When COVID-19 upended business-as-usual, it ushered in a wave of remote work for companies across the world. Although we’re hopeful that the end of the pandemic is in sight, it’s not time to return to the old ways of doing things. Instead, businesses need to adopt a permanent or hybrid model of in-person and remote working or get left behind, according to Jason Elkin, a DEI talent acquisition thought leader with over 15 years of experience helping companies build successful diverse, inclusive teams.
The work-from-home revolution exposed the terrible work-life balance of the traditional working model. “At first, it completely sucked for many, but now we’ve figured it out,” explains Elkin. “People have found a work-life balance and realized, hey, I’m not losing 2 hours commuting to work every day. Now I have time back, which I’m using to learn how to play music, spend time with my loved ones, and take better care of myself.” Of course, now that the remote genie has been released from the bottle, there’s no putting it back. “Who would want to give up being close to loved ones, working from anywhere, or the feeling of freedom in their life?” he asks.
According to Elkin, if companies want to retain top talent, they need to create a healthy work culture. “It’s no longer about a paycheck. It’s a lifestyle decision, not just a career decision anymore,” he says. “People are putting their job choice in the same bracket as the fashion they wear, the influencers they follow, the place they live, and the car they drive. It’s a reflection of who they are and what it adds to their lives. So people are asking if their new job is compatible with their ideal lifestyle.” He adds: “Apple has a 1.2 billion dollar headquarters, and it’s never going to be fully utilized in the way they intended, and they are panicking. They need to simply accept that people (particularly the best) don’t want to fully give up their new remote work lifestyles.”
According to a study by Bloomberg, despite early fears that remote working would hinder productivity, it did the opposite. “You’ve maximized employees’ productivity because you’ve given them the chance to work one hundred percent the way they want to,” explains Elkin. “Their desk at home is now exactly the way they want. They control their work environment, from the noise level, the amenities, and their dress code. So it’s easy to imagine why our collective productivity is better in an environment tailored for ourselves. “The key is to hire the right kind of employees: skilled, ethical, developed, and reliable. “Someone who is responsible, engaged, and has conviction in their work won’t lose those characteristics just because their location changes. That’s part of their work ethic.” And it’s not just productivity that benefits from virtual work culture, with a Flexjob survey finding that 81% of workers would be more loyal to their employer if they had flexible work options.
However, it’s not enough to give employees the choice to work virtually. You need to put systems in place that facilitate and support remote workers. “Being mindful of the virtual nomadic lifestyle and adapting to the needs of a remote workforce is key to showing your employees that you understand and care about their priorities,” says Elkin. Whereas in the past, employees were given benefits and perks like office amenities, holiday parties, and free food, today’s employers need to adjust these benefits to fit in with virtual lifestyles. Elkin is integrating this switch in both of his companies, EQUALS TRUE and ATHENAWORKS. Understanding that remote working gives employees more opportunities to travel, he is rolling out Telehealth so people CAN access medical treatment from whatever city they’re in. Holiday parties will be both virtual and in-person optional, meaning his employees don’t have to miss out on team bonding because they aren’t in the exact location. Flex-time and robust time off offerings, in addition to virtual wellness & fitness programs, are among other perks he is making available to his employees. And he urges other companies to quickly follow suit. But most importantly, he advises employers to listen to what their employees want and need. “We are making sure that our people feel cared for, and we’re engaging with them proactively, which means constant communication and constant feedback,” Elkin says.
The bottom line is to attract top talent, and businesses need to entice great employees with a work culture that facilitates their lifestyles. “Companies have to add daily value to the employee and treat them the same way as they would a valued customer. The financial details alone will never again be the main incentive. Adapt or die,” he says.