Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the average workweek in big U.S. cities was high. In New York, sectors such as banking and finance saw the average employee working an average of 53 hours per week, with an always-on work culture being the norm.
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly caused disruption, stress and uncertainty. With professional services employees adapting to mandatory remote working, organizations have had to rapidly integrate new norms where possible. While some of these measures are imperfect and temporary, looking beyond the pandemic, this situation provides several opportunities for companies to implement strategies that promote work-life balance.
As property prices have increased year over year, getting onto the property ladder has been a huge struggle for Millennials.
In New York, the average apartment size is 730 square feet, and in global cities such as Hong Kong where space is even more of a premium, the average is less than half of that. This makes living alone, starting a family or renting anything bigger than a studio difficult for this generation.
Greater adoption of remote work policies could allow people to live further away from their big-city workplaces. If companies draw lessons from the coronavirus pandemic to implement updated e-commute policies, this could provide millennials with a greater choice of living options. Not only will this allow them to obtain better forms of accommodation, but it also promotes work-life balance, thereby increasing overall satisfaction and ultimately talent retention.
For organizations, this could also create an increased talent pool for them to hire from. No longer confined by searching for staff within a certain geographic range, companies would have the opportunity to cultivate a more diverse, cost-effective, and agile workforce.
Reducing commute times would be another benefit of embracing remote work capabilities and will have a positive impact on peoples’ lifestyles and the environment overall. The average commute time in New York stands at 35 minutes, and L.A. is known for its particularly bad commuter traffic.
Often, this is dead time for both the employer and employee, and there is a significant cost associated with commuting - transit tickets, parking fees and tolls all add up and impact the employee’s paycheck. Eliminating some or all of their frequent commutes will have a positive impact on all employees’ lives. This all helps to build employee loyalty and thus could positively impact your organization’s attrition rate.
With reduced crowding in public transport, it will also have an impact on the environment and over-stressed transit systems. Reduced pollution and increased air quality are two benefits we have already seen during the coronavirus pandemic. By working from home just two days per week, people can reduce their carbon footprint by up to 50%, which would positively impact the environment with little effort.
Unlimited vacation is a common perk offered by startups - tapping into the work/lifestyle mindset of millennials and Gen-Z, it’s an enviable benefit. Although conceptually attractive, some studies show that employees actually end up taking less vacation time under these policies.
With this in mind, organizations could be mindful of developing a more flexible leave policy that would allow this experience-driven generation to travel more while working. With such policies, it would be possible for employees to spend extended periods of time living and working in another location - in fact, such organizations already exist promoting the ‘remote work movement.’
Why is this positive for your organization? Better ideas, happier employees, increased loyalty and greater return on your training and development of these people are some of the core results of having such a progressive policy in place.
During this time of confinement, people are increasingly yearning for the time they will be able to move more freely, experience new things and meet up with people again. It has also caused a time of reflection on desires and values. The millennial workforce is already jaded and skeptical as a result of the past recession, boomer work dynamics and tenuous job security. If companies only look at the short-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic and ignore the longer-term opportunity, the long-term attrition and impact on your business could be greater.
Right now businesses have a unique opportunity to implement real organizational change and embrace a flexible work model. Employees are doing their best to support the team during this difficult time, and they are looking to their companies to acknowledge and reward that loyalty. Adopting policies that offer meaningful work-life balance to employees is one way for companies to create positive change from this challenging time.