The Future of Hybrid Work

I was on a Mediterranean cruise recently where the average age looked to be 75+, the majority of the people were retired and I engaged a few in conversation about the status of work.  The vast majority said that work will be back to the pre-Covid normal within 5 years, meaning that employees will be required to return to the office 5 days/week.  The prediction stunned me as most of the colleagues I speak with, albeit, they are much younger than the cruise crowd, believe that hybrid work is here to stay, myself included.  We believe this is a fundamental shift in the employer/employee relationship that will drive increased flexibility in how and where we work for years to come.

It would seem that we are in good company given that a recent Robert Half survey https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/05/hybrid-working-your-office-future
indicated that  one-third of professionals (34%) currently working from home due to COVID-19 would quit if required to be in the office full-time. Nearly half of respondents (49%) said they prefer a hybrid work arrangement, where they can divide their time between the office and another location. Hybrid Work Is Here To Stay. Now What? (Back to Work, Better) (hbr.org)

According to the 2021 Work Trend Index, The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready? (microsoft.com)over 40 percent of the global workforce considered leaving their employer last year, meaning a thoughtful approach to hybrid work will be critical for attracting and retaining diverse talent. Over 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue. Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly — inclusive of collaboration, learning, and wellbeing to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates and those who are in the workforce today. All this needs to be done with flexibility in when, where, and how people work.”

I could not find supporting data anywhere suggesting that my new cruise friends were correct in their contention that employees would be “required” to return to work in an office 5 days a week.  That got me to thinking about the rate of change and how much some of them have experienced in the last 75-85 years. According to Futurism A Look at How Much Humanity Has Advanced Over the Last 100 Years (futurism.com)

World Literacy Rates

  • 1917: The world literacy rate was only 23%.
  • Today: Depending on estimates, the world literacy rate today is 86.1%.

Travel Time

  • 1917: It took 5 days to get from London to New York; 3.5 months to travel from London to Australia.
  • Today: A nonstop flight gets you from London to New York in a little over 8 hours, and you can fly from London to Australia in about a day, with just one stop.

 

Coca-Cola

  • 1917: On July 1, 1916, Coca-Cola introduced its current formula to the market.
  • Today: Today, Coca-Cola has a market cap of about $178 billion with 2015 net operating revenues over $44 billion. Each day, over 1.9 billion servings of Coca-Cola drinks are enjoyed in more than 200 countries.

Billionaires

  • 1917: John D. Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire on September 29.
  • Today: There are approximately 1,810 billionaires, and their aggregate net worth is $6.5 trillion. For context, Rockefeller’s net worth in today’s dollars would have been about $340 billion. Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, is worth $84 billion today.

Traffic (Horses to Cars)

  • 1917: In 1912, traffic counts in New York showed more cars than horses for the first time.
  • Today: There were approximately 253 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads in 2015.

Innovation

  • 1917: The major tech invention in 1917? The toggle light switch.
  • Today: The major tech invention of today? CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology, which enables us to reprogram life as we know it. And we are making strides in AI, robotics, sensors, networks, synthetic biology, materials science, space exploration and more every day.

Speed Limits

  • 1917: The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
  • Today: The maximum speed limit in (or around) most cities is about 70 mph.

So, perhaps rather than a prediction they were making a plea, for the rate of change to slow down, for things to revert back to “the way they used to be”, however unlikely that may be.

The Changing Face of Human Resources

There has been an earthquake-like shift in the employee-employer relationship and it has happened, not over decades, but within 2 years. It has changed the way employers interact with their employees and the way employees show up for work. In the past, even the advanced HR functions were still primarily transactionally based. This shift has necessitated that employers look at each employee in an authentic Are you an authentic HR leader? (humanresourcesonline.net)way, taking into account their needs on a holistic basis and not just during the workweek. Employees more than ever before are coming to the table with demands. Demands for work/life balance, for enhanced benefits, for more pay, and most importantly, for meaningful work where they can serve a greater purpose and be a part of something bigger than themselves. They are holding employers accountable in record numbers for taking a stand on important issues and being able to eloquently articulate how they are improving the world.  

COVID, while an incredible health travesty, has in some ways, sped up this revolution. It has caused people, employees, to step back and assess what is important to them, where they want to work, how they want to work, and what they are willing to sacrifice, if anything, for a job. In record numbers, over 4.4M in Nov 2021 alone, People Explained Why They Resigned During The Great Resignation, And Their Points Are Sooo Valid (yahoo.com)employees are quitting and quitting without necessarily having another position lined up. Quitting to pursue their passions and their interests and realizing that money is only a part of the equation to leading a happy life. The term The Great Resignation, Great Resignation – Wikipedia coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, who predicted the mass exodus in May 2021, is on everyone’s minds.

I feel very fortunate to be a part of an organization that started this journey long before the world had ever heard of COVID, to have embraced our WHY, and to have established inspirational Guiding Principles that serve as a daily roadmap for our teams for how we want to serve our employees, our residents and our broader communities. Well-being has always been at the forefront of our message and wellbeing in the broader sense of the word, incorporating physical, financial, social, emotional, and career wellbeing. As a people-first company, we continue to take the individual needs of our workforce into account, personalizing our offerings and doing what is right.

While the staggering numbers of employees who are quitting their jobs and moving on may slow in the coming months, the seismic shifts surrounding flexibility and employee demands that have occurred will remain. I am frequently asked by our employees and others if we will revert to the old ways of working without the flexibility and the hybrid The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready? (microsoft.com)schedules. My answer is always the same “No”. Once we enter a period of enlightenment it is impossible not to know what we know. People can be highly productive working from someplace other than the office, working irregular hours and days, and can be trusted to get the job done, whether you can “see” them or not.

Reimagining Recruitment

Being unable to hire qualified workers is the most critical and widespread challenge businesses face today in the post-pandemic world.  Businesses that don’t have enough employees are forced to reduce their hours, scale down operations, and in some cases, permanently close, all leading to a less than rosy economic recovery.  

In a recent Committee to Unleash Prosperity paper CTUP_BonusUnemploymentBenefitsLaborShortage.pdf (committeetounleashprosperity.com) by Casey Mulligan, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, who served as chief economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the latest monthly jobs report from the Department of Labor for April and May have shown disappointing employment increases, flat job participation rates, and a slight increase in the number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits.  Two weeks before the May jobs survey, the BLS counted 9.3 million unfilled jobs in America, even with more than nine million Americans “unemployed.” The 9.3 million unfilled jobs is almost 2 million beyond the pre-pandemic record for the U.S., and the policy riddle is why more unemployed workers are not getting back in jobs. Small business owners around the country—construction firms, restaurants, bars, retailers, hospitals, and factories—are complaining that workers they want to rehire are less likely to work now. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, some nine of 10 small employers are citing a shortage of workers as a top concern. 

Back in March, Congress and President Biden enacted the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. H.R.1319 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Because of the $300-a-week bonus unemployment benefits enacted in March 2021, along with other expansions of welfare benefits and cash payments unrelated to work:

  • In 21 states and DC, households can receive a wage equivalent of $25 an hour in benefits 
    • with no one working. 
  • In 19 states, benefits are equivalent to $100,000 a year in salary for a family of four with 
  • two unemployed parents.
  • In all but two of the blue states, $300 Supplemental Unemployment Insurance benefits 

plus other welfare pay more than the wage equivalent of a $15 minimum wage

There are 1.4 available workers per job opening in the US. This rate is just half the average of the past 20 years

Clearly, corporations are going to need to woo these workers back to work.  According to Jennifer Shappley,  Jennifer Shappley | LinkedIn the vice president of global talent acquisition at LinkedIn, the key to success in fighting the war for talent, is for corporations to offer flexibility to their employees. 

Forward-thinking companies recognize that employees, just like consumers, are attracted to different types of flexibility.  The below are some ways you might consider enticing your prospective employees and current workforce back to the office

  • Offer a hybrid model where they work 2-3 days in the office and the remaining days in an alternate location
  • Create more inclusive job advertisements. Job listings referring to “responsibilities” rather than “requirements “. LinkedIn finds a 14% increase in candidates when job posts mention responsibilities, but not requirements
  • Consider whether a 4- year bachelor’s degree is necessary.  LinkedIn reports a 20% increase in managers hired who didn’t possess a traditional four-year degree.
  • Be empathetic and concerned about your employee’s mental health- allow sick days to be used for “wellness days”
  • Re-imagine the workplace to be warm and inviting
  • Create informal areas where employees can collaborate with each other
  • Sponsor afternoon events where employees can enjoy a glass of wine and each other’s company

At the end of the day, monetary compensation is only one reason why employees work.   Help your employees to balance their work and personal lives, provide a comfortable and relaxing work environment and allow them responsibilities where they feel fulfilled at the end of the day and you will attract the candidates you need!

Creating an Environment of Engagement

Sherrie Suski, Environment of Engagement

With the first quarter of 2017 only visible in the rear-view mirror, as unbelievable as that seems, it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate what we want to accomplish in our organizations by the end of this year.

Employee engagement continues to be the buzz word of the decade. Constituents quote the statistics that engaged employees are more than 3 times as productive than the unengaged or 10x as productive as the actively disengaged.

Creating an environment of engagement and learning

To understand this concept, we need to understand the true meaning of the word empathy.  Empathy, as defined by the dictionary, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.   Borrowing a term from Big Data, it means focusing on the user experience or UX.  It will require designing work for the employee through the lens of user experience (UX) with the goal being able to help the employees feel good about the work they are doing and have a solid understanding of the connection to the greater organizational goals.

It has little to do with nerf guns, skateboards and other “tools” used to sell an environment of engagement and much more to do with spending the time to understand what is important to the individual actually performing the job.  Maybe it’s ergonomic, like a chair with better back support, maybe it’s auditory, like a pair of headphones to tune out the chatter around them, maybe it’s offering a rotation of job duties to stave of boredom and the repetitive nature of the job.

Adopting a Management Style that supports engagement

Equally important to creating the right environment is fostering the right management style to support a team environment. A team is a group of talented people who work together to accomplish something beyond their individual best. In order to work together they need to be supported by managers who allows them to thrive. This style is built by leaders who understand how to communicate the vision of the company in a way that engages and encourages everyone to work towards that goal.

Leaders who are effective communicators, develop a sense of community, and show authentic transparency and concern for others will be able to build high performing and engaged teams of talented people.”

Creating jobs that support engagement

Go beyond traditional training classes that support skills based on-the-job training and look for peer-to-peer opportunities.  investigate ways to allow employees to “try out” another position for a day or even a few hours.   This has multiple advantages.  Not only does it build a more well-rounded and cross trained workforce, but it circles back to our definition of empathy, to understand and share the feelings of another.  A workforce who has had the opportunity to “stand in another’s shoes” is a workforce that is better equipped to understand the full business cycle.

How Can You Become More Effective At Your Job?

sherrie suski office

When individuals have been working a job for a while, it’s easy to just find a daily groove, and go with the motions. But going with the flow doesn’t always mean we are being as effective as we can be in our positions. The reality is that some employees fall into their normal workflow, and are not entirely sure what else they can be doing in order to improve their effectiveness at their job.

I’ve spent some time pondering ways that employees who are looking to avoid stagnation can start to develop their skillsets at work. There are a few major steps that one can take to become more effective at their job.

 

Determine the Purpose of Your Work

The first step to improving is to understand exactly what you are trying to improve. Effectiveness in any job can only be achieved if there is a full understanding of what the job is. The easiest way to do this is to conduct a thorough analysis of your current position.

  1. Look through the formal documentation that is available for your position. Determine what the objectives and main priorities are on the job description. If you have access to the the rubrics for performance reviews, review those as well. They will give you an accurate picture of what is expected of an exemplary employee.
  2. Seek out any available training that is available for your job. Training materials are a great resource because they go beyond just telling you what you’ll get rewarded for. Training materials will also give you best practices and provide some (hopefully helpful) instruction on how to do your job well. Seeking out training materials also shows initiative to your superiors. (Bosses love when their employees show dedication to betterment.)

After you’ve reviewed those documents and materials, you should be armed with a better understanding of what you should be accomplishing and working towards in your current position.

 

Turn Up the Positivity

This may feel cheesy to some, but there really is something to be said about adopting a good attitude within the workplace. Positivity can go a long way in terms of productivity.

  1. Studies have shown that people who are consistently positive have a better ability to handle stress, work related challenges, and general adversity.
  2. Maintaining a positive attitude also helps you to see things more clearly. If you’re less stressed, you can make more rational, and beneficial decisions.

Be sure to check back next month to determine what else you can do to become more effective at work.


 

Resources: Mindtools – 1 , Mindtools – 2, Positively Presents