We’re not at the beginning, but we’re nowhere near the end.
For a year in which life was on hold, there’s a lot to say about 2020. We’re approaching the anniversary of the first lockdown in the UK. What are the next 12 months supposed to look like?
This time last year I was saying ‘The capability to work remotely is simply expected’. It still is, of course – but expectations have evolved since then, along with business needs.
The best businesses took extra steps to keep employees connected and engaged through the remote working experience. That investment doesn’t stop there. As the UK opens up, businesses are still in the process of reshaping how work is done.
The BBC made a headline out of Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon calling mass remote working ‘an aberration’. That’s true, but it’s not a binary discussion anyway, it’s more a question of relative value.
Which way of working brings more relative value to your business?
For less experienced employees, it makes sense to have more direct contact. It’s easier to build relationships and rapport – and grow social capital – through in-person interaction and coincidental connections.
Remote working could be more suitable for autonomous employees who have a well established network in the organisation.
Wherever the balance lies for your business, you’ll need to find it yourself – when it comes to employee experience, one model doesn’t fit all.
On the question of remote work or ‘return to’ work, how do your expectations as an employer measure up against those of your employees?
Over in the US, PWC found 68% of execs think staff should be in the office at least three days a week once it’s possible. More than half of employees, on the other hand, want to be remote three days or more a week, and 29% want to be remote five days a week.
It’s this kind of disconnect we need to somehow overcome – or risk falling behind as we struggle to reestablish business as usual.
So things are a bit more complicated these days. But where there’s challenge, there’s opportunity.
You don’t expect all your customers to contact you the same way – customers have a variety of preferred channels. Nor do you expect all your customer journeys to be the same. Some customers linger at the top of the funnel for a long time, while some enter mid-funnel and convert quickly.
Similarly, it’s a mistake to expect all your employees to work the same way. Considering your employees like you consider your customers is an opportunity for you to get more from your workforce.
Last year was an opportunity for many businesses to show their colours when it comes to flexible working. Employees were taking notice.
We’re still in a defining period. Exactly how are we reshaping the world of work? While we might not be able to see a sharp picture, there are clues.
Employee experience is going to play a massive part. Flexible working, redefining productivity and rethinking employee engagement are all factors in this. Expectations have shifted, and in order to attract and retain talent, and maintain productivity in your business, you will need to change the way you manage employees.
Hybrid work will be with us for a number of years. That means you’ll need to facilitate a consistent employee experience whether in-office or remote.
Technology plays a role in this, as does business culture. Screens, streams and immersive experiences bridge the gap between the real and the remote. Greater consideration towards accessibility, and new guidelines around etiquette and expectations, help get the best out of using those tools.
Of course, you can’t just throw technology at the problem and expect the pieces to assemble themselves. It will take some time and attention, but that’s probably the most worthwhile investment you can make for your business right now.
Yes, you can benefit greatly by supporting remote work as part of your employee experience, but of course you need to do it well. It needs to be a natural extension of how work is done anywhere else.
There’s a lot to think about here. I’ve asked more questions than I’ve answered. But don’t worry – I go into much more detail on the topic at the Elite Business Live event. Elite Business recorded the talk and you can watch it for free below.