The Dutch parliament approved legislation to establish work-from-home as a legal right, making the Netherlands one of the first countries to grant remote working flexibility by law.
The future of work is hybrid. No matter how your company operated back in the pre-Covid days, the future is going to be a more flexible mix of time in the office and time working from home. This is now the conventional wisdom - even the executives that expected a return to ‘normal’ are embracing a new way of organizing their company.
It was clear this was going to happen. Look at this research from 5th Talent last year. They talked to almost 6,000 people that work in customer service contact centers about the pandemic, the new way of working, and what they would like to see in future. The research was undertaken in 13 countries and 74 cities so this gives a global picture on employee attitudes and expectations. Most employees wanted to continue working from home (66%), a further 21% said they would like to spend a quarter of the time in an office, but the rest at home. That’s 87% of employees saying that when the pandemic subsides (remember they were answering this question in 2021) they want to stay completely, or mostly, at home. Only 2% wanted to be back in the office 100% of the time.
The focus of this debate has been on work-from-home (WFH). Should companies continue to use WFH, return to the office, or create a hybrid where workers can more flexibly choose where they work? Companies such as Goldman Sachs have leaders that insist on a return to the office. Others, such as Airbnb, have embraced a new era of flexibility. The Airbnb CEO recently said ‘if the office didn’t already exist then would we invent it?’
I think the focus only on WFH or a return to 2019 working practices misses an important point. This ship has sailed. The media may continue to compare the working practices at different companies, but if you talk to almost anyone now then it is clear that employee expectations have changed since 2019. Any company that fails to appreciate this will really struggle to attract talent.
It’s already hard enough to attract the best talent. In some countries, such as the US, they are experiencing an unprecedented wave of resignations as employees seek better places to spend their time. Americans are already calling this the Great Resignation.
Employees have already adapted to the new normal. They have experienced greater flexibility for the two years of the pandemic and also noted that they were just as productive - in some studies the vast majority of people surveyed reported that they are much more productive working from home. Imagine telling your workforce: “we know you are now happier with your work-life balance and your productivity is higher, but you need to get back in the office!”
It is management teams that now need to adapt. We need to ensure that corporate culture and values can be shared and enjoyed by remote workers and there is no differentiation between those who mostly work from home and those who still regularly visit the office.
Most CEOs have focused on the value of a great customer experience for many years now. It’s time the employee experience was taken just as seriously. There is a direct connection because great CX is hard to achieve without great EX. Employees now expect their employer to embrace more flexibility over working hours and location. Building this type of employee experience is now a strategic ingredient in building a brand that is attractive to the best talent.
I certainly benefited from the shift to the hybrid and WFH models: it allowed me to pick up the best talent for a job despite their geographic location, the team members are more accessible to each other, their time spending is more efficient and they are simply happier people, committed and loyal. Ultimately reducing office expenses that were previously considered fixed and not directly productive: premises, utilities and other facility-related costs enabled the company to offer a better compensation package.
Hybrid work is here to stay. According to Deloitte’s Global Contact Center Survey, “77% of service organizations are either adopting or accelerating their WFH programs.” Now the pandemic is (mostly) in the rear view mirror, it’s time to ask how we want our companies to look for the rest of this decade - and beyond. Employee experience will be at the heart of any future growth.
Published first on Linkedin by Jonas Berggren, July 2022.