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Returning back to the office: What we really need to know and prepare for

Luke Switkowski - Kognitiv Inc.

This is a natural question and one that a lot of employers have been asking themselves as we are ready to move forward in a post pandemic world. For employers who think that all things will return to normal, especially in industries where in-office or on-site work is unnecessary, they are in for a potential rude awakening in the form of employee attrition.

 Why is this happening?

Most employers shifted to a remote-only environment out of necessity as the world shut down for over a year. When this occurred, employees were thrust into a new reality (for those lucky enough to work in industries where the work can be done remotely). This reality entailed things like family and/or kids being home with you, juggling schedules and getting work done when you could. Schools across the nation opened up, kids went back and parents stayed home working remotely. So what happened?

People are informed by their experiences
Employees realized how precious time really is when they had none to work and balance family time. People happily traded in huge hours of commuting per week to just minutes a day. Great employees who always performed well, continued to do a fantastic job for their employers. Now they realize that they can do the same job while not being in an office 5 days a week. And with remote opportunities being available, do employers think they won’t look and explore their options?

Anecdotally, Kognitiv, the company I co-founded 5 years ago, has been a remote first company. We didn’t want location to be a barrier for fantastic talent. Even though we have just over 100 employees, we are in 30 states and 3 countries. What we are observing now is an ever greater proportion of applicants asking us for jobs because they are remote jobs (by default). These individuals were happy at their employers, some were even recently promoted! The prospect of going back to the office full-time though is basically a non-starter. We are pretty surprised by this, but not shocked.

So as an employer, what can I do?
The pandemic forced employers to be flexible. So stay flexible! If top performers don’t want to come back to the office, why force the issue and risk losing them to a competitor? Make the office more of an optional gathering point vs. a mandatory component of someone’s job. Offices are not going away, but they can be utilized for things like company meetings, workshops, and training.

Every job has objectives and goals and things that need to be accomplished. You can still monitor that in a remote environment and take appropriate action when needed. In fact, you might find that because so much time was ‘given back’ to employees due to elimination of commuting time, they might be more willing to go above and beyond when called upon.

The most successful employers in a post pandemic world will be the ones that embrace remote working when possible and take advantage of some of the top talent that will be recruitable in the near term.

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