Holly PennebakerMarch 09, 2021
Topics: Employee Experience

Anywhere Work: What Hybrid Work Means for Engagement, Compensation and Business

Can you believe that about a year ago today, 5 million Americans started working from home?

And just as many of us are finally getting used to our new offices, "Anywhere Work" is becoming the new remote work, a strategy that gives employees the ability to work from multiple locations. Choice is ours.

If you're like me, your desk stands near a window with some super fake palm tree beside it, and a small sofa that you never actually sit on (but it looks nice and matches your decor). There's a candle that sends energizing and calming essential oil-based fragrance from wall-to-wall, and the best part of all — your pup's snuggled up just underneath the keyboard on which you tenaciously create and edit docs, emails, Slack messages, Keynotes, and the like.

As "the (aka home) office" becomes "one of the offices," we have a slew of things to figure out:

  • Is this the best proactive solution for the 44 percent of workers who want to be in the corporate office and the 56 percent who don't?
  • Can Anywhere Work really beef up employee engagement, customer outcomes, and results?
  • If people work anywhere in the world, should companies adjust compensation to align with cost of living (think attracting and retaining top talent)?

Forrester's J. P. Gownder and James L. McQuivey, both VP, Principal Analyst, discussed these angles in the Jan. 28, 2021 episode of the What It Means podcast, and whether Anywhere Work could be a game-changing solution in 2021.

"It's time to move beyond your hastily constructed remote work policies, which only meet today's short-run challenges," McQuivey said. "An anywhere-work strategy recognizes that employee engagement leads to better customer outcomes, and works from there to provide technological, cultural, and leadership resources to support work from any location, enabling individual employees and entire teams to operate on an even playing field wherever they are."

An ideal workplace differs from employee to employee. One might prefer their good ol' trusty cubicle or corner office, another at home near their family, and another at a park with their laptop, coffee, and a fresh breeze.

It's finally OK to let stakeholders have their cake and eat it, too. Giving your people freedom to choose their work location can do wonders for employee engagement to produce the biggest business results — 21 percent greater, according to Forbes, which also reports that the most successful companies "make employee engagement central to their business strategy."

"Employees, prospective talent, managers, and others in the ecosystem all have preferences that, post-pandemic, will constitute a genuine pressure wave that will break the traditional definition of and the boundary between in-office vs. home-based work," McQuivey said.

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We've proven in 2020 that we can do the same work from home as we did in the office (should the role allow for remote work). First things first: Employees need to set up a remote space to resemble a productive space and have the equipment and technology required to do their jobs. It's about settling into a spot that inspires and motivates them, and even fosters a separation between home and work. Their work location, according to anywhere work, will likely include multiple places — wherever they can do the best work at that particular time.

"It is an evolution from what typically is a reactive policy. This is a much more codified, intentional, proactive policy in which we say, 'improved employee engagement is going to lead to better customer outcomes and we're going to create a strategy that provides the technological, the cultural, and the leadership resources to make sure this transition to anywhere work is appropriate and successful'," Gownder said.

RELATED: Leading HR Through a Pandemic and Beyond

Anywhere work provides a few chief benefits to the employee and the employer:

  • Empowerment, flexibility, resources = happy, engaged employees perform better and are able to sustain strong performance over time.
  • Business continuity and resilience that will be instilled as a priority as a result from transitioning to anywhere work, and in turn, will help your business outshine competitors.
  • Cutting rent means more money in the company's pocket. If you don't have an office, you don't have a monthly rent to pay throughout the duration of a commercial real estate contract.
  • A hybrid work model gives employees time at work and time outside of work, so it's basically giving your team the best of both worlds.
  • Giving employees the choice of where to set up shop conveys trust from leaders. And that trust is everything when it comes to empowering your employees. Come to think of it - when's the last time micromanagement was even a thing?!

What about compensation? People are relocating, now that a year-long pandemic has altered their priorities, values, and lifestyle choices. Manhattan's suddenly competing with Montana, so-to-speak: The dense population in a city that never sleeps is losing its popularity to a more peaceful setting with much fewer people per area. The cost of living is significantly less — so what do employers do when financial demands change?

"People are still contributing the same amount of productivity or more when they get to be anywhere workers, and so the employee-centric idea would be that we don't change their compensation," Gownder said.

His Forrester study found that second-tier tech companies, for example, will not adjust compensation because they fear turnover. Big companies have said they will adjust pay, but carefully. He gave the following considerations:

  • What's the right thing to do for the business?
  • What are competitors doing?
  • How much retention will be lost?
  • How will it impact company reputation

"There's no one right answer except for the overarching answer, which is to communicate clearly, establish your policies, and make sure they apply equally," McQuivey said.

"What does it mean to have parody? It means that everybody, regardless of location, has the same access to promotion, to training, to advancement, the opportunity to be mobile within the organization and how they apply their talent. That's an enormous cultural change … As we're thinking about things to make sure we don't ignore or accidentally blow up as we're moving in this direction, this is definitely one of those territories."

Getting back to work with whatever "normalcy" it might have will bring leaders to the drawing board in considering new strategies for recruiting high performers. Break down ways to recover talent, and how flexibility like allowing anywhere work will give you a competitive edge.

Learn how to reimagine the workplace — watch our on-demand webinar,
Back to Work: Successful Talent Recovery Starts Now

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