Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, office culture and policy varied depending on industry and city. For the millennial worker, there was a growing trend towards flexibility and working cultures of open communication, unlimited vacation, and other work perks, including snacks and game rooms. Covid-19 changed the way we worked forever. No longer tied to a city due to the physical location of the office, people have fled to get more space and comfort during an uncertain time.
As we move towards reopening, organizations need to be mindful of delivering consistent, clear, and transparent messaging around the future of office attendance and the choices they are giving their employees. Millennials crave flexibility, but need structure to feel secure that they are doing the right thing. Likewise, clarity and planning will ensure retention of staff, work productivity, and overall employee satisfaction, particularly when people are assessing how remote working can work for them and their life longer-term.
Providing Work-Life balance
The novel benefits of a commute from your bed to your lounge were quickly realized after months of living under lockdown during the pandemic. Companies have seen increased productivity during the Covid-19 lockdown, with increased employee engagement and satisfaction from customers. While IT equipment does enable people to be mobile and work from anywhere, the ability to switch off has been a big struggle for workers in the past 6 months.
A solution for organizations here is to encourage clear boundaries between working and non-working times. Ensure that senior leaders and management are prescriptive and clear on how people should manage their working time, but also encourage them to take time to properly switch off. With no commute and the reliance on individuals to separate that work and home balance, it's more important now than ever to offer respite and encourage employees to set work patterns and times as a matter of policy.
Unlimited vacation policies were increasingly popular pre-pandemic across several industries. While the perceived benefits of unlimited vacation were that people can take time whenever they want to relax and switch off from work, that was not the norm. Studies showed that people still felt they could not take a lot of vacation time, and the actual time taking off was lower than that of prescribed vacation days.
With little opportunity for real travel at the moment, companies should reassess the way they approach vacation time and come up with a system that encourages people to use up their time off and take a break. Offering ideas for nearby vacation places depending on the region, or measures to encourage a ‘staycation’ could be ways to increase morale. Even obligating people to use vacation time before the end of the year as a temporary measure, or have a company-wide day off on a periodic basis, as some organizations have done, are solutions here that will create positive change. This will ensure that employees are getting time to switch off from work responsibilities and decrease the likelihood of burnout and mental health issues in the long-run.
Companies that have a very clear approach to reopening physical office locations will have a positive impact overall on work culture. By ensuring that employees know what the various stages of reopening are, based on data metrics, how it will affect their specific location, and also allow them to make longer-term choices in terms of lifestyle, companies will ultimately see the highest employee engagement longer-term.
While uncertainty is a big part of daily life right now, it is important for an organization to create as much certainty as possible, particularly when they are seen to be holding the power and have the resources to do so. Bold and clear decisions will provide employees with a sense of security, even if the policy does end up changing. More people are looking to be full-time remote, or move to other locations and want to find ways to make that work. By not having a staggered system, employees will feel more uncertain and it will be harder for them to make life-impacting decisions.
Benefits and Pay
Transparent and direct communication around any pay adjustments is important. Companies should demonstrate the collective struggle people are making together and aim to return normal compensation to lower-paid workers first. Likewise, if times have been good and money is being made, some industries are awarding additional bonuses to their employees.
With regard to benefits, organizations can think of ways to be creative and adjust their benefits offering. Resources for parents on child care, transportation credits, or access to employee-only discounts are good ways to provide relief for staff that is struggling.
The pandemic working situation is ever-changing and has had a deep impact. Flexibility is the key to ensuring retention and employee satisfaction by offering a sense of security when there is very little.