the pandemic, many organizations needed to know how many of their staff members were absent from work due to sickness from COVID-19. They also needed to calculate if it was financially viable to keep workplaces open, or if they needed to claim employee wages through the UK government’s coronavirus job retention scheme. All answers to such questions can be found within payroll and HR together.

Payroll information touches so many HR elements, whether it’s attracting, on-boarding, developing, rewarding, or retaining talent. As a result, it’s become hard to separate the technology supporting both functions. This hasn’t always been the case, though.

Turning Crisis into Opportunity

Resilient businesses have robust payroll operations at the heart of their HR transformation strategies.

According to The Future of Work survey by SD Worx, ensuring smooth, efficient payroll calculations and payment is, by far, the biggest concern for HR professionals. This topped the list of 19 possible HR priorities in eight of the 11 countries surveyed–including the UK. Less than one in five said they were happy with their current function. And 70 percent are actively trying to set up a more efficient process. This is clearly an area of concern, particularly when you consider that HR will always struggle to perform more strategic functions without the solid foundation that payroll provides.

Often, payroll isn’t the trigger for change but comes about as part of a broader transformation. For example, businesses implementing a new global HR solution may need to change their approach to payroll to comply with local laws and ensure both functions are integrated seamlessly.

Paying people accurately and on time are only the basics of payroll. Savvy organizations arrange their payroll function to be more efficient, strategic, and fluid with other departments. Sharing data through HR, payroll, and finance departments creates one single source of truth to aid business decisions and drive value.

In addition, payroll plays a more significant role in employee experience and brand reputation than you might think. An incorrectly paid employee may air their grievances on social media, providing long-lasting damage to your company’s reputation. Payroll can also impact new talent. Younger generations may prefer to receive dynamic payslips that they can access through an app, rather than paper or PDF payslips. Payroll and HR evolved during the pandemic to become even more aware of these factors.

The Future of Payroll and HR

While nobody can predict what the next five years will bring, we can be sure that payroll and HR evolved during the pandemic. Digitalization will accelerate the need for more real-time data for employers to review. Also, employees will continue to crave the same level of instant access they get with their personal technology, within their work technology.

Employees will demand more flexibility in working hours, work locations, and payroll. For instance, many organizations let employees choose how much of their monthly salary they receive and when. They don’t stick to rigid dates and complete payments.

Expectations of what HR can and should offer are now much higher. However, without strong processes and technology, it will be impossible for HR teams to keep everyone happy. It’s clear that any digital infrastructure that supports HR should build on the payroll function. Payroll remains the common denominator that touches everyone and influences almost everything in HR. With this solid foundation, HR has the strength required to flex to the needs of its workforce. And to enable new ways of working and embracing change.

 

post-pandemic world

HR in a Post-Pandemic World: Where Are We Headed?

As a human resources professional, you’re no stranger to thinking on your feet and solving complex problems. You never quite know what you’re going to get on a given day in the office. An employee complaint? Someone putting in their two-week notice? News of a budding office romance? These are run-of-the-mill challenges. But no one could have predicted what happened in 2020 and 2021. Or what will happen for HR in a post-pandemic world.

When COVID hit, HR professionals had a lot to figure out, from navigating the shift to remote work to managing furloughs and layoffs. Clients left, offices shut down, and employees struggled with their mental health the longer quarantines dragged on. A lot of unforeseen situations cropped up, and HR rose to the occasion.

In addition to solving the pandemic’s logistical challenges, HR departments answered the call to build more inclusive and diverse workforces as the U.S. became more aware of ongoing racial violence. Quite a few professionals felt like they needed to do more to help their industries and companies focus on representation and accessibility. So, they juggled their day-to-day responsibilities and developed companywide diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

The role of HR is evolving. Today’s professionals are talent managers, counselors, and advisors. As we enter the era of the post-pandemic world, it will be critical for everyone to embrace these changes. Here’s what you can expect to do going forward.

1. Renew your company’s focus on diversity and inclusion.

As the world reopens, HR professionals are renewing their focus on finding diverse talent for their firms. If you’re in this position, take the time to search for candidates with diverse backgrounds. Try posting your job listings on several platforms for a set amount of time to ensure that various applicants can find you. This will help you widen the voices and perspectives at your company. It will also demonstrate to your current employees that this is a priority, which 86 percent of employees strongly value, according to the Citrix Talent Accelerator report.

Another way to improve diversity and inclusion in a post-pandemic world is to consider your internal development and internship programs. How does your company handle promotions? Without an explicit selection or application process, unconscious bias can creep in. Where do you look for interns? For instance, if you’re an agency, you might usually bring on marketing students from a local university. But if you only recruit from that university, you limit your candidate pool to its demographics. Try advertising your internships through organizations that reach BIPOC folks.

2. Create and enforce new work-from-home policies.

When the world shut down in 2020, HR professionals sprung into action to create updated work-from-home policies. In the past, they may have allowed people in specific roles to work from home occasionally or on certain days. Suddenly, they had to find ways to make everyone’s jobs remote.

That alone was an accomplishment, but it also created countless questions about the future of work. People are accustomed to working from home now, and they hope to telecommute a day or two a week after the pandemic is over. According to the same Citrix report discussed above, about 88 percent of workers say complete flexibility in hours and location will be an important consideration in future job searches. As an HR professional, it is your responsibility to decide what’s best for your employees and create policies accordingly.

3. Address mental health concerns.

Mental health was a significant concern during the pandemic—and for a good reason. People were completely isolated from family, friends, and co-workers for months on end. They had to deal with unprecedented obstacles in their work and personal lives, and they had to give up many of their routines and hobbies without warning. This affected many individuals’ mental health in significant ways.

With this in mind, it will be essential to help employees set boundaries for turning off their laptops and taking time away from the office. As an HR professional, the best thing you can do is lead by example. Don’t answer emails after a particular time of day, and communicate your boundaries with employees. While you’re at it, tap into any resources you recommend to your workforce. And if you’re one of the 61 percent of employers that offer mental health benefits, be sure to communicate what’s available to everyone in the company.

The past year or so has been one for the books. HR professionals had to deal with a seemingly endless list of unforeseen challenges, but there was a silver lining. These issues challenged HR departments to revisit their cultures and policies, helping them understand the importance of prioritizing diversity and inclusion, flexibility, and employee mental health. In a post-pandemic world, it will be important to embrace these responsibilities and usher in a new future for HR.

corporate india

What Corporate India Can Teach Us About COVID Response

Since time immemorial, the one question that has dogged management gurus is: What is the main purpose of business? Is it to make profits? To generate returns for shareholders? Or serve the community? While the jury is still out on what the answer is, last month in India, we edged closer to the truth.

For those not in the know, the months of April and May 2021 saw a second and extremely deadly wave of the coronavirus pandemic engulf India. In spite of its large expanse and population of over 1.4 billion, the country had somehow managed to survive the first wave in 2020. By early 2021, the situation seemed to be under control. And leaders and ordinary citizens alike seemed to have been lulled into complacency. Then suddenly the virus spread quickly.

The result was tragic. Following a rapidly increasing trajectory, the daily lives lost figure crossed the staggering 400,000-mark by April’s end. In a nation where health care standards vary dramatically across urban and rural centers, the consequences for people, especially at the lower economic levels of society, were debilitating.

Corporate India Rises to the Occasion

It was then that some of us in corporate India saw something that we had never seen before. We witnessed an organic movement that spread contagiously much like the coronavirus against which it rose. It strengthened each one of us and lit up hope in our fatigued hearts. So, what exactly did we see?

We saw corporate India rise to the occasion by deploying their ingenuity, resources (people, technological and financial), and might to supplement the government’s efforts in the war against the pandemic. Some of the key stand-out support mechanisms were:

Financial Support

Organizations loosened their wallets like never before. While some already had their employees covered under Group Insurance Plans, others stepped up to roll these out. Special COVID treatment insurance packages introduced by some of the big insurance players were quickly offered to employees. Apart from this, organizations also enabled reimbursement of expenses not covered under the restrictive insurance packages. Not only this, but many organizations also donated freely to causes and institutions that were serving the needy. India Inc. also saw the introduction of the “bereavement policy.” Rolled out by many large companies such as the reputed Tata Group, this new addition to the HR policies was aimed at supporting family members who lost an earning member to this horrible virus.

Material Support

The second wave also exposed a huge lacuna in the country’s medical infrastructure. This is quite strange for a nation seen as the world’s “pharma factory.” There were inadequate beds and a shortage of medicines and critical life-saving equipment. Once again, global organizations activated their international linkages to procure devices like oxygen concentrators. These were hurriedly imported into the country and sent across to their employees’ doorsteps. Larger IT behemoths like Wipro converted some of their sprawling campuses into makeshift Covid-care centers. They worked closely with the authorities to ensure that non-critical parents did not clog up the already stretched mainstream hospitals.

Manpower Support

With the immense pressure on the healthcare ecosystem and the resultant shortages, even securing basic facilities like COVID testing at home or procuring critical medicines became an ordeal. For caregivers already stretched and worried about the inflicted patient(s), this is a big hurdle to cross when wanting to help loved one(s) recover. To solve this piece, organizations such as the global provider of marketing solutions, Interpublic, put together internal “task forces.” These operated much like a call center. Employees could call in and place a request and an army of their colleagues would work the phones and crawl the Internet to find a solution for them.

Emotional Support

Senior leaders in Indian industry were quick to realize that their people needed emotional support. In many cases, the HR personnel became the conduits that provided this support to their colleagues. Techniques used include regular check-ins, well-being seminars by experts, and additional leave allowances. In many cases, companies tied up with specialized organizations, providing counseling services 24/7.

Optimism for India’s Corporate Future

More heartening, however, is this fact. Employees aren’t the only ones who reaped benefits. Many organizations also donated freely to causes and institutions serving the needy. One of the country’s largest and respected organizations, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), a subsidiary of global major, Unilever, launched Mission HO2PE. In partnership with the not-for-profit organization, KVN Foundation, and Portea, India’s largest home healthcare company, HUL made available free oxygen concentrators for anyone needing them.

In essence, for all those employed by organizations in the private sector, it is reassuring to know that employers in corporate India have their backs. For others, it signals that help is around the corner. It gave hope to a nation’s people. In my opinion, hope can make us move mountains. It provides us the courage and endurance to move forward even in the most adverse situations. This is what corporate India’s benevolence ended up doing.

CDC vaccine guidelines

New CDC Vaccine Guidelines: What They Legally Mean for Employers

According to new CDC vaccine guidelines, vaccinated individuals can now safely gather indoors without a face covering. This is an exciting development after more than a year spent at home. Employers and employees alike are sorting through the implications. What does it mean for employees who are unable to get vaccinated or choose not to get vaccinated? Or those who feel uncomfortable gathering without masks, regardless of their vaccine status? What does it mean for employers when employees decline vaccination or push back against health and safety measures?

The CDC vaccine guidelines are the beginning of a much anticipated, albeit slow, reopening of the country. However, they also present employers and HR departments with more complicated scenarios to navigate. The legal and scientific landscapes continue to evolve. Because of this, employers find themselves hitting a gray area regarding how to handle these new guidelines in tandem with the needs, beliefs, objections, and safety of their workforce.

Companies around the country are eager to open their doors and welcome employees back in. But as more organizations consider lifting mask mandates and implementing vaccine passports and COVID-19 tracking programs, there are several key issues for employers to keep in mind.

Encourage or mandate COVID-19 vaccines

Business leaders and HR departments must determine if and how to mandate vaccination. The CDC vaccine guidelines encompass only those who have been fully vaccinated as safe to congregate. While most experts agree that employer vaccine mandates and subsequent potential passport programs are lawful absent state or local bans, there are specific employee rights to consider. For example, employers must make necessary accommodations for those unable to get a vaccine for reasons such as disability or a sincerely held religious belief. Any employer vaccine program up for consideration must fully comply with anti-discrimination laws. This is to ensure that accommodations are provided to those who need them under federal, state, and sometimes even local law.

In addition, we are starting to see more legal challenges to vaccine mandates. As of this writing, none have been successful. Many of them cite the emergency use authorization status of the vaccines available in the U.S. They also cite a portion of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that requires that recipients be informed about benefits/risks/unknowns, their right to refuse, and the consequences of refusal. However, there is no private right of action authorizing employees to sue employers under that statute. Also, there is no specific provision that prohibits termination as a consequence for those who refuse.

Although the litigation challenging vaccine mandates seems likely to fail, a successful legal defense is costly all the same. Moreover, even without litigation, vaccine mandates present legal complications in wage and hour, workers’ compensation, and other areas. As a result, most employers are strongly encouraging vaccination rather than imposing a mandate.

Know your audience and communicate properly

Whatever approach an employer takes, considering where employees are based––including remote workers––is critical. Because federal law and regulations concerning the pandemic provide limited guidance, state and local law may have a major impact on specific employer obligations and employee rights. Moreover, because some states and cities have been more successful than others at curbing the infection rate, a uniform solution across state lines may not be the best tactic.

Employers must recognize that jurisdictions have varied in their approach to vaccine mandates. For example, Montana now recognizes vaccination status as a protected class under its anti-discrimination laws. Employers cannot refuse to employ or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants on the basis of vaccination status or possession of a vaccine passport. In addition, employers cannot mandate vaccines that have only obtained emergency authorization status or are subject to ongoing safety trials. In other words, mandatory vaccination policies are unlawful in Montana. Conversely, Santa Clara County, California has issued an order under which all businesses and governmental bodies must determine the vaccination status of all personnel as of June 2, 2021, and maintain relevant records. Those who are unvaccinated or who refuse to provide proof of vaccination must wear masks and remove themselves from the work location in the wake of COVID-19 exposure.

Having determined the best approach in light of legal risks, employers should focus their attention on getting the word out in a way that works for the corporate culture. There is no escaping the fact that the issue is sensitive and highly politicized. For some, continuing to require masks for vaccinated individuals despite CDC vaccine guidelines runs the risk of negatively impacting the way employees view their employers. This is especially true in states that may have opened up more than others.

Ensuring ultimate safety and success

HR managers should develop an intimate understanding of how different populations may respond to certain regulations and effectively communicate down the line. They should offer opportunities to ask questions and obtain additional information. Thoughtful, accessible, and regular communication about vaccine requirements and health and safety protocols can be helpful. Employees will be able to better understand why decisions are being made and have greater confidence in the company overall.

Obviously, employers are faced with unique and complicated questions about vaccination and health and safety measures as we navigate out of the pandemic. Whatever strategy an employer adopts, they must consider state and federal law, possible risk, and employee morale. Employers should consider their reopening goals and ask the following:

  1. What am I hoping to achieve as employees come back into the workplace?
  2. Is the best approach to get to 100 percent in-person operations as soon as possible?
  3. Is my aim to continue some portion of a remote workforce for a more staggered and safer return to work?
  4. Am I ready to completely reimagine expectations for a hybrid remote/in-person workforce?

Employers need to determine what the goals are upfront and include stakeholders from across the business. From there, they need to familiarize themselves with legal requirements. Then create a comprehensive program to achieve those objectives. Also, they need to adopt a functional and sensible means to communicate it to all relevant parties. Employers are excited to safely reopen their doors and welcome their workforce back in. But as they do so, it’s essential to understand possible risks and adjust to a changing legal landscape. They also need to take steps to ensure that the employer’s approach protects the business and employees alike.

 

workplace reintegration

Image Provided by Southworks

Strategies for Managing Workplace Reintegration [#WorkTrends]

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, one question has been on everyone’s minds: When can we go back to normal? Of course, many areas are seeing cases and hospitalizations drop. And more of us are getting vaccinated. So that question has become: When can we go back to work? Or, from the perspective of employers: How will the best companies safely begin the workplace reintegration process while reducing risk and taking good care of employees?

Unfortunately, this issue comes with a great deal of gray area — especially among workers that remain concerned for their safety. So on this episode of #WorkTrends, we set out to learn the answers to these questions. And we had just the right person to ask…

Our Guest: Phillip Maltin, Commercial & Employment Risk Control Attorney

Joining us on #WorkTrends this week is Phillip Maltin, a trial lawyer for litigation powerhouse Raines Feldman LLP. Phil is Chair of the firm’s Commercial & Employment Risk Control Department, which provides advice, counseling and trial representation in employment and commercial matters. 

Early in our conversation, I asked Phil a question on the minds of many business and HR leaders: Can an employee — perhaps due to a fear of catching the virus — refuse to come back to work? Phil’s answer shows us just how carefully companies must approach this and other sensitive issues:

“The employer gets to control the workplace. If they need the employee to come back, that person’s got to come back. But if the employee has a disability — an auto-immune deficiency that puts that person at greater risk to one of the COVID variants, perhaps — the employee and employer must enter the interactive process required by state and local laws.” In other words, an employer must assume there may be no two situations exactly the same — and they must be ready to take each case one at a time. Phil’s advice: Engage directly with the employee by saying:

“Let’s talk about the things we can do for you that will help you get the job done — and help you get back here safely.”

Workplace Reintegration: Focus on Respect

Phil and I went on to talk about many other elements of a successful return to work strategy, including how to handle workers who wish to stay remote. We also discussed how the harsh political landscape and headline issues like social justice and sexual harassment might impact the workplace once we’re back in the office. Phil continued to dispense solid advice:

“We must remind folks of their obligation to treat people with respect. To honor the feelings and choices of others and to support anti-harassment and discrimination policies. Go through this with the common theme of respecting each other.”

As you know, the process of workplace reintegration won’t be easy. But after listening to this important episode of #WorkTrends, please take Phil’s advice — and treat everyone with the respect they’ve earned since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Want to follow Phil’s work and benefit from more of his wisdom? Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter

 

keep remote teams connected

Image by 8nero

Pandemic Phase II: How to Keep Remote Teams Connected and Focused

About one year ago, organizations learned they could no longer work from a single physical location due to logistical or health restrictions caused by COVID-19. So, like your company, they started using technology to keep remote teams connected.

According to a FlexJobs survey, 95% of respondents reported they feel more productive while working from home. Many have discovered that remote work provides increased job satisfaction, flexibility, and enhanced productivity. However, it also brings challenges that can jeopardize company objectives, team performance, and employee relationships.

As we approach the second phase of the pandemic, let’s discuss why we should continue to adopt remote working. Let’s also talk about the challenges of managing a remote team and the solutions to those challenges.

Reasons to Continue to Embrace Remote Working

Even as the impact of the COVID-19 crisis appears to be waning, there are three clear reasons to embrace remote working in Phase II of the pandemic:

Increased Health and Safety

Even as vaccination roll-outs continue, remote working allows your employees to maintain social distance, keeping everyone safer. According to MMC, 90% of employees still worry about how the virus can affect them and their families financially and, of course, from a health perspective.

Higher Productivity and Efficiency

According to Owllabs, 91% of remote workers reported they’d experienced a better work-life balance which increased their focus and productivity levels.

Reduced Costs on Resources and Infrastructure

Virtual work saves resources because the rental and utility costs are close to non-existent. You can attract freelancers from a global talent pool without hiring locally and paying higher rates for the same skill sets.

On average, remote workers save $11,000 annually to a company with more than 500 employees.

Keeping Remote Work Teams Connected: The Challenges

At face value, remote work sounds great. But how do you keep your remote teams engaged, connected, and focused while working from different time zones and physical locations? Here are a few challenges — and solutions — that will help you keep your remote teams connected and productive.

Challenge No. 1: Keeping the Team Connected

A team that isn’t connected faces a lack of socialization, conversation, and discussion. That long-term lack of employee interaction leads to a decline in team spirit and a disruption of productivity and effectiveness.

Promoting informal socializing and interactions addresses the challenge of keeping the team connected. Even as you consider moving employees back to the office, organize regular team meetings through platforms such as Zoom or Google Meet to keep your team updated and on the same page. Create an informal social media group or channel for general conversations. For instance, you may create a Whatsapp group where team members can share their daily activities or hobbies to get to know each other on a deeper level.

Encourage your team to discuss their hobbies and engage in informal conversations. Organize quiz nights or happy hour sessions to get relaxed and interact through engaging activities. After all, even as lockdowns are relaxed, it’s important not to lose the balance between formal and non-work-related meetings.

Challenge No. 2: Poor Communication

Remote work features communication through online platforms. As we learned during Phase I of the pandemic, poor communication leads to employee dissatisfaction, poor project delivery, and internal conflicts. The leading causes of poor communication among global remote teams are cultural and time zone differences.

Remote work lacks the aspects achievable with in-person work communication settings, so it’s essential to:

  • Set virtual communication guidelines: To enhance communication efficiency, establish virtual communication guidelines for formal meetings. Follow a specific meeting agenda, and delegate a meeting host who organizes the meeting and keeps the flow uninterrupted.
  • Create specific working hours: Specify a block of time when everyone should be online despite their geographical locations. These group working hours allow employees to collaborate, plan and execute work no matter their time zone differences.
  • Set a time limit for response: Determine the time it will take for a remote employee to respond to an email, telephone call, or text message. It ensures that no request remains unattended for long, making processes go smoothly — project management platforms such as Asana or Trello support effective communication on projects involving different departments.
  • Desist from colloquialism: If remote team members live in distant geographical locations that feature different cultural qualities, avoid slang references and sensitive topics in official channels.
  • Instant messaging: Tools like Slack or Google Hangouts will keep communication uninterrupted and in a specific flow.
  • File-sharing: Enable the storing of team files on the cloud, which helps your employees collaborate better.

Challenge #3: Reduced Focus and Productivity

Also, as learned over the past year, distractions characterize remote working, which reduces a team’s focus and productivity. After all, even after almost 12 months, employees working from home may still feel they are not really at work due to their familiar — and familial — surroundings at home.

  • Set clear targets: Always start a new work week with specific targets and milestones. Discuss the established goals for the week with team members and ensure everyone understands their role. With precise goal setting, your team will have a higher chance of avoiding distractions and achieving their goals.
  • Conduct frequent reviews: Maintain frequent communication with your team and keep checking in on their progress. Find out which obstacles hinder your team’s performance. Such regular interaction will motivate your remote workers to engage with their tasks.
  • Provide productivity tools and technology: Productivity tools will help your virtual team focus on work and avoid distractions. Such tools include noise reduction software, website blockers, timers, and white noise generators.
  • Encourage dedicated workspace: Having a dedicated office increases productivity while decreasing the number of distractions. Suggest employees remove unnecessary items from the office space that might cause them to drift away from what should be their primary focus.

Challenge #4: Lack of Accountability

For most of 2020 and early in 2021, a lack of accountability (and self-discipline) has been a significant hindrance to managing a virtual team well. After all, despite what we’ve learned, when a team member works remotely, it can be difficult to tell if they are working or engaged in other interests or meeting other pandemic-related responsibilities like distance learning.

Encourage the Pomodoro technique to help employees focus on a single task for 25 minutes and take short breaks to handle other commitments afterward. For those still prone to digital distraction, monitoring and time tracking tools can bridge the accountability gaps for remote employees. A great way to decrease the number of distractions? Install an application blocker on company-provided assets that disable accessing specific apps or websites that distract from productive work.

Bonus tip: Introduce accountability partners that work together on the same tasks, and report to each other about the progress. Healthy competition can do wonders for productivity and self-discipline.

Communication Still Makes or Breaks a Remote Working Environment

Remote work enhances employees’ satisfaction, achieves higher productivity, reduces costs, and helps employers access the best talent. But remote work also comes with challenges. Knowing how to address them will enhance your ability to keep remote teams connected and improve your organization’s performance.

As we enter Phase II of the pandemic and start to move toward recovery, a focus on improving communication channels throughout the company is a must.

 

workplace COVID-19

Photo by Neeraj Kumar

Workplace COVID-19: An Employee Tested Positive — Now What?

There are more than 107 million recorded COVID-19 cases worldwide. As economies begin progressively reopening after lockdowns, it’s increasingly likely that workplace COVID-19 will hit your business; that one or more of your workers will test positive for the virus or show symptoms that make them suspected cases.

Here’s what to do if that happens…

Keep the Employee Away from Others

You could hear about an employee testing positive for COVID-19 in several ways. Maybe they call you during an off day, say they’re feeling sick with symptoms often associated with the virus, and are getting a test in a few hours. Or maybe someone feels fine when showing up for a shift but develops symptoms during the workday. In either case, you must isolate that person as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

If they are not currently at work, instruct them to stay home according to the protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That organization says people with COVID-19 should remain at home for ten days after symptom onset and once they’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours. Moreover, the person should notice a general improvement in symptoms during isolation.

However, the CDC also clarified that some individuals might require isolation for up to 20 days. Such cases typically occur in patients with severe cases or those with compromised immune systems.

When a person develops symptoms at work, send them home immediately. If that individual needs to wait at work, such as until someone they live with arrives to pick them up, it’s ideal to isolate them in a closed room not typically used for communal purposes. The above rules about isolation apply to them, too.

Know What You Can and Cannot Do to Learn About an Employee’s Condition

When an employee becomes a suspected or positive case, your first inclination may be to learn as many details as possible about the circumstances. Similarly, you might consider having them produce a negative COVID-19 test result before returning to work.

First, bear in mind that the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has a long list of frequently asked questions that clarify what you can and cannot do under the law in these situations. For example, you cannot ask an employee if their family members have had COVID-19 or been in close contact with infected people. However, it’s OK to broaden your question to determine whether the employee has been near a possibly infected person.

Moreover, you cannot single out an employee and subject them to a screening test or questionnaire without a reasonable belief based on objective evidence that they have the virus. For example, maybe you’re in the break room and notice an employee coughing frequently.  Or perhaps an employee tells a colleague that they haven’t been able to smell or taste anything all day. In those cases, the employee’s common symptoms meet the criteria for objective evidence.

There are also many variations over return-to-work testing. The EEOC and CDC permit but discourage requiring a negative test before allowing an employee back to work. Though, state and local ordinances may prohibit making an employee get tested before coming back to work.

Understand the Applicable Labor Laws

It’s also necessary to understand the labor laws associated with workplace COVID-19 and remember that some vary by location. For example, Pennsylvanian workers must report their illnesses within 21 days of onset to receive full workers’ compensation coverage.

Federal laws in the United States also changed recently, so employers are no longer legally required to provide family and medical leave to COVID-19 patients. However, companies can voluntarily provide it to workers through March 31, 2021. The associated employer tax credits also remain in effect until that date.

If you hadn’t taken the time to learn about how COVID-19 affects labor laws yet, now is a great time. Research what laws apply to your company at the local, state, and federal levels.

Follow Recommended Cleaning Protocols

COVID-19 required many businesses to adopt stricter cleaning measures. You should follow those all the time, of course – but be diligent after hearing that an employee tested positive for the virus.

Follow procedures recommended by the CDC and determine whether you need to close your business to carry them out. Hopefully, you already have a cleaning plan. If not, again – now is an excellent time to develop a company-wide sanitization plan.

Closing your business may be something you want to avoid, especially if it causes media attention. However, consider that people will be more likely to perceive you as responsible if you take prompt, decisive action rather than putting others at risk.

Determine Whether You Will Inform Workers

You may find it surprising that no federal laws require you to tell other workers about a positive case associated with a colleague. Additionally, only three states require employers to give such notifications.

However, even if there is no legal obligation for you to provide the information, keeping quiet could have unwanted consequences.

Many employees report hearing the news from co-workers and feel their bosses betrayed them by not disclosing the details. Bear in mind, too, that there are different steps to take if you know someone was in close contact with a sick worker. You may not deem it necessary to tell the whole workforce, but informing people who were near an infected individual for an entire workday is the right thing to do. And in the process, as an employer, you are helping stop the spread and are doing everything you can to keep people safe.

Workplace COVID-19: Quick Action Minimizes Complications

It can be unsettling when you hear that a worker has COVID-19. While taking action, show humanity and genuine care to the infected person and any other affected parties. A short phone call to check on the employee during their recovery shows them and the whole workforce that you care as much about the people doing the work as the tasks they perform.

The better prepared you are for workplace COVID-19 infections, the easier it will be to effectively handle those incidents. Besides following the suggestions here, stay abreast of recent developments that may impact your plan and your course of action. The pandemic is an evolving situation, which means public health guidelines may change with relatively short notice.

Stay informed. Remain prepared. And act swiftly.

 

recruiting contenders

Image by G-Stock Studios

How Small Companies Can Be Recruiting Contenders During COVID

Hiring during the prolonged COVID-19 crisis hasn’t gotten any easier. This is especially true for smaller companies struggling to be recruiting contenders without necessarily having access to all the latest and greatest HR technology.

As many small business leaders have learned over the last year or so, the ability to attract top talent takes more than just a posting on a job board. They also know that old-school approaches like a sign in a storefront window go largely ignored. So how do small businesses compete with larger companies for talented recruits without the luxury of high-end recruiting platforms? And without internal recruiters or head-hunters to conduct searches and interview candidates?

There are some cost-effective ways for small-business owners to compete. For example, here are some areas to focus on:

  • Entice candidates by making it easy to apply (think mobile)
  • Recruit the best for your unique business
  • Introduce other team members into the interview process
  • Interview with a goal in mind
  • Make great offers and hire people who compliment your business

Here are some other areas to focus on to help your small business be a recruiting contender.

Try New Technology

You may not have a huge software budget for hiring. But there are affordable recruiting software options designed for small businesses. And they are a better solution than relying on an email inbox and a spreadsheet. The appropriate technology can help you vet candidates and become better organized. HR Tech can also expedite the hiring process, so you don’t lose good candidates by moving too slowly. 

Many of the most recent HR tech entries are built for the little guys as much as they are enterprise-level organizations. This includes recruiting software, which can help any smaller business become recruiting contenders. 

Showcase Local

You may not have the recruiting power of being a large conglomerate. But you, most likely, have greater flexibility that comes with being a local business. So your hiring pitch, especially as the pandemic continues to be an issue, should be based on staying local with no need to relocate. The pitch to candidates should emphasize the availability of remote work, a focus on family, and flexible hours. Talk also about direct access to management and mentorship. Also, discuss opportunities for advancement, continuous learning opportunities, and community involvement. 

Another option many small businesses overlook is altering their hiring strategies. So rather than putting all your recruiting eggs in one job board basket, think local. For example, visit colleges in your area to get to know the guidance counselors. Then ask them to pass along your information to promising young graduates. Social media can also be beneficial; it’s a great tool to leverage employment options that benefit you and the community.

Go Where New Talent Goes

Members of Gen Z are the first true “digital natives” in society. They grew up with all the latest innovations, including smartphones, the internet, social media, and mobile real-time connections. So they expect to have a digital relationship with any potential employer. As members of Generation Z move into the workforce, the hiring mindset of smaller companies wishing to be recruiting contenders must move with them.

What is one of the most significant issues with small businesses when attempting to attract young talent? Failing to hang out where new talent hangs out. As Liz Frazier once wrote at Forbes, “22% of recruiters surveyed have already invested in new recruitment advertising techniques like Snapchat, and text message-based recruiting.” So jump out of your comfort zone. And learn how Snapchat and TikTok can help you recruit and hire new talent.

Becoming Recruiting Contenders: Expand Your Thinking

Look beyond the hard skills and experience of the people you interview. In addition to them having the right degree or technical skills, think about how they will complement your business. Broaden your thinking to include people who are a culture add in addition to being a culture fit

Being a culture-add means bringing something different to the position, whether it’s a new experience, a new vision, a new approach, or just a fresh perspective. An employee who is a culture add accentuates what already exists in your workplace culture; they also bring a different dimension that is sorely needed. Who knows, you might even find someone really good at Snapchat or TikTok!

As a small-business owner, competition has always been fierce when it comes to hiring top talent.

Now, during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, every small company must be at the top of its recruiting game.

coronavirus checklist

Image Created by Total Clean

Coronavirus Checklist: How to Safely Return to Work [Infographic]

Once upon a time, we assembled around the office coffee machine to discuss what antics happened over the weekend. Now, of course, COVID-19 has wholly transformed our outlook on life, work, and cleanliness — and cleanliness at work. Which means that before returning to work, your company needs a Coronavirus checklist.

Returning Safely to Work: First Steps

The last year has been unsettling enough, and for many going back to work can be just as nerve-wracking. Coupled with waiting our turn for a vaccination, it’s a lot to take in.

“It’s important to know that while vaccine administration is underway, businesses still need to make sure their workplace is ready for staff to return, whenever that may be,” says Carlos Garcia, Managing Director at Total Clean. “The safety of the workforce during — and beyond — this pandemic should be at the forefront of any business owner or leader’s mind.” 

If you’re a business leader, now is the time to think about a recommissioning plan, including having a system (and when we say “system,” a checklist should do the trick) in place for recording which areas have been cleaned and at which times. Also, have qualified contractors on the ready should you have systems that need servicing. Bonus tip: Consider keeping those contractors on standby should you require emergency decontamination should someone becoming ill with Coronavirus. 

A Coronavirus Checklist

To be as prepared as possible, check out this infographic from Total Clean. Here, you’ll see what to do when it is finally time to go back to work — even if that is in shifts or cohorts to start. As many organizations have already learned, re-acclimation starts with the systems (HVAC, fire, and water) that need your attention first. You’ll also learn how to:

  • Level up on cleaning procedures
  • Look after employees
  • Reduce risk
  • Reduce touch points
  • Reinforce social distancing (even after people start to feel safe)

For even more information on preparing your workplace and workforce for the inevitable return to work, check out this guide from Total Clean. Then, make sure your company is completely ready for the return to work.

 

return to work infographic

new COVID strains

Photo by MIA Studios

Should Business Leaders Be Worried About the New COVID Strains?

Should business leaders be worried about the new COVID strains originating in the UK, South Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere — and recently identified in the US?

The authorities have focused on downplaying concerns about vaccine effectiveness against these new variants. While some legitimate concerns exist that our vaccines might be 10-20% less effective against the new strains, this small difference shouldn’t make you too worried.

However, another aspect of these new variants should make you very worried indeed: they’re much more infectious. Unfortunately, the implications of their infectiousness have received little news coverage.

In fact, some officials claim there’s no cause for alarm about the new strains. Such complacency reflects our sleepwalking in the pandemic’s early stages, despite numerous warnings from myself and other risk management experts, leading us to fail to plan accordingly.

Are the New COVID Strains Really More Infectious?

Researchers describe the UK and Brazil strains as anywhere from 56 percent to 70 percent more infectious, and the South African strain even more infectious. The new UK variant quickly came to dominate the old strain of COVID in Southeast England, going from less than 1% of all tested samples at the start of November to over two-thirds by mid-December.

S Gene Variant

Image courtesy of BBC

To corroborate this research, we can compare new daily COVID cases per million people over the last several weeks in the UK, South Africa, US, Canada, Italy, and France.

confirmed COVID-19 cases

Image courtesy of Our World In Data

Only the UK and South Africa have seen a significant spike; Brazil is not far behind. The UK’s numbers doubled over two weeks from 240 on December 10 to 506 on December 24; South Africa’s case numbers similarly doubled in that period from 86 to 182. Given no significant policy changes or other viable explanations, the new COVID variants are almost certainly to blame.

Why We Ignore Slow-Moving Train Wrecks

Our minds aren’t well adapted to processing the implications of these seemingly-abstract numbers. We fall into dangerous judgment errors that scholars in cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics like myself call cognitive biases. Specifically, we suffer from the tendency to focus on the short-term and minimize the importance of longer-term outcomes. Known as hyperbolic discounting, this cognitive bias causes us to underestimate the eventual impacts of clear trends, such as a more infectious strain of COVID.

The normalcy bias results in us feeling that things will generally keep going as they have been — normally. As a result, we underestimate the likelihood of another severe disruption occurring.

When we develop plans, we feel that the future will follow our plan. That mental blindspot — the planning fallacy — threatens our ability to prepare effectively for and pivot quickly when facing risks and problems, such as the new strains.

The Implications of Much Higher Infectiousness

The new strains likely arrived here by mid-November, with hundreds of probable cases by now. Based on the UK’s timeline, South Africa, and now Brazil, the new variants will become predominant here by March or April.

The US has maintained a daily new case count of just over 200,000 from December 10 to December 24. Imagine what happens when this starts shooting up rapidly as the new strains start to overtake the old strains, eventually doubling every two weeks when the new variants become predominant.

Hospital systems in California, Texas, and other states are already overwhelmed. The terrible March 2020 outbreak in New York City will seem like a summer shower compared to the upcoming tsunami that will flood our medical systems. Moreover, the surge will undoubtedly cause major supply shortages and hammer industries such as travel and hospitality.

Might vaccines help? Due to the timing of the rollout, not until summer 2021.

What about government lockdowns? Not likely. The extreme politicization, widespread protests, and severe economic pain from lockdowns make politicians very reluctant to impose the kind of severe lockdown necessary to fight the new strains. Even if some do, mass public non-compliance will make lockdowns ineffective.

What Can You Do?

As a trusted leader, be prepared to help your team deal with the impact of new COVID strains:

  • Communicate to them about the new strains; encourage them to take the steps necessary to protect their own households
  • Strongly encourage your employees to take advantage of mental health resources offered to prepare for further trauma
  • Coordinate with HR on how to adapt to much higher cases of COVID within your team — and ask them to look for burnout caused by the ongoing pandemic and any new surge
  • Ensure cross-training for key positions
  • If you haven’t already, transition to your team working from home as much as possible
  • Revisit your business continuity plan to prepare for mass disruptions in the spring and summer
  • Prepare for disruptions to your supply chains and service providers, as well as travel disruptions and event cancellations

By taking these steps early, and by paying attention to new workplace trends, you will have a major competitive advantage over your competitors who fail to prepare.

Don’t Let New COVID Strains Surprise You

We’re in for a world of pain this spring and early summer. The situation may feel unreal, or at least too much of an extension of the stress we’ve all gone through. But that’s simply our cognitive biases telling us to ignore a genuine problem — just like they did early in the pandemic.

Don’t let your business ignore this new warning — and be caught off guard, again.

 

2021 work trends

Photo by Sereziny

2021 Work Trends: Should We Continue to Be Surprised?

Over the last ten months, the entire workplace changed, as did the expectations of employees and contractors. But not everything that happened last year was a total shock — so why should we allow 2021 work trends to surprise us?

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about the workplace trends we would most likely see in 2020. Of course, when that post went live no one could have predicted the impact a global pandemic would have on the future of work. Still, as you’ll see below, we shouldn’t have been too surprised by how much the workplace changed.

In fact, maybe we should be proud of our ability to anticipate, accept, and adapt…

The Death of the Office

Our 2020 Prediction:

“It’s official: the office is dead. The office your parents knew, that is.

2020 will build on a trend that’s been on the rise in 2018 and 2019. More employees rely on technology to do their jobs and keep up with their teams. This means that more employees know they can do their jobs from anywhere–and they’re not afraid to ask the boss for that benefit. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, 69% of organizations allow their employees to work from home at least some of the time, and 27% of organizations allowed full-time remote work arrangements.”

Our 2020 Reality:

In our “now normal,” far more than 69% of organizations allow their employees to work from home.

The real question is: How many of those companies — once we start to put the pandemic behind us — will let the majority of their employees continue to work from home? And how many will want business environments to revert to our “old normal”?

Our 2021 Work Trends Forecast:

As Mark S. Babbitt says, “‘We know we gave you all that freedom, but now we’re taking it back — said no good employer, ever.'” Companies that want to retain the best of their talent will work hard to co-create a “new normal” that keeps the good aspects of the pandemic workplace. That most certainly includes working from home.

The Rise of Employee Activism

Our 2020 Prediction:

“Nothing seems to be holding employees back from pursuing what matters to them, even if it means speaking up against their own employer.

Half of all millennial employees have spoken out about employer actions about a controversial societal issue. The same Bloomberg study found that younger employees are more likely to be activists, though millennials are the biggest activist generation. In 2019, we saw countless examples of employee activism instigated by a sensational (and divisive) political climate. For example, hundreds of Wayfair employees walked out after learning that the company sold furniture to a Texas detention center for migrant children.”

Our 2020 Reality:

Like the pandemic, no one could have predicted the intensity demonstrated during the Black Lives Matter protests and — on the far other ends of the spectrum — the MAGA rallies that took place in 2020 and early 2021. Along the way, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and many other companies faced employee walk-outs in 2021.

Our 2021 Work Trends Forecast:

One would like to think companies would go into 2021 with eyes (and minds) wide open. However, already this year, we’ve seen employees take a stand against the positions of their employers, including insisting that corporations suspend donations to certain politicians, political parties, and PACs.

A Workplace That Stands for Something

Our 2020 Prediction:

“Millennials need to work for a purpose, not just money or a career.

A CNBC survey found that 69% of employees want to work for a company with clearly-stated values, and 35% stated that the most critical factor in their workplace happiness was the feeling that their work is meaningful. And these days, employees are willing to trade money for a purpose, with 9 in 10 employees stating that they would take a pay cut if it meant they could do meaningful work. In fact, when employees were asked to rank what matters most to them in their work, money was a distant second to workplace purpose.”

Our 2020 Reality

The only aspect of this prediction that changed? We need to add Gen Z to the discussion. For younger generations in the workforce, the concept of trading work hours for dollars and going home feeling fulfilled is now completely outdated. And employers are best served by seeing the writing on the wall.

Our 2021 Work Trends Forecast:

Employers will have no choice in 2021: In large part, performance and profits will be determined by an employees’ alignment to the company’s purpose.

The Changing Definition of Benefits

Our 2020 Prediction:

“Employees (especially millennials) won’t turn their nose up at decent benefits.

Millennials are the job-hopping generation, with half of all millennials (compared to 60% of all non-millennials) stating that they plan to be working at a different company than their current one by next year. But for the few years you do have your employees, they want that time to be worth their while. Younger workers are pushing back against the idea of work as a constant obsession. More of them demand increasing flexibility and benefits that reflect it, such as more paid leave after having a baby, the ability to work remotely, or allowances for breaks during the day.”

Our 2020 Reality

Bingo! The pandemic forced employers to consider not-so-common benefits like in-home child care, elderly parent care, mental health and wellness, virtual therapy, and so much more. In addition, the “always-on” aspect of working from home made the setting of boundaries — and taking real breaks from work — a real issue for remote workers.

Our 2021 Work Trends Forecast:

As we said just a moment ago: “Companies… will work hard to co-create a ‘new normal’ that takes into consideration all the good aspects of the pandemic workplace.” Like our freedom, employers can’t give us something that makes our lives better and then take it back. Right?

What Surprises Will 2021 Bring?

Experts like to say the workplace trends of 2020 caught us by surprise. But did they? Did they really?

Keep a close eye on 2021 work trends and surprises. And see how many of them — just like the trends and “surprises” of 2020 did  — will make work, and our lives, better.