The world of work has changed, and it looks like remote work is here to stay.
Pandemic lockdowns changed life for most of us, and almost synonymous with the pandemic is the surge in working from home. Our living rooms and spare rooms, couches, and balconies have become the engine rooms of our economies (pets, partners, and PlayStations notwithstanding).
And it seems working from home or hybrid work is here to stay, as employees, having tasted the freedom of working from home, increasingly demand it and managers, seeing the cost benefit, increasingly implement it. Gartner research found 74% of CFOs plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the COVID-19 crisis ends.
So, the work environment has changed, with remote work or hybrid work likely to be a permanent feature.
So how does remote work impact employee engagement, and why should I care?
It seems clear the pandemic has triggered, or accelerated, trends on how employees view their jobs, shifting from a “live to work” to a “work to live” perspective. Many argue these dramatic changes to the employment landscape over the last 18 months were the catalyst for the Great Resignation, which remains in full effect, with 4.4 million Americans quitting their jobs in February.
Recent data suggests this change in how employees perceive work is likely to continue, with 40% of the workforce (and 65% of Gen Zs) intending to quit in the next year due to a lack of value fit. And this trend may only be made worse by remote work and has the potential to impact employee engagement, with studies, including research by the University of Birmingham, suggesting remote workers may be less happy and more susceptible to stress. This makes sense; fewer and fewer of us will be making the daily commute into and working out of an office and contending with all that entails, like an earlier rise, showering, and work wear ironing/preparation. Therefore, the impact of work on our day-to-day life is less. It makes sense that some will be less engaged when logging into a Zoom call in their pajamas.
And employee engagement matters. A recently reported study from a Mercer and Deloitte think tank (among others) found that a lack of employee engagement costs American businesses $550 billion per year—that’s a whopping half a trillion dollars. And less engaged employees are 60% more likely to make a mistake.
How can technology help you level up your employee engagement game in this new remote working reality?
This presents a dilemma for the modern manager. Most managers I know would probably describe themselves as good judges of character and good team leaders. However, the reality of the modern working environment, and likely the workforce of the future, is that we are going to have less and less face-to-face time with candidates and our team members. This means that we may not be able to rely on many of the tools and interactions we used to to support our teams and to create a culture of employee engagement in the past.
This makes it harder for employers to find value and purpose fit with their employees and reminds us that finding a value fit can improve employee engagement, as well as retention and productivity.
So, in the same way that Zoom, Microsoft® Teams, and other technologies have become a common replacement in our workplaces for physical meeting rooms, modern managers need recruiting technologies that can help them bridge this gap and find this value fit, therefore helping them engage and evaluate candidates from a distance.
Leveling Up Comes Down to Values Alignment
A good judge of character and good team leadership skills are still of great value, but supporting these skills with technological support will help business leaders hire and manage large, remote, and diverse teams into the future.
And with the Great Resignation, we need to find people and process recruitment in higher numbers and quicker than we ever have before. So, we need technology to help us streamline our recruitment process and help us find value fit.
Our skills as managers are still valid, but we’re likely to need technology to help us level up and work in the new remote work reality, and understanding employees’ values and personality is the best path to help them, and the organization, thrive.
A Look Ahead
I don’t think any of us foresaw the changes that have occurred over the past 2 years. There has perhaps not been a more challenging time to be in business, certainly in recent history, and there has probably not been a time when there needed to be a greater focus on productivity and efficiency.
This is challenging for managers, as not only has the external commercial environment changed and is changing, but our internal operational and workplace environment has also changed. This can perhaps make us doubt ourselves and give us the perception of a gap between the challenges we’re faced with on a daily basis and our go-to set of skills we’ve developed over years of experience. My advice is to trust your instincts and those skills you’ve honed, and let technology bridge the gap.
James Cooper-Jones is an executive with a global perspective, having worked in senior executive roles for public and private companies across a variety of industries and operating around the world, including Asia-Pacific, the African continent, the United Kingdom, and the European Union and North America. Cooper-Jones is the CEO and cofounder of Simply, an award-winning HR technology created by business managers for business managers, streamlining recruitment, improving employee engagement, and increasing diversity.