In the age of remote work and shifting workplace dynamics, a significant number of workers are opting to stay at home--at least part of the time--a decision influenced by a myriad of factors.
These include the burden of high caregiving costs, lengthy commutes, and seemingly never-ending schedules filled with back-to-back Zoom meetings.
Moreover, employees are increasingly convinced they possess the competence and ability to fulfill their job responsibilities from the comfort of their own homes.
Conducting employee outreach efforts to identify the key factors behind this shift in work preferences could ultimately motivate a potential return to the traditional workplace setting.
A recent ISG survey of more than 200 global IT and enterprise executives found 81% of IT and enterprise executives are prioritizing employee mental health as they make decisions on extending or expanding hybrid work models.
Thomas Carter, founder and chairman at Deal Box, says they have implemented several channels for gathering feedback from their employees and contractors regarding preferences and challenges related to remote work and returning to the workplace.
"We conduct regular surveys to understand their experiences, concerns, and needs," he explains. "Additionally, we have an open-door policy that encourages direct communication between employees and management to address any individual concerns or feedback."
Some key reasons employees have shared for choosing to work remotely include increased flexibility in managing personal and professional commitments, avoiding commute-related stress, and a preference for a comfortable and familiar work environment.
"To encourage a return to the workplace, we emphasize the benefits of in-person collaboration, networking, and building strong relationships with colleagues," Carter says. "We communicate the value of face-to-face interactions and provide a supportive and safe work environment that addresses any concerns about health and safety."
Developing an Understanding of Employee Needs
Krishna Muniramaiah, APAC head of human resources for Altimetrik, says through a multi-layered employee feedback process, the company has gained a more comprehensive understanding of their employees' specific needs and challenges.
"Employees have shared several positive aspects of remote working, including saving time and money on commutes, increased flexibility in work and personal schedules, and more time to focus on mental and physical health," he says.
Although hybrid working models provide flexibility for employees to experience the benefits of remote work and office work, Muniramaiah says the company has implemented various initiatives to encourage a return to the workplace.
"These include establishing clear hybrid working guidelines, equipping employee with necessary tools, offering employee engagement programs, and in-person team meetings and training workshops," he explains.
He notes employee engagement plays an effective and crucial role in motivating employees to return to the workplace by providing them with opportunities to experience the organization's culture, foster team connections, collaborate effectively, and develop a sense of belonging.
"This helps employees to build comradery and progressively enables them to work efficiently as a team" he says. "Employee engagement also gives a view into the culture of the organization, making them more comfortable to return to office and work collaboratively."
The company measures and fosters employee engagement through various means, including at the program level, where employee engagement is tracked and measured based on the number of activities and the participation rate of employees in these activities.
"Over the past few months, we have seen a steep increase in the return to work," he says. "The attrition rates have decreased by five percent, which has had a huge positive impact on the company."
Striking the Right Balance
Muniramaiah says to strike a balance between flexible work arrangements and a cohesive, collaborative work environment, Altimetrik has also implemented a structured hybrid working model.
"This model provides clear expectations for employees and teams, allowing them to work in a comfortable environment that suits their needs," he says.
This flexibility enables individuals to optimize their work arrangements while maintaining effective collaboration and cohesiveness within their teams.
"By combining strategies, we have established a balance between flexible work arrangements and a cohesive, collaborative work environment and a strong sense of teamwork," Muniramaiah says.
Carter says balancing the desire for flexible work arrangements with the need to create a cohesive and collaborative work environment requires a thoughtful approach.
"We believe that a hybrid model combining remote work and in-person collaboration can be effective," he says. "To achieve this balance, we provide flexibility in work schedules, allowing employees to choose certain days for remote work while designating specific days for in-person team activities and meetings."
The company has also invested in technology and collaboration tools to facilitate seamless communication and collaboration among remote and in-office teams.
Regular team-building activities, workshops, and social events help foster a sense of camaraderie and collaboration within the organization.
"Employee engagement plays a crucial role in encouraging a return to the workplace," Carter says. "It helps create a sense of belonging, purpose, and connection among employees."