Our thought leadership post today comes from Teemu Ilola, VP of Sales here at Leadoo.
Teemu discusses the necessity of offering employees flexibility in their approach to work and the benefits that can be gained in doing so.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about hybrid work. Many companies offer the possibility of working remotely part time or full time. Some companies are forcing their employees to go back to the office. Some new, cool companies like ChiliPiper have grown to almost 200 employees, without ever even having had an office. Even at Leadoo, whilst we have some awesome offices across our operations, our policies are flexible and our people can work wherever they get their work done best (including the sofa, if you’re having one of those Mondays).
However, some companies have gone the opposite way – despite Covid making workers seriously reconsider their work-life balance, companies like JP Morgan have mandated their employees’ return to the office, on a full time basis. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, feels that an office return is vital, as he feels that “over time, [working remotely] could dramatically undermine the character and culture of the company.” Culture is certainly something that is difficult to maintain at a distance, however with the rise of homeworking, there’s been an explosion in apps to facilitate wellbeing and collaboration remotely. He also feels that “Zoom meetings slow down decision making due to a lack of follow up,” but one could argue this is more of an issue with processes than with the method used to conduct the meeting…
What is Hybrid Work?
To make sure we’re all on the same page – let’s first define what hybrid work is all about.
Hybrid work is defined as a mixture of working remotely and working from the office. So a healthy mix of both. Do people actually want that? Good that you actually asked – yes, they do.
The numbers are quite significant. According to a survey (with over 30,000 participants), over 70% of respondents said they want remote working possibilities, and according to a FlexJob study, 58% of people would start looking for another job if they weren’t able to work remotely anymore. That includes me as well, by the way. I personally love working from home. (I’m biased though, because I live in the middle of nowhere, next to Santa Claus.)
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked in an office environment before – but the 1-2 hours I used to spend commuting to and from work, I now spend on either being productive, life admin, or (my personal favourite) ice fishing while drinking beer. Some of our employees at Leadoo even relocate to sunny Malaga, Spain over winter time, because we have a gorgeous office down there (that they’re not obliged to work from, but it’s there if they’d like to).
What’s the point in living in the middle of slush, if you can get the same thing done from a deck chair in the sun, and spend your evenings playing golf instead of trying in vain to warm up your ice-block feet?
Why should employers care about hybrid work?
The answer is simple: Either you start to care, or your employees leave. It’s no joke – a survey carried out in the UK by Ranstad found that 1 in 4 workers were planning to leave their jobs within the next few months. The pandemic has made people realise that there’s more to life than a 9 to 5 (or, these days, more like 8 to 6), and that work-life balance is important, now more than ever in this busy world we live in.
Seems like a simple solution, right? Provide flexibility, keep your employees happy and reduce your recruitment costs. But as I’ve already mentioned, many traditionalist organisations have rejected a hybrid or remote model altogether. It doesn’t make sense – why would they do this?
Well, I’ll challenge your thinking a bit – if you were to be totally honest, what are the two main reasons why you would not allow your employees to work remotely? Either of these ring a bell?
1. You don’t trust your employees to do their job.
2. You don’t have visibility into what they are doing (and that sucks, because of reason #1.)
And before you shout at me that not all jobs can be done remotely, I obviously know this. Again, this is for job roles which can be done from home – sorry nurses, teachers, and supermarket workers, but this one’s not for you.
Trust is the #1 reason why you don’t let your employees work remotely. You don’t trust them to do the same work at home, in the Caribbean, at their summer cottage, in a cruise ship, on the moon. Why does location matter? Obviously for some specific jobs, it’s the whole thing. A surgeon can not operate on a knee remotely. Yes. But most sales, marketing, HR, and business support jobs can be done remotely. And if you have people working for you that you don’t trust, why are they still working for you?
So if you intend to force your people back to the office, why not just be honest and say:
“I want you all here, so I can see what you are doing, because I don’t trust any of you.”
Give them the freedom and the knowledge to be able to make their own choice about whether to stay, and let’s see how that works out.
Seriously though, there have been plenty of studies which have shown that workers are more productive when given them the freedom to work from home. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), productivity of work forces jumped an average of 33% since becoming remote in June 2020. But, in order for this to happen, you have to trust the people who are working in the jobs you’ve employed them to do, and give them the freedom to prove to you that they can be trusted to manage their own workflow and schedule.
If you don’t know what your people are doing every moment of the day, then there are two questions you need to consider. Do you need to know what they are doing every second of their paid time? If not – why do you care? If yes – why don’t you?
This is easiest to explain in a sales context. If sales reps aren’t selling, or they don’t have enough in the pipeline, or meetings booked – what do you do? You need to be able to act proactively with these things, and in order to do that, you need visibility of what’s happening, otherwise you’re finished before you’ve begun. But you know there is a solution for this, and everyone in sales has it in some form; it’s called a CRM system, and if it’s decent enough then it provides all the visibility you might need.
There are also solutions and apps which provide visibility over different types of project, not just in sales, so this is not an excuse either. For example, Leadoo’s marketing team uses Asana to manage the team’s workflow and provide visibility for all members of the team on different projects. The marketing team is spread across several countries and timezones, but they make it work. There are solutions out there to facilitate this, it’s just a matter of finding one that works for your needs.
I do understand the ‘working from the office’ thinking as well. It feels easier to create and nurture a culture, more likely to lead to efficient collaboration between teams, dogs to pet when you’re feeling stressed… and that’s all absolutely fine. As an employer you have every right to be concerned about these things, and every right to tell your employees when, how and what you want them to do.
Just bear in mind that your employees also have every right to leave if they don’t like it. And the job market is quite hot right now, in case you haven’t noticed (see earlier comment on the Great Resignation ☝️).
Also just to reiterate again – I am well aware that not every job can be done remotely. A supermarket cashier can’t work from home. A police officer can’t sit on her couch playing FIFA all day and do some policing when the mood takes. I’m simply reflecting on our working environment in a high growth tech scale up in this article, and the possible implications on other, similar organisations. Take it with a grain of fairy dust ✨
The last thing that must get a mention is the obvious cost savings that can be made by not paying rent on a clinical box for your employees to work in. Offices in central London, with a paltry 30 square metres of space, will set you back upwards of £5k a month. For context, that’s enough space to have about 8 people comfortably housed in the office.
And, that’s not even taking into account the utilities, maintenance/service charge, internet and phone expenses, and other overheads which come with maintaining an office space. You could comfortably equip 8 people with homeworking stations with just one month’s expenses for a central London office. Make a saving your shareholders will appreciate and let your people work from home!
Of course, I can’t round off without the obvious impact on employee happiness, and therefore the knock-on impact on labour turnover and absenteeism. If your employees enjoy working for you because you provide excellent work-life balance and flexibility, they’re unlikely to leave. And they’re less likely to get sick or take days off, because they’ll be feeling happier and healthier and more able to take time to look after themselves. Win win.
So, what do I need to do to keep my people happy?
Leadoo is not a “happy-workplace-software” so this isn’t a sales pitch.
But it is still simple:
- Trust your employees (or fire them if you don’t, you crazy people).
- Enable easy remote work.
- Have an office environment where people actually want to work.
- Set clear targets, measure them and hold people accountable.
- Buy Leadoo. Well. This is not relevant, but I promised my employer to advertise us in some format, so here goes: show some love to our conversion platform.
If you don’t remember anything else from this article, remember this. People want flexibility and the freedom to plan their own day. If you as an employer are not willing to offer it to them, ask yourself why.
Do you really trust your employees, and if not, why are they still in the company?