To Return, or Not to Return (to the Office)?
Pre-pandemic, most U.S. office workers would say that working consisted of being in the office from 9–5 every Monday through Friday. These days, if you asked a group of people what working meant to them, you would get a slew of different answers. In fact, the relationship we have between our working and personal lives has become increasingly complex. Add into the mix confusion surrounding the current state of work—pushed back dates, policy changes, and the debate of returning in-person versus going hybrid or remote—and employers are facing a predicament.
This brings up yet another question, what does working consist of post-pandemic? According to the Labor Department’s most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover reports, a record 4.5 million workers left their jobs in November, with 4.3 million workers leaving in December of 2021.¹ These staggering numbers are leading many to rethink where, when, and how we work. If "The Great Resignation" has brought anything to light, it is that employees are evaluating their current job situation and no longer accepting the status quo.
In January, Anthony Klotz, an organizational psychologist, and professor at Texas A&M University said, “This is a moment of empowerment for workers, one that will continue well into the new year.” Klotz further predicts that turnover will slow down in 2022, flexible work culture will become the norm, and remote jobs will be more competitive.² Laying support to Klotz’s flexible work prediction, the Future Forum Pulse found in their Winter 2021/2022 survey that remote and hybrid employees scored higher than their in-person counterparts in all aspects of employee experience—work-life balance, work-related stress, sense of belonging, and even the value of their relationships with coworkers.³ These results tell us that employee preferences are shifting, and businesses that don’t adapt will be left behind.
This shift in employee preference is an opportunity. An opportunity to listen to your employees, an opportunity to gain unique perspectives, an opportunity to broaden your talent pool, an opportunity to pressure-test your company’s core values, and most of all an opportunity to embrace flexibility.
At Avant Healthcare, we have always been a remote-friendly company, but over the past few years, we have made the shift to a flexibility-first company. Meaning, we allow our employees the flexibility to decide what works best for them. Did the pandemic spur this change for us? Yes, and it has not been without its challenges. Leasing office space we no longer needed, figuring out how to communicate effectively and efficiently online, and maintaining our culture in a virtual environment are a few of the trials we have faced. We also have employees that prefer to work a hybrid schedule or those that are needed for onsite support. Accommodating business and client needs while taking preferences into consideration has been our primary focus. Beyond that, we have made an implicit agreement with our employees—we will treat them as people first. People with whole lives that take place both in and around typical business hours. And that we, as a company, will ensure how we work, works for us collectively.
We have adapted and are still adapting. We have been open and willing to test things out, see what sticks, and then pivot accordingly. With all these adjustments, we have found transparency in communication to be paramount. We want to make working for (and with) our company better than it was before, and open lines of communication have helped us do that. Whether your company decides to go remote, introduce hybrid schedules, or return to the office, you should be aware that it can be more than just a policy change on a piece of paper—it can be an opportunity to evolve your business.