For more than 2 years, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have not ceased to be felt, not to mention the “Great Resignation” which required rapid and continuous adaptation of HR policies.
At the start of the pandemic, when every day was “unprecedented”, employees woke up to the first responses that provided short-term solutions. But now is the time to focus on longer-term solutions. Workplaces saw more in 2021 as companies realized they could no longer wait for the pandemic to end. 2022 has shown the same, if not more, longer-term policies shaped by COVID-19, especially as more vaccine treatments, data, and measures emerge and evolve.
To better understand these changes in HR, UpCity worked with Pollfish to survey 600 business owners and employees across the United States and Canada. Their responses explore employees’ desire to work remotely, in-person or in hybrid ways in the wake of coronavirus, and the survey examines how these preferences are shaping workplace policies across industries.
The survey also reveals that it’s not just about remote work versus office work for employees and job seekers. Employees want flexibility and options, which explains the popularity of hybrid work models and working outside the standard 9–5.
More employees say they prefer working in a hybrid environment after COVID-19
Thirty-nine percent of professionals surveyed said they preferred working in a hybrid environment (half remote, half in-person) and 32% said they preferred working entirely from home.
Countless professionals have developed a love/hate relationship with remote work over the past 2 years. For many survey respondents, the pros and cons of working from home balance each other out. Remote work gives employees more flexibility, options, and a better work/life balance. Workers can do laundry between meetings, run errands in a snap, and spend more time with family and loved ones. Not to mention that some employees take advantage of teleworking to travel more without taking paid leave (PTO).
But this flexibility is not without drawbacks. This can be isolating for employees who live alone and don’t have the opportunity to socialize otherwise. For some, working from home has made it harder to maintain a work/life balance. Then there are distractions from pets, family members, and roommates that have hampered productivity for some. Employers also expressed dismay at the impact of the lack of time spent together on collaboration and culture.
The survey shows that a significant percentage of workers would prefer to continue working in a hybrid model, even as more and more companies are offering the option for their staff to return fully to the office. This provides a “best of both worlds” situation: the flexibility to connect with management and their teams as needed, but also to retain the benefits of remote working. People want change, but they also want a return to normal to some degree.
Employees want more flexibility overall
When it comes to giving employees options, it doesn’t stop at letting them choose between the office and working from home. Survey respondents who said they were looking for a job ranked the ability to work flexible hours as one of the top characteristics they look for in their next role.
This was ranked above employee health benefits (although that’s a close second), career advancement opportunities, insurance options, and more. Flexible schedules allow professionals to make adjustments to better fit their lifestyle. For example, parents have taken the opportunity to spend more time with their children during the day and then use the time after their children have gone to bed to catch up on work.
What does this mean for HR professionals?
When creating new corporate policies, it is a challenge to please everyone. But when employees have choice and flexibility, HR can create policies that show how committed the employer is to employee well-being.
It’s time to change the way employee attendance and timekeeping is tracked. Twenty-three percent of professionals said their employees’ time tracking has changed since the pandemic. Indeed, with more employees working remotely, companies have had to rethink what it means to be “at work” for remote workers. Many employers have responded to this by implementing controls that change the way productivity is monitored and, in some cases, require employees to show up throughout the day.
HR professionals should also review all of their company’s policies to update them to include virtual interactions. For example, employers reported a change in their policies regarding sexual harassment and non-discrimination policies due to interactions taking place between virtual and out-of-office interfaces that are difficult to manage and oversee.
As a result of these policy changes, 87% of professionals said their workplace culture has improved post-COVID-19, as their employers have made significant progress in meeting the changing preferences of a workforce. work now very mobile.
How HR departments can thrive in 2022
If your business hasn’t adapted to employee needs in the post-pandemic landscape, it’s time to reevaluate. More and more employees believe that remote or hybrid working arrangements should be the norm. In fact, a staggering 56% of job search respondents in the survey said they were only looking for remote roles.
With remote work and hybrid arrangements dictating policy decisions, businesses that want to remain successful must invest in tools to create space in which these arrangements can flourish and implement workplace protections for safety of employees and the integrity of company productivity.
Dan Olson is co-founder and CEO of UpCity, a resource that connects millions of businesses to more than 100,000 business-to-business (B2B) service providers they can trust. He is active in the Chicago start-up community and has spent his career developing technologies that enable companies to gain visibility, build reputation and increase revenue.