It is a reality that the hybrid work model will grow this year because employees are seeking to hold on to the ‘positive’ effect of the pandemic, in terms of balancing home and work, capitalizing on flexibility in work schedules and hours, and even improving interaction in the workplace through various digital tools.
Organizations must realize that as employees embrace the power of choice – something that occurred over the last two years in particular, they need to be more creative with the benefits and programmes they offer to win the war for talent.
For instance, according to ‘The Great Realization’ study by ManpowerGroup, a priority for employees is mental wellbeing. Three out of 10 workers want more mental health days to avoid burnout caused by longer working hours, so employers need to be explicit about programmes on emotional health care for their workforces and transform corporate plans into a strategy to retain and increase engagement.
I think that the overarching question in organizations is: What do employees demand, after having experienced flexible working?
From the view of positive psychology, in which I run trainings, the first thing to remember in answering this question is that people were not aligned to resilience for years, but the current COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to tackle continuous disruption in our personal lives, career paths and future planning. We have understood, or are in the process of understanding, that it is important to prioritize personal preservation and self-care over endless working hours.
So, all workers, from the production line to people who continue to work remotely from home, will seek to keep up flexible schemes, which are not just about hours. Workers also desire fair wages and in overall, let me venture a concept that will set out a line of action – they want ‘autonomy at work’.
What are employees seeking? According to data from the Manpower report, employees want to keep these elements in their hybrid job because they associate them with independence:
- Be able to choose the start and end times of their working day: 45% of respondents.
- More holiday days: 35% of respondents.
- Have fully flexible working options: 35% of respondents.
- Participate in wellness-focused activities to prevent burnout: 33% of workers.
What do employers think?
One in five employers plan to offer more benefits to their employees, such as extra holiday days. At the same time, 30% of organizations plan to review salaries as a measure to attract and retain talent.
This gives us an example of immediate actions, but the size of the challenge is greater for companies if we consider the issues ‘lurking’ in the labour market, such as the difficulty of attracting and retaining people, the lack of motivation among employees, the increase in hours worked during the pandemic, among many other issues.
A high dose of creativity is required from employers to recruit, to train with a view to creating career paths, to retain people who don’t want the ‘same treatment’ they got before to the pandemic.
There will be, for instance, other ‘non-negotiables’ for people, such as reskilling and upskilling. Today, it is virtually impossible to ‘downgrade’ the issue of reskilling because roles keep requiring more and new competencies, so it is necessary to equip people with other technological and human skills.
Another trend is that employees will demand more ‘personalization’, to the point of ‘resentment’ if they end up pigeonholed and labelled as “what millennials, generation Xers, centennials want”. By 2030, 75% of the global workforce will be people under 35. Generational lines are something we must not lose sight of, as it requires leadership to be much more empathetic to listening, facilitating tools, and enabling the employee to make choices. I would almost say this is a leap of faith, which we are still struggling to take.
How many companies are really taking up the issue or willing to recognize that they need the support of an external party to build these work practices? It is important to do a corporate introspection exercise to ask ourselves. whether as employers we nurture a culture of compassion and respect to support employees in unique and challenging circumstances. In my view that seems to be one of the big lessons to embrace for preserving the culture of flexibility in organizations.
We are talking about people-oriented leaders who value and care for holistic health and wellbeing of the entire employee, including physical health, mental and emotional support, and financial wellbeing.