These days, scrolling through news feeds inevitably means reading at least one article about returning to the office (or not). Some leaders, like Washingtonian magazine’s CEO Cathy Merrill, have expressed unpopular perspectives. In early May, she wrote, “Although there might be some pains and anxiety going back into the office, the biggest benefit for workers may be simple job security.” After publishing this statement (among others) in her Washington Post op-ed, Merrill was swiftly faced with 25 unhappy staff members who took matters into their own hands by refusing to work. Apple and Morgan Stanley have also faced backlash for their stance on a September return to the office. On the other hand, Google’s “three word plan” [flexibility and choice] sounds a lot like LLUNA‘s core offering. The thing is, flexibility and choice can extend well beyond the return to office decisions. As employers, we have an incredible opportunity to re-think the way we engage with employees overall. Below are a few suggestions for getting started:
1. Flexibility means something different to everyone. Just like career paths have evolved to be more “lattice” than “ladder,” employees’ needs and wants evolve over time and in many different ways. Offering flexibility, choice, and permission to seek work/life harmony will lead to more engaged employees, higher retention rates, stronger employer brands, and healthier / happier people overall. This goes beyond just work location and hours; choices can be offered around PTO, professional development, family benefits, wellness, and even more. Getting a little creative may just unlock something incredible!
2. Employees have choice, even if you don’t offer it to them. The “quits rate” is on the rise, meaning that employees are being selective about where they work and choosing opportunities that meet their unique needs. Employers that introduce flexibility and choice will win in the current employment market, establishing their brands as ones that prioritize employee happiness, well-being, and inclusivity. While it may be overwhelming in the face of the daily noise, keep in mind that offering some choice can go a long way. Start by picking 1 to 3 specific opportunities to introduce more flexibility (choice) into your organization, and go with it! Less can often be more.
3. Culture must be curated. It needs to be nurtured and shaped as a force for good in your company. This will be true in remote, hybrid, and fully in-person companies. How you curate may change based on the locations of your workforce, but in all scenarios, companies and the people that shape them must be intentional about culture. Not sure where to start? Focus on your company’s core values – how do they show up day to day and how can you amplify them in all work settings and throughout your benefit offerings? A Microsoft survey says that 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year. The “Great Resignation” as some have come to call it, speaks to a shift in the way employers must engage with employees. There’s no perfect or right answer, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that no action, will result in catastrophic turnover for many companies. Let’s not try to recreate what once was…instead, let’s create a future of work that’s more human, personal, and productive.