Many companies are preparing for employees to return to the office at some point this year, but that approach is by no means universal.
The deadly impact of the COVID-19 pandemic meant office-based workers were forced to rapidly shift to remote models. Now, both employers and employees are seeing the benefits and opportunities that such models can provide and are choosing to run with it over the long term. In some cities, this means more money for employees, a new study has found.
No doubt, when some people look for their next career move, they will consider remote work as a more attractive option due to its flexibility.
According to recent data from Harvey Nash, a tech recruiter, more than three-quarters (79%) of UK tech workers – the equivalent of more than one million people working in the sector – want to continue working from home for the majority of the week after the pandemic.
So, for those looking for a job change in a remote-working environment, where are the best places to look?
A new study by Swedish job search engine, Jobbland.se, found the countries that have the most remote jobs available relative to their working-age group. It also analyzed which industries have the most remote jobs advertised, and which cities are paying more or less for non-office jobs that are being advertised.
Which countries are offering the most remote jobs?
Based on jobs being advertised on LinkedIn in March 2021, those living in the US have a greater opportunity to find non-office jobs, where 113% of the jobs being offered are remote, relative to its working population.
Opportunities for remote work fall by nearly half in the UK, but the country still remains the highest non-office job advertiser among other European countries.
Which industries are most likely to offer fully remote positions?
With the option to work in a fully remote environment, the translation industry ranked number one as most likely to offer fully remote positions (91%). Editing and writing (56%), legal jobs (53%), and software development (47%) are also among the highest industries most likely to offer non-office jobs.
Sports and fitness (21%) and manufacturing (15%), however, are among the lowest.
Which cities are paying more for remote work?
According to the study, employees based in San Francisco can enjoy the benefits of high salaries for both remote and non-remote work. But, the tech city is offering higher average salaries for remote work jobs being advertised. Non-office work is presently paying $31,508 more in the California city.
In Ottawa, Canada, work-from-home jobs are paying $12,499 more than office jobs, on average. Meanwhile, Lyon pays the highest amount more for remote work than non-remote work in Europe.
In Sydney, there is also a difference in pay between remote and non-remote salaries but the Australian city is the lowest among some of the most populous cities, with only a 2% increase in remote jobs’ salaries.
Having fast and reliable Wi-Fi has become a necessity during the COVID-19 remote work period. To meet this essential function, the cruise line’s “connectivity partner” SES will be launching a new satellite constellation later this year. As a result, when cruising returns, Princess will be able to offer “land-like” internet on all of its ships, turning a boat into an “office at sea,” according to a press release.
This strong Wi-Fi connection will be accessible throughout the ships, which means guests won’t have to stay in their staterooms just to get speedy internet for work or school.
This is a very unique time to build a business. Brick and mortar companies are struggling and local “mom & pop” shops are closing at a record pace. Yet, there’s record growth for online service providers like Netflix, Amazon, DoorDash, and Zoom.
The one thing all of these growing companies have in common? They support the “stay-at-home” lifestyle and the “new normal” of working remotely.
Entrepreneurs can learn from an evolving global economy and the new normal of work. Here’s how some businesses did it:
Restaurants admitted they can not replace the experience of dining in their establishments. But meals-to-go, with the inclusion of cashless payments, allowed restaurateurs to have a new lifeline.
Online shopping has been around for quite some time. When the pandemic hit, the retail industry embraced the new segment of customers – mall-goers – to encourage them to buy. Online purchasing and shipping options made the transition easy for customers, and Amazon has cashed in record profits.
Reduced movie-goers spending did not stop the entertainment industry from thriving. Companies pivoted to provide streaming services for stay-at-home amusement. Theaters, on the other hand, got destroyed, for obvious reasons.
Local tourism, virtual tours, and travel-to-nowhere flights and cruises allowed travel lust individuals to experience traveling albeit limited. Personally, I think this is an incredible time to travel (by car) because not many are!
What made some businesses thrive and some permanently close? They adapted to the disruption through innovation and hard work. These two characteristics are what entrepreneurs are made of.
My own COVID adaptation
Just like every business owner, I was really worried when the lockdown was announced in March 2020. We had several clients cancel their virtual assistant services that we provided. Nevertheless, my business thrived. Since COVID, I have experienced an over 100% growth in our virtual assistant staffing agency for entrepreneurs and startups all around the world.
That’s because last year, building a “virtual team” sounded cool, but today, it’s a necessity for businesses to survive the current economic conditions.
Yes, a virtual team is the “new normal” of work. It is about time you hire one.
My secret weapon
My executive assistant Ysabelle, who is virtual, starts working for me one hour before I even wake up. This arrangement works because the first thing I do when I wake up is grab my phone off of my nightstand to check my messages. Now, Ysabelle goes through my emails and clears out all the hundreds of messages that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on. She leaves the ones that need my attention marked as “unread” with a flag.
Because I have over 100 people on my team, she knows exactly who’s responsible for certain operations in the business. So when I get an email that requires action on someone else’s part, Ysabelle sends the email to that team member and responds to the sender that we’ve got it taken care of. The sender probably thinks I sent the response – and that’s the point.
You see, I didn’t need to be in that conversation. With Ysabelle’s help, I can focus on myself and the really important activities for the day.
Why did I share this with you? I want you to understand that you can only do so much. The biggest lie is “I was about to do something but I ran out of time.” It’s simply not true. You just don’t want to be held accountable, or you don’t have adequate help so you have to prioritize what you do and don’t do each day.
If you are the only one in your business who knows everything, you are going to be a slave to your business. One of my colleagues once said, “If you don’t have an assistant, you are one.” Think about that.
Remote work is no longer a thing of the past. I don’t believe it’s going to go away. The current global crisis was a catalyst for the growing move to a virtually connected world. There is hardly anything we do in our business that can’t be done remotely, unless you physically make, or build something. Entrepreneurs who can adapt and evolve to the new “virtual workplace” and see its benefits will be able to future-proof their business as the economy moves remote.
For starters, the supply of fertile land (urban centers) is finite, but the source of demand keeps growing (more people/capital moving to cities). On top of that, we’ve granted real estate development such favorable tax treatment that it is nearly immune from taxation. Even Donald Trump, arguably the worst business person in US history, made money in real estate development, despite the serial failure of the underlying business. As one tax law expert put it, the real estate industry “thinks of the tax code as a basket of goodies to feast on rather than a financial obligation of doing business.” Imagine buying stock and being able to depreciate it as it increased in value.
Thanks to ever-growing demand and favorable tax treatment, real estate once minted more billionaires than tech. In 2019, 223 people on the Forbes billionaire list owed their wealth to real estate, compared to 214 from tech.
Then … COVID.
The third great conveyance of the modern economy (the first two being globalization and digitization) is in full swing: Dispersion, the process of value leapfrogging traditional points of distribution. Three sectors stand to register the greatest reallocation of stakeholder value (i.e., shit-kicking): healthcare, commercial real estate, and education as consumers leapfrog hospitals, HQ, and campuses.
Dispersion is enabled by both globalization and digitization. High-bandwidth communications link billions of people, and robust mobile devices render that network continuous. Now, blockchain technology is enabling the network to store value (bitcoin) and act on it (etherium). This will bring further disruption to industries low on IQ and heavy on EQ, such as insurance/asset management/central banking (wrapping my head around this is my biggest challenge for 2021).
The point is, the pandemic has accelerated all of these trends. A year-plus of forced acceptance of remote services in every sector has carved permanent change into our behavior. And, few sectors have seen a more radical transformation than office work.
Any discussion of valuation must be set against the backdrop of a firm’s valuation. Gannett Co., Inc. faces structural challenges, but at a $2.5 billion enterprise value (0.7x revenue), Gannett is undervalued. Tesla is a great product and company, but at $637 billion (20x revenue), it is overvalued (send in the clowns/trolls). Disclosure: I am a shareholder in Gannett and consistently wrong re: Tesla.
Anyway, the office real estate in the US alone is a $2.5 trillion asset class, and it is going to leak the GDP of Switzerland to residential over the next decade. However, it’s not as easy as going short all office firms and long all residential. The fire that will rage within the office sector will raise seeds of dormancy – and create unexpected winners. One pyrophile plant that emerges from the fire may be WeWork. I’m especially proud of that last sentence.
Why We (might) Work
The wholesale abandonment of office space has been among the most striking fallouts of the pandemic, and it will have profound effects on the way we live and work, long after the virus has been tamed. In New York, new office space is coming on the market 59% leased, down from 74% pre-COVID. San Francisco went from its lowest-ever office vacancy rate to its highest in the same year, and office rents are set to decline by 15%. The worst may be yet to come. Analysts predict that commercial vacancy rates will rise from 17.1% in 2020 to 19.4% in 2021, besting the previous high of 17.6% in 2010. And, as $430 billion in commercial and multifamily real estate debt matures in 2021, lenders will be forced to reconcile the effect of the pandemic on their investments.
These changes will endure. Twitter, Facebook, and Slack have all announced the move to a predominantly remote workforce. Pinterest recently paid $90 million to terminate its HQ lease in San Francisco. REI sold its new headquarters before even moving in, and CVS plans to cut 30% of its office space. At my New York-based education startup, Section4, we asked employees if they wanted to come back to work after the pandemic; overwhelmingly, they wanted to stay home. We paid $1 million to terminate our SoHo office lease. After decades of promise, the telecommuting revolution is here.
Back in 2017, I predicted WeWork, then worth $16 billion, would lose 75% of its value and become the “poster child of unicorn mania.” Two and a half years later, that prediction was wrong, very wrong – WeWork was preparing to go public on the heels of a $1 billion investment from Softbank that valued the company at $47 billion.
But it just didn’t pencil out. After deploying my unique domain expertise (math) I concluded: “Any equity analyst who endorses this stock above a $10 billion valuation is lying, stupid, or both.”
(BTW, the production company wanted me to come to a studio in New Jersey for filming. I told them I had a two hour window and that they needed to come to my place in SoHo or find another angry professor to make terse comments. They shuttled a dozen people to my place and set up a studio in my kids room, next to the climbing wall. At that moment, I realized that people tolerating you being an asshole doesn’t make you … any less of an asshole.)
Anyway, that wasn’t the end of the story of WeWork. Despite losing $60 million per week of Softbank’s money in 2020, WeWork didn’t go out of business. Instead, to the board’s credit, the company fired the Jesus of reclaimed wood and smoked glass, Adam Neumann, and brought in an experienced manager. Sandeep Mathrani shed 100 of the company’s worst performing properties along with the self-dealing arrangements foisted on the company by Neumann, and laid off 8,000 employees. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and if WeWork turns the corner to profitability in Q4 of this year, as it has promised investors, it will be the case study in fire intensity and germination.
The new WeWork is a stronger company than the 2017 model. It’s still not worth $50 billion, but it might be worth $9B (or more). The new WeWork will benefit from the massive investments in space and brand equity (i.e., global awareness); additionally, people underestimate the difficulty of scaling “vibe,” where WeWork has a proven talent.
Most companies aren’t going 100% remote. But when we return to the office, we will want less space that is more flexible, and more appealing to the premier asset of any firm: its ability to attract skilled, young human capital. Pre-corona, Section4 had a long term lease on 8,000 feet at $70 per square foot. Post-corona, it will probably be closer to 2,000 at $100, and on a year-to-year lease. Further out, I could see us opening offices in Miami or Austin, where great talent is migrating.
Imagine: a commercial real estate play, with properties around the world, configured as flexible office space, rentable by the hour, the day, or the month, with great community spaces, aspirational design, and strong tech. In sum, We might Work.
Pass the pipe (here we go … again)
However, Softbank has not run out of real estate opium quite yet. Now it is trying to pass the pipe to Compass investors, hoping the markets enter into consensual hallucination that a rollup of residential real estate brokerages is (wait for it) a tech company. Yesterday, Compass went public at a valuation of approximately 3x revenue. Realogy, the closest competitor, trades at 0.29x revenue. From the Compass site:
“Compass is building the first modern real estate platform, pairing the industry’s top talent with technology to make the search and sell experience intelligent and seamless.”
The firm even describes itself as “a tech company reinventing the space,” despite the fact that it spent 78% of expenses on commissions to brokers, instead of technology or algorithms. This makes sense as Compass is … a real estate brokerage.
Just before the IPO, the underwriters cut the pricing range and halved the number of shares offered. Despite a massive haircut in supply, the first day pop was an anemic 12%. I’ve worked at an investment bank taking companies public, founded companies that have gone public, and been on boards of companies going public. Dramatically reduced supply (shares) at a lower price, coupled with Goldman’s unparalleled institutional base of buyers, and Compass barely got out. In sum, the corners of this trade are beginning to collapse and could lead to a broken IPO within days. WeWork may be rising from the ashes as Compass begins to smolder.
There are a bevy of benefits women consistently list as being most supportive – flexible work schedules, paid maternity leave, and childcare options, for example. But when Glassdoor asked women what companies could do better, they offered up some other ideas. Here, these women say, are the creative and important ways that companies could support them even better.
1. Help women plan for their families
“Many companies say they support women, but the reality is they don’t. Career advancement is linked to performance, as it should be – but if you are single and don’t have support, you are often putting everything aside to work and by the time you achieve your goals, you may not be able to have kids. I wish companies would offer IVF or egg storage options so women didn’t feel pressured to have kids early in their careers.” – Michelle, a nurse executive in Washington, DC
2. Establish women as company leaders
“I had to prove myself to clients and other industry players and now, I’ve built a rapport. But it wasn’t always that way. My company kept me involved with client decisions from the start, and I recommend companies introduce women early to clients and establish them as the point-person or leader. I’ve experienced my fair share of sexism, with clients saying, ‘I don’t want to talk to you because you’re a woman.’ But my company’s leaders pushed back, touted my expertise, and told them I was the foremost expert.” – Carrie, an operations manager in Irvine, California
3. Craft HR policies that help women
“I’d strongly recommend small businesses hire HR consultants when drafting employee manuals, evaluation forms, disciplinary notices, and other HR-related documents. Having a professional take a holistic view of your practices is a great idea to ensure you’re building a fair, transparent workplace with equitable procedures related to evaluations, maternity leave, pay gap distributions, and other policies that disproportionately impact women. Male business owners may otherwise be unaware of some of these topics, so investing in an outside party to evaluate your HR practices is a must-do.” – Jenny, a program manager in Los Angeles, California
4. Offer plans that support pregnancy
“Many companies are becoming more generous with their maternity leave policies, but what about the time, effort and money it takes to actually get pregnant? Flexible work schedules, remote opportunities, emails instead of meetings, and better insurance benefits for fertility treatment would be awesome. Before I started trying for a baby, I was in a meeting with 20 women and not one of them had a child. It made me scared to attempt to try for my own because I thought my career wouldn’t support that path. Something’s got to give to make women more comfortable with having a baby.” – Arielle, a website founder in Boston, Massachusetts
5. Help with home office costs
“I think the one thing that could be done that would make me feel even more supported would be to help me subsidize the cost of a home office. I feel much more productive when I have a dedicated office space from which to work, and it allows me to get solid work done even when my daughter is home.” – Lacy, a chief marketing officer in Boston, Massachusetts
Offering childcare options is not enough to drive women’s careers. Financial aids for family planning, equitable HR policies, and assistance with setting up home offices are key opportunities for companies to better support their female employees.
There’s no question that 2020 turned the workplace on its head. The start of the pandemic led companies to reconsider everything from their office layout to how they can foster a sense of community when a majority of team members are working from home.
Tom Vecchione, Principal at architecture and interior design firm Vocon, believes the pandemic has only made the concept of the office and what it represents to employees more powerful. Of the executives he works with, Vecchione says, “What they miss the most is the level of ambition the office created for their teams and their staff. It’s very much part of the emotional, inspirational aspect of what an office gives us and your teams.”
To get back that missing spark, and to address the larger question of the office and its role overall, companies are starting to reassess their relationship with urban real estate.
What’s influencing them? “Everyone’s waiting for three factors,” Vecchione says. “What’s my peer doing, which is a very big influencer; what does science tell us we can do; and what do government agencies say we should do. This waiting game is creating uncertainty and volatility in the real estate market.”
The way Vecchione sees it, three tiers of employee engagement will emerge within the workforce: mission-critical onsite employees who must be onsite to do their jobs; hybrid employees who can split their time between onsite and offsite; and offsite workers who can effectively do their jobs without ever using the office as a permanent home. In order to gauge the demand for workspaces moving forward, Vocon is analyzing companies’ post-pandemic needs. “Executives aren’t sure why people really need to go back — if it’s for mentorship, culture, learning.” Vecchione adds that the purpose of the workspace isn’t just to facilitate the work itself, but to create knowledge, inspire culture, build a career path, and bring clients and talent “into the fold.”
There’s more to the workspace of the future than socially-distanced desks, sound barriers, and outdoor meeting rooms, and many employees find their job performance suffers when they lack access to a communal office. According to a 2020 survey conducted by enterprise platform Smartsheet in conjunction with 451 Research, 82% of workers feel less productive at work since going remote.
As companies start to consider the slow or staggered transition back to the office environment, they’re also thinking about something else: technology, and the key role it plays in the culture of collaboration.
“What I find fascinating is that we’ve all owned this technology and never really operated in this way,” says Anna Griffin, Chief Marketing Officer of Smartsheet. “(Companies) know that we’re going into a hybrid world, and they’re going into the new year in build mode.”
Smartsheet is seeing “a lot of enthusiasm for working this way,” along with signs of recovery and greater investments in technology, Griffin says. All of this signals that leaders are on board with modifying their business strategies.
Traditionally, changes like these have come straight from the top. Insider’s Human Impact of Business Transformation study, a project designed to gauge perspectives on business transformation as they relate to brand purpose, mental resilience, and more, shows that among 68% of respondents, it’s the leadership teams that drive such efforts.
But this model may not last. Employees are taking a larger role in the technology they use, and the workplace experience overall. Instead of the old approach, where management implements processes and expects teams to follow suit by using the tools they provide, Griffin is seeing employees driving these decisions. “The way you work, and the way people are able to participate more, is truly becoming democratized. And so there’s this shift in power. You’re doing something collectively together,” she says.
Ricardo Vargas, former Executive Director of Brightline Initiative, a coalition designed to help companies bridge the gap between strategy and execution, is seeing a similar trend as businesses prioritize employee satisfaction. The companies that succeed at transforming their business, Vargas says, also ensure their leaders are just as immersed in the company culture as their teams.
“In the more traditional organizations, the leadership lives in a castle on the top floor that nobody gets access to. You don’t talk to them.” Rather, Vargas says, leadership should be approachable and accessible, wherever they are.
Organizations now face an opportunity. The pandemic has highlighted weak spots in corporate culture, and leaders are starting to address those proactively. “We need to learn how to lead in permanent disruption because we are living in a permanent state of transformation,” Vargas says.
When it comes to designing the new workplace, Vecchione believes the physical work environment will never go away. Its purpose, however, may well be reinvented. Employees will one day find themselves in shared spaces again — and when they do, they’re likely to discover that a change was long overdue.
IBM is joining the growing list of tech companies planning to take a flexible approach to remote work even after the pandemic, though it does have concerns about how the strategy could impact its company culture.
IBM CEO Arvind Krishna told Bloomberg’s Emily Chang on Wednesday 80% of the company’s employees may stay in hybrid roles indefinitely, spending “at least three days a week, maybe not all eight to 10 hours, but at least some fraction of those three days, in the office.”
Krishna said 10% to 20% of employees could potentially stay fully remote, but that he worried “about what’s their career trajectory going to be.”
“If they want to become a people manager, if they want to get increasing responsibilities or if they want to build a culture within their teams, how are we going to do that remotely?” Krishna told Bloomberg.
IBM’s HR chief, Nickle LaMoreaux, had told Insider in February that most employees would need to come into the office “from time to time,” but that few would need to come in five days a week.
Currently, Krishna told Bloomberg, IBM has around 15% of its global workforce coming into the office “some” of the time, while “about 5% never went home.”
Regardless, Krishna added, the transition to a long-term hybrid model “is not going to happen overnight,” adding that parents can stay fully remote until schools reopen.
IBM is also planning to scale back its brick-and-mortar footprint as it plans for employees spending less time in the office, cutting a significant portion of the 70 million square feet of office space and 1,000 locations it had before the pandemic, according to Bloomberg.
“I would imagine that we will get rid of tens of millions,” Krishna told Bloomberg, referring to square feet of office space. “Are we going to go toward zero, absolutely not. Will we have over half of what we had, most likely.”
Microsoft will open up its US headquarters to more employees by the end of this month, the company announced Monday.
Beginning March 29, Microsoft employees who typically work at the company’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters or nearby offices will have the option to return to those campuses some or all of the time. Employees will also be allowed to continue working remotely if they wish, Microsoft said in a blog post announcing the update.
“We’ve been closely monitoring local health data for months and have determined that the campus can safely accommodate more employees on-site while staying aligned to Washington state capacity limits,” Kurt DelBene, Microsoft’s head of corporate strategy, wrote.
Microsoft offices in 21 countries around the world have also added additional workers, with about 20% of its global workforce working at an office, according to the blog post.
“Our goal is to give employees further flexibility, allowing people to work where they feel most productive and comfortable, while also encouraging employees to work from home as the virus and related variants remain concerning,” DelBene wrote.
Microsoft said in October that it would extend its work-from-home policy until July 6, 2021 “at the earliest.” The company also announced that month that its policy going forward will allow most employees to work remotely at least half of the time – employees who wish to work remotely full time or relocate may do so with manager approval.
According to a survey Microsoft conducted among those who have already returned to the office, it seems many employees currently prefer some sort of hybrid work schedule: About half of those who have gone back to the office are spending 25% of their time there, DelBene wrote in the blog post.
Microsoft joins many major tech companies in planning for a hybrid workforce. Salesforce announced last month that it will provide employees three new ways to work going forward. Most employees will adopt a “flex” schedule where they’ll report to the office up to three days each week for tasks that are more challenging to do over video calls, like team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations.
Andy Jassy, the current CEO of Amazon Web Services who will take over as Amazon’s chief executive in the third quarter of this year, told CNBC in December that he predicts most people will adopt a hybrid work model. Jassy said he expects the future of work to be “hot offices” where employees decide when to come in and then reserve a desk.
The days of nine to five, Monday to Friday workschedules are numbered. The pandemic ushered in a new era of worker expectations, and this shift isn’t going away with any vaccine.
A huge portion of the global workforce has spent the better part of nine months working from home, adjusting to a new reality, and building new routines. The door to this new way of working wasn’t just opened. It was pulled right off of its hinges.
A November 2020 study from JLL found that, for the first time ever, workers value work-life balance more than a high salary (72% versus 69%). That same study found that 71% of workers expect more flexible schedules post-pandemic.
This isn’t a matter of employee entitlement and shouldn’t be viewed as a challenge businesses need to somehow overcome. It should be seen as an awakening to the needs of a new generation of workers. It’s an opportunity to build a workplace that values employee happiness as much as it does profit.
And to be clear, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. There is no shortage of studies showing that employee happiness leads to greater productivity, retention, motivation, leadership, and more. Plus, the nine-to-five workday is a remnant of historical jobs and ways of working. It doesn’t map to when many of us are at our most creative, motivated, or productive.
Do the benefits of maintaining your status quo schedules and working arrangements outweigh the risks of possibly disengaging a huge part of your current and future employee base?
If you’ve come to the conclusion that change is necessary, here are three ways you can introduce schedule flexibility within your organization.
1. Availability hours versus working hours
One of the main hiccups involved in increasing scheduling flexibility is ensuring that your employees are available when you need them. If there’s an issue that needs solving or an opportunity you can jump on, will your team be there to act?
And while meetings might be changing, they’re not going away. For that reason alone, you need employee schedules to overlap at least to some degree. If you’ve ever worked at a company with international offices, you know how hard it can be to find appropriate meeting times when people are working different hours.
Whether you’re working remotely or in the office, one way to increase scheduling flexibility without creating a new set of issues for your business is to set a defined period of availability hours during the week. These are periods during which all employees need to be available – for meetings, communication, or time-sensitive tasks.
These periods shouldn’t be eight hours long. Instead, pick a period of three to four hours at the start or near the end of your typical workday. This should give your team ample time to interact with and support one another, while still providing far greater schedule flexibility. People will be able to drop off or pick up their kids from school, work late at night to avoid distractions, or simply take breaks as needed throughout the day.
While it might mean a change from your typical nine to five, availability hours should be a simple adjustment for your company – an easy trade-off to potentially increase employee happiness and productivity.
2. Weekend swap days
Is there a day in your week that is particularly chaotic? Maybe all of your kids’ extracurriculars line up and it’s nearly impossible to work regular hours or get anything done. Or maybe your partner has a weird schedule and everything falls on you?
One more question: Have you ever worked a weekend day just because you wanted distraction-free focus time?
Another way to introduce greater scheduling flexibility is by offering employees the opportunity to swap one working weekday with a Saturday or Sunday. This could see them working an adjusted week, like Sunday to Thursday, or splitting their week in two and taking Wednesdays off, for example.
This can be done as a one-off, allowing them to work a single weekend day when something comes up. But weekend swap days work much better when offered on a long term basis.
Give employees the option to work a weekend day for three- or six-month periods. This requires them to commit to a modified schedule upfront. The advantage there is it introduces stability week-to-week so the rest of your team gets familiar with their new schedule and won’t be guessing whether they’re in or out of the office day-to-day. And the employee gets to truly test whether the different schedule is a better fit for their lives.
Plus, by allowing certain roles – customer support being the biggie – to work weekends, you might even expand your service offering in the process.
3. Optional four-day work weeks
The movement behind four-day work weeks has been gaining steam for the better part of a decade. It has recently been thrust into the spotlight more widely as a result of COVID-19 but also because of several companies and even entire regions experimenting with this system. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern notably cited four-day weeks as a possible means of rebuilding the economy after the pandemic comes to a close.
While it’s clear many employees would love the added schedule flexibility, the four-day week represents the greatest logistical challenge for your company. There’s plenty to consider:
Will you set the specific third day off each week or let each employee decide?
Will you allow all employees to work four days, or will only some employees qualify?
Will you offer the same salary and benefits to employees working four days, or will these be adjusted?
Will people still work 40 hours during those four days, or will they work reduced hours?
Will you set a one-size fit all policy or allow managers decisional power on this?
Will you need to review any and all variable compensation plans?
Will this impact any funding programs your company may benefit from?
A four-day workweek does require a little more forethought and management, but you don’t have to jump in with both feet.
At Unito, we offer optional four-day weeks to employees who have been with the company for at least one year. We made this decision because we feel it’s essential for employees working four days to be very comfortable in their role and very capable of managing their schedule and responsibilities – which we felt was more realistic after working in the position for a year.
The decision to make the four-day week optional was a reflection of the fact that not all employees want this degree of schedule flexibility. This is especially true if your shortened week comes with a proportional decrease in salary – if people work 80% of the hours, they receive 80% of their salary. This may be a deterrent to some, though as mentioned above, work-life balance is more important than salary for a growing number of people.
This approach to the four-day week has allowed us to retain valued employees who really desired this type of arrangement, while most employees continued with their regular routines.
You have to stretch to get flexible
Changing your routine or your approach isn’t easy, but things truly worth doing rarely are. The impact a four-day week or flexible hours can have on your employees – and on your bottom line – in the long term is worth a bit of short term discomfort.
COVID-19 might have sped up the process a bit but these changes were always inevitable. Will your business be one of the first to adapt?
Ford has become the first automobile company to shift towards remote working on a permanent basis, according to CNBC, with around 86,000 employees being allowed to work at least partially from home.
The policy is aimed at office workers rather than factory workers, who number around 100,000 and have largely returned to work.
Hybrid work plans and remote working will depend on individual and managerial responsibilities.
“The nature of the work we do really is going to be a guiding element,” chief people and employee experiences officer Kiersten Robinson told CNBC. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 12 months, it is that a lot of our assumptions around work and what employees need has shifted.”
Ford’s new policy will be introduced in July when most employees are expected to make at least a partial return to the office after more than a year.
“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent – you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, David Dubensky, told The Washington Post.
“Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful,” Dubensky added. “It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”
According to a survey conducted at Ford in June 2020, 95% of employees wanted a hybrid form of working and a number of them felt more productive at home.
The move from Ford comes after major companies including Google, Spotify, and Salesforce all announced that they were offering their employees the option to work from home permanently.
“These companies are all looking at each other,” associate professor at Michigan State University’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, Angela Hall, told The Detroit News. “And especially someone like Ford, who is a large, respected employer – people are going to model that behavior.”
The Washington Post also reported that General Motors and Toyota were looking at flexible options for a return to the office, although they are both yet to announce new policies.