What do you do when an employee wants to work remotely but you are not onboard? A colleague who works at Deloitte shared with me that his company recently announced, “employees at your location are never going back to the office.” It is a trend that appears here to stay. In a recent survey of hundreds of U.S. businesses, 33% of respondents said their workforces will be fully remote post pandemic (Pearl Meyer).
At the same time, a survey of executives found that 7 out of 10 want their workers in the office a minimum of three days a week after the pandemic. They believe this will be key to maintaining company culture. (PricewaterhouseCoopers)
Choosing your workplace model is quite a dilemma. Employers who have not yet decided can expect conflicts when an employee wants to work remotely. What do you do?
If you’re leaning towards bringing everyone back to the office with no exceptions, consider the following:
Employees are looking for greener pastures: A survey by The Achievers Workforce found that
52% of American workers plan on looking for a new job in 2021 and most businesses are planning to offer remote or hybrid workplaces. Can you afford to stand your ground and lose talent?
Employees want a say: The pandemic may be waning, but it hasn’t disappeared. With people’s safety at stake, taking a hard line about returning to the workplace can send the wrong signals—that you don’t trust your team members and that their voices – and their wellbeing – don’t matter.
Hybrid is in: Both employees and employers agree that the office is important. Team members want to collaborate in person. They also understand the importance of relationships with colleagues—which depend on face-to-face contact. Employers believe that the workplace is vital to innovation and teamwork. Recently, Amazon announced that “our plan is to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.” They went on to say “We believe it enables us to invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively.” A hybrid model balances the needs for safety, flexibility, human interaction and cooperation. I would agree.
Clearly, things have changed. Still, it’s your decision whether to require all employees back in the office, to offer a hybrid solution or to take a remote-only approach.
Once you decide, good communication with your team will be vital to your efforts. Here are some tips to guide the dialogue when an employee wants to work remotely:
Tackle the topic head on
It’s normal to want to avoid confrontation. Broaching the subject of remote work can be scary for both you and your team members. You’re not sure what response you’re going to get, there are no laws to guide you and once you express yourself, you can’t take it back. A remote work conversation can become a lose-lose conversation if not conducted properly.
Focus on the end goal
Develop a strategy that will accomplish your business goals—to meet customers’ needs while balancing employees’ needs for safety, flexibility and worklife balance. At the end of the day productivity, teamwork, and a happy, motivated workforce will drive your business success.
Be ready to explain why
Remember, some employees really want to come back to work for the social dynamics. Others would be happy to always work from home. Chances are, you’re not going to please everyone.
Articulate the rationale for your decision as well as what you want accomplished at the worksite vs. remotely. Anticipate the questions your staff might have and plan the conversation to cover all of their issues, as best as you can. This isn’t the time to wing it.
Whatever solution you choose, know that it might need to change. Be transparent. Let your employees know that while all of us want to return to a sense of normalcy and permanency, we’re still at the mercy of the pandemic. The situation is fluid, and the workplace needs to be as well.
Keep an open mind if an employee wants to work remotely
We’ve all been through a lot and priorities have changed for many. You can help by listening carefully and taking your employees’ feelings into account. Whatever concerns they might raise, respond without judgment. For example, you can say “I understand how tough this year has been. It’s really difficult to deal with more change at work.” And it’s OK to be unsure about the future, but be transparent that nothing is set in stone if that is the case.
Be prepared for the consequences
It’s very likely that some people won’t like your decision and will choose to move on. While losing talent isn’t easy, it could open the door to reevaluation positions, work processes and resources.
When an employee wants to work remotely in today’s new business environment the choices are fraught with challenges. We understand the issues from both a business and a talent perspective. Talking with a professional HR advisor like NEMR Total HR can help you manage the issue and employee communications, which will be vital to the success of your plan. The SHRM-certified professionals at NEMR are a phone call away. Chat Live with us to learn more or Email Us.