The forced shift to remote work has many companies pondering their future and whether or not co-located spaces are the right fit for them.
The move to a distributed workforce is a lot to consider in and of itself. It all depends on the type of work the company does, the nature of the employees’ work and what sort of geographic footprint your business can handle. But for businesses in sectors that can accommodate remote work, the interest in growing the remote workforce is on the rise.
With productivity stable and employees showing that their organizations can trust them, many organizations are overcoming pre-pandemic fears that persisted regarding remote work.
“I think pre-pandemic, there were a lot of opportunities for this shift where people were hesitant and there was a fear of how can we possibly be effective from home,” Rebecca Hathaway, Director of Employee Experience at Tango Card said. “This crisis has shown us that many of us can do our jobs effectively from home, maybe not all the time, but often. I think there’s a knee jerk reaction to say we’re not really effective right now, but that can come down to a lot of other factors that are a byproduct of the COVID space. But when we aren’t in this anymore, can you do your job from home and find the outlets to avoid things like isolation elsewhere?”
Her comments came during a session titled “The Future of Work is Distributed: How to Shift Employee Rewards to Fit a Distributed Employee Model” at our recent HR and Future of Work event.
The answer to Hathaway’s question is increasingly turning out to be a yes. More and more companies are broadening their hiring practices beyond geographical boundaries and many are realizing the extent to which technology can free people from being tethered to a location. A study from McKinsey & Company shows that in advanced economies, up to one quarter of the workforce can comfortably work remotely between three and five days week.
Hathaway outlined some of the questions Tango Card has been asking itself, which has resulted in the company deciding it’s not ready for a global workforce, however, they are willing to allow employees to move the state of their choice within the U.S., assuming the company is okay to operate there. In looking at that, the company has also taken the decision to adjust salaries to be in line with the market the employee chooses to move to.
The Distributed Experience
As Tango Card and other companies move to this distributed model, one thing that changes is the employee experience and how the company contributes to it. Where the last decade was spent focusing on the quality of coffee beans in the break room and having entertaining meeting spaces, the distributed workforce will require something different.
In the case of many remote employees, one of the big challenges is making the home work environment feel like a proper office. In allowing people to choose what works for them in terms of location, Tango Card is also allowing employees to work at their offices in Seattle, Boise and Omaha. Employees can choose a hybrid model or they can choose one of the other options full time.
WATCH: How to Distribute Rewards for the Distributed Workforce
This choice first approach then dictates how the company is going to set you up for success. At the start of the pandemic, the company provided a $500 reward link to upgrade their home offices. That was in addition to the laptops, monitors and other hardware the company provides. This has since been extended to new employees so that people can build an environment that they are comfortable working in.
“We’re moving toward a monthly tech stipend as well,” Hathaway said. “Home internet is pretty standard, but we want to make sure everyone is effective in their work and that might mean upgrading bandwidth or speed, increasing cell phone data, etc. We want to help offset costs, but not subsidize the entire technology suite in the person’s home.”
A key point to Hathaway’s approach is that it’s a balancing act. For every perk of remote work life, there’s an in-office perk that offers the employee something to think about, such as commuting costs being covered and popular on site snack and beverage offerings. The goal being that people choose not what they think is best for the company, but what is actually best for them, with nothing having to be permanent. The freedom to blend the work models or switch between them provides people a sense of freedom and flexibility that helps with engagement and handling all of the other things that life throws at them.
“Allowing that space to choose and make a decision that works best for you and for your family is important,” Hathaway said. “At that point you’re having to worry less and you can be more present in your role when you have less things to worry about outside of that space.”
For small to midsize companies, a maneuver like this can be tricky, but Hathaway was keen to frame it as an investment.
“If you can save anything on real estate costs, I’d reallocate a little bit of that, but for us, we looked at it as investment in our employees,” Hathaway said. “The little things like the amount of coffee and snacks you go through goes down when people work remotely, so you shift those funds to help address the question of how can we make our workspaces better to keep our employees more engaged.”