As the United States marches on in its mass vaccination efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are looking to a not-too-distant future in which employees will have the option of returning to the office. In the year plus that staff have been working remotely, much has changed. Aside from the pandemic itself, the nation has been continually embroiled in national headlines focused on social justice issues.
A Shift in Employee Attitudes
These issues have had a measurable impact on certain employee values, and companies should pay attention to how those views might impact their attractiveness as an employer, as well as employee morale and engagement. A recent report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG), The Network, and Appcast found strong employee preferences and attitudes in the areas of diversity and inclusion (D&I) and flexible working arrangements.
Specifically, the report found that:
- More than half (51%) of respondents in the United States said they would exclude a company from their job search based on a gap between their stance on D&I and the company’s.
- As we near the end of the pandemic, just 14% of U.S. employees say they would prefer to work completely on-site, and 50% said they would prefer a combination of both remote and on-site work. Thirty-five percent of those U.S. respondents said they would prefer to work completely remotely. That compares with just under a quarter (24%) of global respondents.
While many employees and employers are eager to get back to “normal” after more than a year away from the office, the “normal” of early 2020 is long gone.
Considering a Shift in Workplace Policies
Broadly speaking, employees have gotten a taste of remote work, and they like it. Moreover, a number of tragic, high-profile incidents over the last year have grabbed headlines and caused a national reckoning on race and social justice in America. While employers generally try to keep potentially controversial subjects out of the office, at least in theory, the blurred lines between work and home while working remotely combined with sentiments on social justice issues makes that separation extremely difficult in practice.
How employers change workplace policies, if at all, to address these changes is likely to be a key factor in their long-term culture as their staffs reenter the physical workplace in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.