Out of necessity, the pandemic quickly popularized remote and hybrid working models, but as the virus’s prevalence slowly wanes in many parts of the world, not everything is going back to normal. Traditional work agreements are slowly being rejected by the workforce; what kind of social contract will be left in the wake?
Founder and CEO of The Compliance Search Group and Wecruiter.io, Jack Kelly, discusses this topic thoroughly in his March 2022 article titled “Cisco’s Hybrid-Work Vibe Check: Here’s What Employees Are Feeling About The Future Work Style.” In this article, Kelly shares and comments on some revealing data collected by Webex (by Cisco) and MIT Sloan Management Review Connections in a 2021 survey.
The State of the Job Market
Kelly mentions that we are currently facing “one of the most competitive job markets in modern history, making it exceedingly hard for businesses to attract, recruit and retain workers.” Many people are resigning from their jobs (about 47 million in 2021), looking for new opportunities, and willing to make career shifts for better perks, including pay, benefits, and remote working.
Retaining employees is, of course, in every employer’s best interest, so what’s the solution to this “Great Resignation,” as many media outlets and commentators call it? Kelly suggests that the solution is in the agreement between employer and employee — or rather, how that agreement is changing. “A new social contract for work is unfolding in real time — one that is leading both employees and employers to scrap traditional agreements about work,” says Kelly.
Understanding This Changing Social Contract
This shift in perspective and the changing expectations of employees didn’t come out of nowhere. The pandemic forced everyone’s hand, and implementing remote and hybrid working models was a matter of safety, not preference or perspective. Despite the circumstances that introduced these models into the mainstream, they have transformed over time into a sort of benchmark by which employees consider their employers.
There are many reasons for this, including new expectations of leadership and new opportunities for choosing work locations.
Expectations of Leadership
Referencing the above-mentioned survey, Kelly states that “84% [of respondents] reported they were confident in senior leaders’ ability to strengthen their sense of belonging [at work].” Acting as a two way street, “leadership is also confident in their employee’s ability to work remotely,” he said.
This newfound perception of leadership (and the act of leading) in the pandemic has led to many employees feeling more “seen” by their managers and supervisors — a feeling that has diminished as companies try to transition back to in-office work styles.
Flexibility in Working Location
The ability to work from home, or from almost anywhere other than the office, has also changed the way people think about the social contract between employee and employer.
Kelly references the Webex + MIT survey, stating that “68% [of respondents] said letting people choose where they work is a key driver of employee engagement and well-being, suggesting the preference for choosing their working location comes from a work-life balance point of view.”
Having a choice in working location is about more than just respecting people’s right to safety and good health. It allows people to create their own patterns and working habits that support their professional productivity as well as their personal well-being.
Recognizing Tradeoffs for Remote and Hybrid Flexibility
From the employer’s point of view, it might seem overwhelming to have another thing to worry about (on top of pay and benefits) when trying to recruit talent. Fortunately, Kelly shares some good news for employers: “Employees recognize the flexibility of workplace choice includes tradeoffs and are not asking for extra perks or changed compensation along with the option.”
In other words, employers consider flexibility of workplace choice to be a valuable perk, and many “value hybrid WFH about the same as an 8% pay increase on average,” according to research done by economics professor Nicholas Bloom, reported on in his linked study, “Key Decisions About the Future of Work from Home.”
“Remote work during the pandemic proved leadership and culture are more important than location to create a sense of belonging,” Kelly says. As businesses slowly prepare for the post-pandemic period, they will have to consider their working location flexibility policies and their ideology regarding the traditional employer/employee agreement.
One thing is for sure—video conferencing isn’t going anywhere. The meeting productivity platform, Docket, is a great solution for all the remote-working employers and employees out there that are trying to navigate this digital transformation. With features like collaborative agendas, automatic note-taking, and easy-to-send action items, meetings can be one less thing to worry about as the new working world unfolds.