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The Talent Retention Tightrope: Strategies for Balancing Remote Work and Office Demands

By July 10, 2023August 9th, 2023No Comments

Are you looking to hold onto your best talent? What are the best strategies to keep your most talented workers while satisfying executive/external pressures to bring employees back into the office? I am sure you have felt the tension. Employees are now used to working from home entirely or only coming into the office a couple of days per week. Even with layoffs, employees are demanding this flexibility for all types of work. The reason for the push back, employees feel commuting is the biggest pain point in returning to the office. The Federal Reserve survey in May found that American workers coming into the office even part-time amounts to a 2% to 3% pay cut, and in times with higher inflation, this is not seen positively by employees.

This brings us to the current sentiment for American workers. According to a survey by Clarify Capital, 45% of workers identified their commute as the biggest hurdle and about 25% of them also feel that their commuting time should be included in their working hours. Employers are noticing this and in the past two years, there has been an uptick in companies offering commuter benefits by 43%. In fact, federal law allows employers to let workers deduct $300 per month from their paycheck on a pre-tax basis which regardless of the size of your company can provide a competitive advantage to attract the best talent especially if they will be required to be in the office regularly. Companies need to think about strategies to attract and secure their talent so they are not tempted to go elsewhere.

Another interesting perk is that more businesses are exploring a four-day workweek. If you have work that requires employees to be in-person, this could be a good recruiting strategy that is gaining traction. It is also something that large and small companies can offer. In fact, a poll conducted in 2022 by Maru Public Opinion for The Business Journals, found that about 82% of full-time American employees would be willing to trade in their traditional workday schedule for four, 10-hour days. That is worth looking into if you are having trouble with recruiting and maintaining talent. In fact, a pilot program in the United Kingdom found that 15% of those workers who participated in the four-day workweek pilot would stay with the company regardless of higher pay elsewhere. Productivity was found to improve as well during this study as workers conducted their work more efficiently using technology and reduced their “unproductive” work time.

Some other perks could be attractive as well such as offering free meals to those working in the office or offering $10 per day in the office towards the employee’s favorite charity. Another looming cost for employees is childcare. If your company can provide some compensation in this area, it would help employees transition back into the office. As with anything over the last few years, childcare costs have skyrocketed and are a real reason for hesitancy to return.

There have been benefits of working remotely. In fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research found this year that most American workers saved 55 minutes in daily commute time every week and 40% of that time saved is invested back to organizations. Companies also need to evaluate a “one-size-fits-all” approach to returning to the office. Instead, organizations can see it as an opportunity to experiment with the best approach that will be seen as a win for all involved. Just because executives want their workers in the office does not equate to that being so. We are in a restructuring of employee’s expectations, company’s expectations, and new ways of working. People have reorganized their lives and aren’t eager to return to the “before times”. Having rigid mandates for employees to return to the office is an old paradigm lingering from a command-and-control leadership style. The workforce has shifted along with their expectations of their leaders. If you continue down this outmoded mindset, you may just lose your best talent and that is not good for you or the company.

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