Some employees work from home. Some exist on-site. Others settled in-between. One thing they have in common: new expectations.
Employees have different work experience expectations – ranging from where and when they work to how and why they communicate. And they all still hope for the best.
But their ideas of what the best is and how their employers should provide it has changed … like almost everything else post COVID-19.
“Employees are increasingly stressed about trying to manage work and family life during a global pandemic. HR professionals should survey employees frequently to understand how they are feeling and thinking about the ‘new’ work dynamics,” says Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR, President and CEO, Institute for Public Relations. “To help mitigate stress and reduce uncertainty, HR can use these results to proactively anticipate the needs of their employees to help them do their jobs safely, while building trust, satisfaction, and commitment to the company.”
Your surveys will likely show employees expectations change over time. For now, here are employees’ new expectations, plus ideas on what HR professionals can do to meet, work with or exceed them.
No. 1: More options
More than 80% of employees don’t think their employers should make them return to the office if they can do their work remotely. Employees want to wait until COVID-19 isn’t a threat to get back on-site, according to The Harris Poll and the Institute for Public Relations survey, Employee Expectations Are Changing Due to COVID-19. An equal percentage also believe they shouldn’t have to return to work on-site until they’re comfortable with it.
Now, that’s not saying they aren’t willing to work on-site. They expect options, such as flexible schedules so fewer people are on-site at one time.
Tip for you: If you haven’t already started working on a work-from-home (WFH) plan, you’ll want to involve employees in the process. Key considerations include qualifications for working remotely, equipment needs and performance expectations.
No. 2: Closed spaces
If and when employees get back on-site, most expect the open office concept will be a thing of the past. They want sectioned-off workspaces to be sure everyone is socially distanced, the Institute for Public Relations poll found.
Tip for you: Some companies can’t create individual office space have added height to existing cubicle walls and installed Plexiglas barriers in areas where employees interact such as the break and conference rooms.
No. 3: Digital collaboration
Because employees expect to work from home more, they want to be able to collaborate with colleagues, bosses and customers seamlessly, the Gartner Future of Work Trends Post COVID-19 report found. They hope for the tools and technology to get it done as well as they did on-site.
Tip for you: Gartner researchers suggest you create communication guidelines. Give guidance on what should be done via email, on collaboration apps such as Slack and/or through video conference meetings. Another idea is to recommend when communication should move out of one channel and into another. For instance, video call colleagues if something isn’t resolved after eight email exchanges.
No. 4: More support
Employees hope they’ll get more support across the board from their employers, the Gartner study found. They expect companies to expand efforts to make sure they’re mentally, physically and financially well.
They’d like to see their companies offer enhanced sick leave, flexible hours for work, child care provisions and more wellness opportunities.
Tip for you: Many companies have shifted some perks and benefits to make them appropriate for people working home. For instance, if you offer yoga classes on-site, can you give employees access to online classes? Or if your Diversity and Inclusion groups meet regularly at lunchtime, can you arrange regular Zoom calls for them now?
No. 5: More consideration
More than ever, employees expect you’ll think of and treat them as people, not just workers, Gartner researchers found. They want employers to make and keep their work space safe and healthy.
They expect good experiences – free of inequities and hostilities – at work. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure out those ideal conditions alone: Employees want to be part of creating the culture and ensuring it remains positive.
Tip for you: The coronavirus has forced HR professionals around the world to review and revise policies. Invite a cross section of employees to join forces to help do that.
No. 6: Clarity
Many employees have shifted to remote work. Some employees stopped working. Others took on more work. Roles changed, and employees aren’t exactly sure where to focus. Now, they crave and expect leaders to help them identify objectives and the most important things to accomplish.
Tip for you: Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania management professor Nancy Rothbard gives some of the best advice we’ve seen: After time away, employees may come back to the job with an ability to pare down jobs to the most essential tasks – and that will help organizations run more efficiently.
“What do we need to get done? What is the core task and what are the things that are peripheral to the task? Managers have to be clear about metrics and expectations,” Rothbard says. “That will give a great deal of clarity to people, especially as they come back, about exactly what their focus should be. And that clarity will help to reduce the uncertainty we’re all feeling.”
No. 7: Transparency
With changes in work conditions, company goals and how employees fit into it all, employees expect transparency. They want to know changes that are being considered, why those are necessary and the anticipated outcome. They expect to know about things that will affect them before those things actually affect them.
“It’s important organizations communicate how and why they (might be) redeploying employees,” say the authors of Deloitte’s Workforce Strategies for Post-COVID-19 Recovery study.
Tip for you: With the rise in video conferencing, you can include more people in meetings and announcements that affect employees. Some companies have adopted a regular cadence of meetings so leaders can update employees on business developments, issues and upcoming news. If the group isn’t too large, leaders can get feedback on the calls. If it’s large, let employees use the chat or poll features to ask questions and mention concerns. Leaders can address them immediately or later in smaller forums.