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In March of 2020, COVID interrupted the world as we know it with stay-at-home orders and quarantine; the office went remote, and all of a sudden, the Zoom versus Microsoft Teams debate became one of the most contentious topics in popular culture. A year later, the tables have turned, and the world as we know it has again been interrupted—this time with return-to-office orders.
For many of your team members, a quick post-pandemic return to work has likely been daunting. Employees have had a year to settle into home offices, reclaim commute times, and get a taste of better work-life balance. According to the U.S. Labor Department, many employees are reluctant to give up those freedoms. With the national “quit rate” is at its highest point in over 20 years, nearly 3% of US workers are choosing to pursue new career prospects rather than return to pre-pandemic work arrangements.
So, what is a company to do? What do you do if you lost staff during the transition? How do you attract new workers, and how do you retain the staff who stayed?
Many potential solutions are floating in the zeitgeist right now and for good reason: there is no one-and-done right answer. What works for one company may not be tenable for yours. How do you figure that out, and how do you put it into practice? Here are a few thoughts to consider:
- STUDY YOUR POST-COVID COMPANY CULTURE
The last year changed a lot about the way the world works. It can be overwhelming to try to process it all. Even so, our remote year and transition back to the office can offer incredible lessons in improving office environments and company culture if we choose to take advantage. To do so, we recommend you ask, reflect, and communicate.
- ASK your staff. Do they have a friend whose company returned to the office particularly well? What did they appreciate about how your company returned to the office? What frustrated them? What changes do they still hope to see in the office post-COVID? Treat your staff as a resource.
- REFLECT on the last year. While remote, what did you learn about your team individually and collectively? What changes have you noticed since the return?
- COMMUNICATE clearly and regularly. Uncertainty creates unrest. If you are considering changing policy, communicate that clearly to your staff. If the present policy is going to stand, be sure your staff is aware. Show your staff and prospective hires that you want them to communicate with you. Actively pursue their feedback. Outline simple steps for them to share their thoughts.
Once you have a grasp on the spectrum of need and thought within your company, brainstorm ways to improve current office policy and increase your appeal to potential applicants. Use the feedback you have received to determine what kind of individuals you want to hire. Be willing to change policy as you restaff, and your team continues to readjust to office life. Many companies are going the route of new, additional benefits to retain and attract staff, with all the most common solutions hinging on flexibility.
- HYBRID SCHEDULING enables in-office collaboration while reintegrating people into office life slowly, lessening culture shock, and providing support for individuals in difficult circumstances. In its most basic form, split scheduling sets a certain number of in-office days a week for the whole team per week or month. This will be Apple’s approach in the coming months.
If you have employees who cannot get vaccinated or who live with high-risk individuals, rotating split schedules is an effective way to mitigate disease spread. Implementation is fairly simple, with different project teams scheduled to be in-office on different days. Employees who double as primary caregivers for children or an adult loved one may find half-day scheduling particularly helpful, as full-time care is expensive and increasingly hard to find.
- CHILDCARE ASSISTANCE BENEFITS affirm the value you see in your employees with children, raising the likelihood of retention, and indicates to prospective hires that your company values family. To soften the high cost and frequent scarcity of full-time childcare, consider negotiating a rate discount with a local childcare program in return for a guaranteed minimum enrollment from your company.
Many companies are offering a childcare subsidy as a contractual benefit. Businesses can apply for a federal tax credit available to companies contributing to the cost and provision of childcare for their employees. Some states also offer an additional but smaller tax credit to companies that do this.
- REMOTE WORK BENEFITS offer many of the same advantages as hybrid scheduling with the added bonus of employee empowerment. A certain number of remote days or hours to be taken at the employee’s discretion, rather than as dictated by management, are written into employee contracts. Rolling benefits let employees accrue more remote time over the length of their tenure, much like PTO.
The inherent autonomy granted in this benefit model implies a level of trust in and respect for your employees. It imparts a sense of control and ownership over schedule and position, which can boost employee performance.
- CUSTOMIZATION is an option that requires attention to detail and intentional management. The above are broadly applicable for a majority of workers and are successful for many companies. Still, you may find applicants and employees who needs something other than childcare assistance or split time.
Individuals with anxiety or processing disorders and those with chronic pain may have seen their productivity levels skyrocket last year, and remote work may in fact be the best option for them.Productivity, however, also increased for reasons other than solitude and physical accessibility. This is your opportunity to offer your current and future employees the tools they did not know they needed before the pandemic.
Later start times can efficiently and affordably accommodate some health issues and offset rush hour for those with longer commutes.For those who only occasionally need to be in the office, provide an unassigned free office space where they can reserve time. This allows them to join in the office culture without giving up the work environment they need. If you work in an open floor plan, dedicate some space to private offices for those who found they work better with fewer distractions.
Now that you know what your company needs, start looking for the right people for your post-COVID company culture. At this point, you have invested precious resources into reconfiguring your office environment. The last thing you want is wasted time and money, and as we talked about in last month’s blog, bad hires come with a high cost to your bottom line.
If your company offers competitive benefits and a healthy work environment, your applicant pool is going to be more than just a few resumes deep. Assessing each one takes time. Our advice here is to enlist the help of experts.
Recruitment companies like GS&A have years of experience identifying and sidestepping common hiring pitfalls, of which there are many. We spend all day, every day evaluating companies and applicants for the right match, and we have decades of experience marketing companies in a way that pulls in the right candidates. Hiring a recruitment ally like us is a foolproof way to ensure your post-COVID office environment is exactly what you, your customers, and your current and future staff need. Let us help you make informed decisions.
Last year was fraught with instability, and the sudden jolt of office returns was hard on everyone. Workers spent a year defining their own space with far-reaching effects. As the corporate world reacclimates, office policy needs will vary from business to business and sometimes from employee to employee. It is up to you how your company responds to the changes in the world and its norms.
One way or the other, readjusting to office life will be a challenge, especially if you lost essential staff upon your return. It can, though, be a net positive for the future of your business. Your company and your team are unique. Take advantage of the opportunity to make changes for the better and cast a mold that fits.