Sylvia Dahlby, Business Development Manager, SmartSearch, interviews Nigel Hapuarachchi, Regional Director of Business Development at Acara Solutions on the ‘Great Resignation’ and how this will affect the ‘Future of Work’.
All across North America, employers and employees have experienced a reckoning about where, when, and how we work. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this mass reevaluation of work-life balance, compensation and benefits, and reassessment of personal and company values have prompted workers to quit their jobs by the millions.
In a recent blog post, Nigel Hapuarachchi, Regional Director of Business Development at Acara Solutions (a premier provider of recruiting and workforce solutions for various industries), noted that turnover is at an all-time high. The number one thing workers are looking for is more flexibility, and current research shows that an astonishing one in three workers no longer wants to work in an office.
I asked Nigel for insights on hybrid work as a talent retention strategy. In his conversations with employers who embrace remote work, he found organizations are putting the cost savings from office space into investing in digital infrastructure and boosting compensation packages.
“As I recruit and support companies, any in high-demand talent seeking new opportunities are usually fielding three or four job offers at any given time. Even between the offer and start date, counteroffers are flying, and salaries are climbing for hard-to-find skillsets throughout the U.S. and Canada”, said Nigel.
He noted that hiring remote talent gives employers access to a 100% global talent pool with no geographic limitations. Millennials also value the positive impact of remote work because it reduces a company’s carbon footprint with less commuting, which is good for the environment.
Q: Why are so many employers still resistant to the idea of hybrid work?
Nigel: The root of all reluctance to “go remote” is the basic need for human connection.
Employers don’t want to give up the advantages of workers being together in an office, such as the immediate in-person interaction and accountability.
Many managers are concerned about the loss of productivity because they cannot physically supervise staff members. It’s not easy to shift from managing workers’ time to managing performance and results. Not to mention technical challenges like what happens when the internet goes down, or employees do not have the proper hardware, software, or secure connectivity to do their best work remotely.
Another big challenge is burnout. People new to working at home struggle with no clear-cut end to their workday or no boundaries between work and home life. This is especially true of company leadership and an implied expectation that while you’re working remotely, you’re available 24/7.
It can be challenging to maintain company culture, collaboration, and camaraderie when people work remotely – yet that’s precisely where the hybrid approach can help by blending real-life and virtual workspaces.
A thriving hybrid work environment should include things like in-person onboarding of new hires, periodic team lunches or a monthly social in real life, a regular team-building event, or other in-person opportunities to promote trust.
The key is flexibility to consider the employee experience, individual performance, and personal career goals. There is no “one size fits all,” and both employer and employee may need to make sacrifices and accommodations.
The hybrid model is rapidly becoming the norm because it’s about finding the right mix of working in the office and remotely.
Q: What are the most common misconceptions about workplace flexibility?
Nigel: It’s a mistake for both employers and employees to view remote work as a “privilege” or benefit rather than a business strategy and a hedge against the Great Resignation.
One of the biggest myths about remote workers is that they’re less productive when the reverse is often true. Employers report that remote workers have lower absenteeism, and fewer sick days, and deliver overall productivity gains.
Q: What do managers need to do to adjust to the dispersed workplace?
Nigel: For both remote and hybrid workers, managers must focus on being effective in five key areas: Communication, Collaboration, Support, Problem-Solving, and Culture.
Focus on training and coaching managers on managing people efficiently in the virtual environment. Traditional lines of communication and in-office management norms no longer apply, so there must be training specific to the remote work and hybrid models.
Whether onboarding new hires or transitioning current employees to work from home, decide how to set mutual expectations on engaging, evaluating, monitoring, and measuring performance. And find creative ways to keep your employees’ spirits high when working from home.
While some employees may be perfectly happy never to return to the office, remote work will never replace the need for real-life relationships. It remains vital to bring people together for projects, problem-solving, team building, and celebrations.
Q: What’s a good first step for employers who are unsure how to address the demand for remote work?
Nigel: Gather information to make data-driven decisions that are appropriate for your business. Look past your personal biases and the “it’s always been done this way” mindset.
Start with an anonymous poll or survey of employees and managers. Give everyone a voice and an opportunity to express their desires, aspirations, and thoughts on how remote work or hybrid work can work for them.
Research the tools your organization will need to create a more virtual-friendly work environment. Look for platforms that promote employee engagement, organize projects, and create shared virtual workspaces. Choose tools that work for companies similar to yours.
Above all, do not resist the inevitable: your company MUST evolve and adapt to a remote or hybrid work environment to successfully attract and retain talent.