It’s been a year since we started managing our entire lives including our jobs from our living rooms. How has the relationship between employees and their employers changed and how has the global pandemic affected company culture?
There are two types of people. You know, this comparison exists in various everyday situations such as those who love to stay awake until late at night and those who wake up with the first light in the morning. The same pattern has been detected during the Covid-19 outbreak when we speak about work-life preferences.
One group of employees is frustrated as they are isolated at home, with no option to socialize in the office, have lunch or coffee with their colleagues or simply leave their homes and go to work which was a part of their lives they took for granted. The other group, however, after some time of feeling detached from their work realized that what used to be a benefit for a few days per month before has become their daily routine, or in other words a value-added, without theneed to ask for it. Home office has simply become the default.
No matter which group we have in mind right now, in every long-distance relationship there is a gap in the commitment that is getting bigger every day and may end up with the decision to move to the next challenge. Or simply put, employees are more willing to change their employer.
Ok well, but what’s next?
Now that we have reached the point where vaccination is widely accessible and numbers of infected and hospitalized people are continuously declining a question arises. What are we going to do next? Are we just going to sort of pretend that nothing happened and go back to the way we used to work before or are there new work-life trends coming to life?
According to a Microsoft Corp. study, reviewed by Bloomberg, the majority of employees feel that they are struggling or just surviving during pandemic and related work conditions and a large percentage of them are considering leaving their employer this year. Moreover, they are also considering moving to a different location which is the result of being able to work from home or anywhere else.
Flexibility as a new trend on the job market
When we forget the ‘two types of people idea’ for a while and consider the above mentioned facts, doesn’t it feel like the employees are less loyal to the companies they work for? It seems they are. But this doesn’t have to be an entirely bad thing. The data show that we are moving from a submissive vs. dominant position within the job market towards a more balanced business relationship. In this new norm, people realize their value. Employees are starting to literally sell their skills, expertise and working hours to employers who are buying their services. Equality within such business relationships has become a priority.
“Pandemic has had significant consequences. According to the statistics of Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, the rate of unemployment in March 2021 in Slovakia reached 8.5% which equals to 235k unemployed economically active people. There is an increased amount of job offers that allow remote work as well as part-time jobs or project-based job offers. It is clear that the job market is becoming more flexible.”
Based on a discussion with Campus Cowork member Gabriel Brockman, co-founder of Tater Games, it is now clear that long-term home office has shed some light on in-office interactions and which of those interactions are truly necessary. Meetings are becoming quicker and other excess items associated with in-office work are being cut from the calendar. As long as employers remain focused on delivery they are finding they don’t have to be focused on time clocks. Employees are discovering better uses for downtime, too. Instead of trying to look busy while on the clock they can do a load of laundry or explore a hobby while they wait for a blocking task to be resolved. As we have all grown accustomed to communicating over tools like Zoom or Slack, employers are more likely to hire someone from abroad.
This new norm is a win-win situation as it makes it easy for skilled people to work elsewhere without relocation and it’s also easier for companies to hire people without the need to relocate them. The economy is becoming more globalized and very skilled and reliable workers from low tier economic regions are becoming able to compete with skilled workers abroad. As a result, people can now be more picky with their employers because they don’t need to limit their job search to where they happen to be living. Therefore, employers need to be more competitive.
“Employees are the ones creating value for the company. Companies that realise this will find themselves in a better position to tackle the new workplace paradigms that are emerging. It is visible in the Slovak job market; programs such as ESOPs or other success-based reward systems weren’t common before but are becoming increasingly popular. We have implemented this strategy in Tater Games from the very beginning. To sum up, nobody wants to work to make someone else rich. Which means that if you offer something more than a purely financial reward you will be able to attract more valuable people to your company, and keep them.”
Gabriel Brockman, Tater Games
How can companies keep their employees interested, motivated and loyal?
It is crucial to realize that people who are employed in the same company as before the pandemic started, may be considering a change. The reasons may vary. Psychologists are reporting a rise in a so-called “pandemic burnout” as many people are feeling worn out and unable to cope. For many, the corona virus issue is taking longer than expected, the consequences are much more severe than expected, and/or they simply lost interest in whatever was going on in the company they work for.
There are multiple ways to keep your employees sane and inspired during these difficult times. But, what remains essential is team cohesion. One of the basic approaches to a happy remote working environment is to have a well-established communication system that allows for group chats, topic-related channels, and of course, a chit chat channel where team members can just be themselves. Another thing that can make a huge difference is the possibility to meet when needed or desired. There are multiple ways to grant such a benefit in current circumstances besides reopening the company’s original premises. The phenomenon of the hybrid office is gaining popularity globally. The main advantages of a hybrid versus traditional office spaces are lower rent-related costs while still providing as needed access to a fully equipped working space, flexible and short-term contract options and an inspiring environment to enhance the company culture.
“There were several changes on the job market in the past year. The average time of work increased by one hour per day which resulted in widespread burnout. Based on multiple discussions with members of Campus Cowork I can say that approximately 20% are willing to continue work from home, but the majority would prefer hybrid model meaning a combination of home office and office work.”
Sandra Hemzova, COO, Campus Cowork
The other problem that has been detected within teams around the globe is that they lose their focus. The company communication whether external or internal has become more ruffled, as ‘being on the same wavelength’ is not the default anymore. The ultimate solution for this is open communication about the status of the company and future plans. Lost belief in the future performance or even existence of the company is very often the result of poor internal communication. Managers are often unwilling to admit a problem and are trying to hide the consequences rather than express what’s going on and be honest. We live in times when unfortunate things happen and we are aware of that, but leaving employees uncertain only causes the detachment to grow bigger.
Long-term home office and brand image
Especially within small and medium companies, the way their brand is perceived correlates with how united is the team behind the brand. The decline in loyalty towards the company and lack of happiness at work is soon visible even in external communication. Once employees, especially those in creative departments, lose their interest, the company communication becomes static and might even fadeaway entirely.