How long was your commute three years ago? Ten minutes? Twenty? Maybe an hour, if you’re unlucky. How long is your commute today? Ten seconds? Twenty? Maybe a full minute if you have to walk all the way across your house or up the stairs to get to your office.
For many tech workers, commuting is a thing of the past. And most of them are celebrating: More time with family! More time for hobbies! No more micromanaging! Unfortunately, this separation between work and life has also made work-life balance all the more elusive. And all the more important.
Gartner recently published an article that shows that flexibility and balance are high on the list of reasons tech workers would be willing to leave (or keep) their current position. This shift in values has had some bearing on the recent Great Resignation and continues to affect employee turnover, even in an economic downturn.
So what is a tech leader like yourself to do? The time to invest money and effort into employee retention is now — especially if your teams have been recently affected by layoffs. Keep morale high and frustration low with these five tips.
1. Make space for work-life clash
The job descriptions of your team members may not have changed over the past few years, but they are undoubtedly busier than they were before the pandemic. On top of work responsibilities, they have interruptions, distractions, and obligations just yards away from them that are difficult to manage or ignore.
The best thing you can do to help your employees deal with this clash of career and home is to simply make space for it.
- Be patient when clashes are apparent. Even better, find the joy in them — lead the way in oooo-ing and ahhh-ing over the naked baby that just crawled into the Zoom background or laughing at the cat that just knocked over a potted plant.
- Check your employee’s calendars before sending a message. Then exercise patience in waiting for a response.
- Give your team the flexibility to manage their time according to their individual circumstances. Some organizations set “team time” for the day — a three to four-hour period where everyone is expected to be online and available. Outside of that, the sky’s the limit.
The overall message here is: Stand by your people. If you do that, they will remember it when the next job opportunity comes around.
2. Don’t forget that people are people
Remote work doesn’t always lend itself to pleasantries. When you encounter a coworker in person, it’s natural to greet them and ask a question about how they are doing or what their plans are. When interacting over Zoom or Slack, it’s easy to simply get down to business.
Don’t underestimate the value of personal questions that show you care. Encourage your team to ask and talk about weekend plans, experiences, and families. Acknowledge the life they have outside of work. It will not only help your employees feel valued, but it will also create a greater sense of connection amongst the team.
3. Consider radical flexibility
“Radical flexibility” is a concept Gartner recommends including in your employee value proposition (EVP). Radical flexibility is an approach to management where employees are empowered to choose where, when, and how much they work. It is essential to attract and retain talent, especially if raising compensation isn’t possible.
A 2020 Gartner study showed that introducing radical flexibility over standard 40-hour workweek requirements has the potential to increase the number of high performers by almost 20%. Offering employees this level of trust is a win-win situation; they love their job more and you may see an increase in productivity.
4. Arm your team with technology
Technology is an essential equation in the remote employee productivity algorithm. In addition to the technology they use to build, develop, and manage your organization’s systems and applications, IT teams need tools that enable them to:
- Communicate & collaborate
- Track projects
- Manage tasks
- Access important documents and files
- Experiment with new ideas and approaches
- Log in from anywhere on any device
Harvard Business Review goes as far as to say that technology defines the employee experience — your “office environment” is your tech. If it’s inadequate, it will have a direct effect on employee satisfaction, culture, and productivity.
5. 5 o’clock beers can still be a thing
One of the major challenges that most remote workers experience (but may not recognize) is loneliness and isolation. Without water cooler chats, break room birthday celebrations, and team happy hours, remote workers lose much of the social glue that the in-office experience provided.
Now, more than ever, IT leaders need to get creative and find ways to build social connection between employees. Maybe your team can’t go to the pub together after work, but you can host a virtual cocktail hour. Invite everyone to participate from the location of their choice and with the drink of their choice, and keep the discussion off work-related topics. Add some games into the event and you have a very easy framework to keep people connected and engaged.
Keep trying new things
These suggestions are just a jumping-off point for building greater employee satisfaction in remote work. If some of them aren’t successful out the gate, don’t give up. Make modifications or come up with some new ideas that more directly address the specific hurdles your team is experiencing.
To get a little more in-depth and add some additional strategies to your retention efforts, download our eBook, “Managing Remote Workers Through Chaotic Times.”
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