By now, working from home feels pretty standard. We’ve all getting used to commutes down the stairs, video meetings, and drinking our own coffee. While returning to the office may feel quite far away, it’s still a burning question for many employees and, as you begin to hire and ramp up your recruitment efforts, it’s at the front of candidates’ minds too.
Candidates and current employees want the reassurance of what’s next, as it gives them a chance to plan for factors like commuting and arranging childcare. Candidates are more aware now that the current working situation will not last forever, so they’re also starting to plan for the future. The talent you are trying to recruit and retain is trying to figure out what work environment they want to work in today and in the future.
For those of us who used to travel a lot, our families have appreciated seeing us in the morning each day or for dinner together most nights. It has given us time with our families we haven’t had previously, but it has also allowed us to reflect on how we work and determine what’s working and not working efficiently as a business. The decisions we make for our companies are decisions we need to manage and support not only as leaders but as Moms, Dads, spouses or adult children.
We have had to balance work and personal life in a way no one could have imagined, and I don’t see that going back to how things were before the pandemic.
Just as working from home was a massive cultural shift for employees and leaders, returning to the office is likely to bring about just as much disturbance. Your employees want to know what you are thinking, and if you haven’t thought about it, now is the time to start to explore your options.
This is why I believe now is the time for leaders to act and implement plans for returning to work. Of course, plans may change along with restrictions and safety concerns, but by now, all leaders should have a more significant idea of how their business will function in the future of work.
Whether your organization will become completely remote, you expect your team to return to the office full time, or consider a hybrid, flexible model; it’s time to start preparing and laying down plans. These business structures require planning to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible, and your business can continue as normal. Even if you continue to work remotely, processes and structures will need to be cemented as this becomes your permanent solution.
Most importantly, employers must ensure that their approach to working in the future is authentic and in line with your employer brand. It’s no good getting rid of the office for cost-cutting measures if it’s an essential part of your business and culture. Similarly, if you claim to be a relaxed and flexible employer but expect your team to be in the office between 9 am and 5 pm every day, there may be a clash of cultures, and employees may question your authenticity. The more genuine your approach is, the happier your employees will be and the higher your retention rates. Employees will trust that you have their best interests at heart and will remain confident that your businesses’ values and EVP have remained intact.
You should take the time to talk to your employees and assess how you’ve been working as a business remotely to find a solution that encourages employee engagement and productivity. Some employees may crave the office culture, while others may thrive working from home; the first step to reaching a decision is to have these conversations and conduct research. If employees have become accustomed to a degree of flexibility, this is something you should factor into your plans, or you run the risk of losing them to your competition.
Surveying is great, but be cautious of the promises made based on feedback. Allowing feedback doesn’t mean you are allowing them to influence the future of their work. It will, however, ensure they know you value them just as much as new hires.
Once your approach to returning to work has been decided, you can lay out a narrative for candidates, informing them of your intentions for the future and giving them a realistic picture of what to expect when they work with you long-term. As you continue to recruit talent remotely, candidates should have realistic expectations of a future with your company’s expectations today and over the next year. Pick a few top priorities/policies and strive to communicate what you can for the next quarter or year. Everyone realizes we need to be flexible, but not sharing any of your thoughts or plans today may hurt your culture and talent pipeline well-beyond the immediate future.
You can filter your plans into your employer brand communications through social media posts, within your job descriptions, or you could even include a segment on your career site to communicate clearly to external candidates. You can also brief your current team on the plans and ensure they have plenty of time to adapt and adjust to fit this new normal.
Now is the time to begin to have conversations, create strategies, and prepare for your business’s future. While we may not know when it will be safe to return to work as we did in 2019, we now have time to prepare, plan and adapt to change. Planning now will ensure your business remains agile and employees feel confident in their leadership.