COVID-19 has changed how employees interact with their coworkers, employers, and business. For many, the days of 100 percent on-site work with crisp 9-5 hours in cubicles near the break room stocked with k-cups are over. Flexibility is the new name of the employment game. Not only have new flexible work hours, video conferencing meetings, and collaborative tools allowed workers more autonomy, but statistics show this new normal has made workers
- happier — U.S. companies that allow for remote work have a 25 percent lower employee turnover rate;
- richer — 30 percent of telecommuters save upward of $5,000 a year; and
- more productive — 77 percent of telecommuters report being more productive.
Even employment vocabulary has some new additions. Remote work can be referred to as telecommuting, telework, work from home, work from anywhere, mobile work, flexible workplace, virtual work, and more. While many of these terms have similar meanings, there are a few key distinctions. Remote work (or telecommuting) refers to workers who maintain a traditional office schedule and work part-time from an alternative worksite with specific reference to reducing commute time. However, according to the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, teleworking “refers to a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs the duties and responsibilities of such employee’s position, and other authorized activities, from an approved worksite other than the location from which the employee would otherwise work.”
Finally, working from home (WFH) typically refers to an employee specifically working from home, rather than an office. Note that WFH does not include working at alternative worksites. Of course, a combination of any or all of the terms above can be used for employees and businesses alike.
Consulting has historically been a non-linear career with clients in multiple countries, team members from different employers, and projects requiring a-typical work schedules being the norm. The need for an office has never truly existed for a consultancy, so what changes will exist in a post-COVID world? Without four walls to close them in, businesses who prioritize flexible working environments will find that their opportunities become limitless.
More critically, research shows businesses who don’t consider some form of remote work as a part of their core offerings will miss out on great candidates and lose some they already have. An report from Upwork predicts 73 percent of employers will have some remote employees by 2028. Without the option of working remotely, workers say they’ll quit. Specifically, 67 percent of employees told Staples they would consider leaving their job if work arrangements become less flexible.
Here at WBD, a company wide survey gauged how our consultants felt about their current working conditions and their desire for the future. About 95 percent of employees indicated they strongly agreed or agreed that their job gave them the flexibility to meet the needs of their personal life. WBD is working to implement the flexibilities of WFH (anywhere) as a more permanent operating model at the firm.
“WBD’s compass is our government clients. As a client-facing company we see value in mirroring our direct Federal customer’s reimagined work environments in the post-pandemic world. We are also committed to being transparent about any decisions we make on this subject.”
Julie Barth, Director of Business Development, WBD
Don’t Forget the Water Cooler
Of course, there are some drawbacks for remote working. One of the greatest challenges remote employees note they face is loneliness. Nearly one in five remote employees report loneliness as their biggest challenge. Without true water cooler conversations, companies will need to find new ways to keep employee morale up and define their new company culture. The importance of internal newsletters, virtual “town halls,” and some fun virtual activities is on the rise.
Additionally, 20 percent of remote workers identify communication as an obstacle and 54 percent of IT professionals think that remote workers are a greater security risk. Investing in Virtual Private Networks (VPN), giving stipends for better at-home internet access, and dual-authentication password protection are just a few things companies will need to consider to make sure their employees can communicate safely.
The truth is, the workforce will never look the same as it did before COVID-19, but it seems to have changed for the better. Flexible work options mean less turnover and a larger talent pool for businesses, with happier employees who can spend more time with their families and less time commuting. For most organizations, this likely means a hybrid model involving some level of remote work. Businesses will either step up to the plate, or fail, seeing their competitors steal their employees.
Gone are the days of “cool offices” boasting ping pong tables and beer fridges. Employees now demand a better work-life balance with competitive pay, benefits, and the golden rule —flexibility. The future of teleworking is bright, and most employees are on board for these long-awaited changes.
Author: Jessica Lewis, Lead Consultant at WBD, is a CRM and strategy professional engaged with the firm’s Private Sector Engagement Support award with the United States Agency for International Development.