The pressure to become a hybrid or remote workplace reached a boiling point in 2021. With 97% of workers saying they’d prefer to be a hybrid or remote employee post-pandemic, everyone from global enterprises to local small businesses are making this much-hyped transition to attract and retain talent.
But what if you can’t go hybrid or remote? For businesses in many industries—retail stores, restaurants, construction crews, manufacturers, and medical practices, to name a few—having a dispersed workforce is out of the question. It’s just not possible to operate. So if you’re an HR leader or another executive at one of these businesses, are you destined to lose all of your best workers to hybrid and remote opportunities elsewhere?
The short answer is no. As part of GetApp’s Employee Experience Survey*, we asked a roughly equal number of fully on-site, hybrid, and fully remote employees how their work location impacts their job satisfaction and employee experience overall. What we learned is that it’s how employees work—not where—that ultimately matters if you want a happy workforce.
In this report, we’ll use our survey data to explain why this is, and offer tips for how you can empower your workers to customize their employee experience to their needs and preferences.
Gartner finds that only 13% of employees are fully satisfied with their work experience (full research available to Gartner clients). Despite the resources that employers have poured into improving the perceptions that employees have about work—the people, technology, policies, processes, and more—the results so far have been underwhelming.
Eager for a solution, many companies that went hybrid or remote during the COVID-19 pandemic are hoping that by making their location policies permanent, employee satisfaction and employee retention will improve. We found that between 65% and 70% of small businesses that went hybrid or remote during the pandemic plan to stay that way when the pandemic is over.
But is becoming a hybrid or remote workplace—giving workers more flexibility over where they work—the magic bullet to employee dissatisfaction that companies have been hoping for? According to our research, it’s not. When asked how satisfied they are with their current job, the difference in average satisfaction between remote, hybrid, and on-site employees is nearly imperceptible. Remote employees are only 9% more satisfied with their job, on average, compared to on-site employees. Hybrid employees are only 2% more satisfied.
We know that hybrid small businesses are actually underperforming in many talent management areas, likely because many organizations have only made this transition recently and have yet to iron out all the kinks to reach full productivity. But we can’t blame remote or hybrid inexperience for our data here: Employees who were hybrid or remote before COVID-19 are only 4% more satisfied with their job, on average, than those who became hybrid or remote during the pandemic.
The bottom line is work location alone doesn’t move the needle on employee happiness as much as companies might believe.
Despite having little effect on their satisfaction, employees are eager to be hybrid or remote—why? The answer is customization.
While only 13% of employees are fully satisfied with their work experience, only 12% of HR leaders agree that their employees largely share the same type of desired work experience (full research available to Gartner clients). A “one-size-fits-all” employee experience often found in typical work models leaves a lot to be desired, while hybrid and remote work models at least offer the possibility for workers to customize part of their experience (where they work) to their needs and preferences.
And it’s this ability to customize the work experience that ultimately drives happiness, according to our data. Employees in our survey who strongly agree that they feel empowered by their employer to customize their work experience to what they want it to be are twice as satisfied with their job, on average, compared to those who strongly disagree they can customize their work experience to what they want it to be.
Here’s the kicker: Although remote employees in our survey are most likely to strongly agree they can customize their work experience, the results aren’t as lopsided as you might think. 25% of remote employees strongly agree they can customize their work experience, but hybrid and on-site employees aren’t far behind at 18%.
This data gives us two important takeaways:
Simply being hybrid or remote doesn’t make employees happier. In fact, if these businesses are too strict and don’t give workers the ability to customize more of their experience, they risk wiping out any employee morale benefits they’ve gained.
While on-site businesses lack location flexibility, there are still a number of ways they can empower employees to customize their experience to improve job satisfaction.
In the next section, we’ll offer tips for how you can give your workforce more freedom to customize their employee experience.
On-site employers may be handicapped on offering location flexibility to workers, but location is only one small part of the total employee experience. By empowering employees to own and customize their work experience in other ways, you can improve job satisfaction and retain top talent longer.
Let’s look at three ways you can give your employees more customization over their work experience.
1. Give employees more ownership over their work schedule
A survey by Intuit QuickBooks found that close to 90% of employees’ shift schedules are determined by a superior, and that 41% of employees would choose a different schedule than the one given by their superior if they could. Our own data adds that the more control workers have over when they can work, the more satisfied they are with their job on average.
In other words, the more you can empower your employees to create their own work schedule, the better, and the best way to do this is through an employee scheduling software system.
With employee scheduling software, managers only need to set important constraints (how many workers you need, what types of workers you need, maximum overtime pay, etc.), and the system will automatically generate shift options that employees can select if they fit the criteria. Many systems even allow you to add “flextime” shifts, where workers can pick when they start or end their shift within limits.
If an employee gets a shift they don’t like, these platforms make it easy for them to swap shifts with co-workers directly or put the shift back up for anyone who meets the criteria to grab, without the need for manager intervention. All told, these platforms not only alleviate the administrative burden of figuring out optimal shift schedules for every employee, but it also gives employees more ownership over when they work. It’s a win-win.
Learn more about GetApp’s Category Leaders in employee scheduling software here.
2. Get frequent employee feedback, then share it with everyone
The practice of surveying employees and using their feedback to improve the employee experience is nothing new. However, too often companies hoard this data at the top levels to try and diagnose the areas that need improvement themselves—leaving employees in the dark on how their experience compares to other teams, or even their own co-workers.
By taking the data you’ve gathered and sharing it back with employees, Gartner says your workers can have “a foundation of knowledge about their experience and that of their peers so they can begin to understand what to expect from their work experience” (full research available to Gartner clients). This practice not only builds trust, but also gives workers the information they need to fix what’s not working in their job.
If you don’t already have an employee engagement platform, or some other type of employee survey tool to easily gather and analyze feedback, get one. If you already have one, but it doesn’t have functionality for employees to be able to view and analyze the data themselves (preferably through a customizable dashboard), consider an upgrade or integrate your current platform with a spreadsheet or business intelligence tool.
Learn more about GetApp’s Category Leaders in employee engagement software here.
3. Implement better work technology and more flexible technology policies
We found a strong correlation in our data between the quality of technology that employees use for work, and the amount of freedom they have to customize their work experience. 46% of employees who rate the technology they use as “excellent” strongly agree they can customize their work experience, compared to 0% of employees who rate the technology they use as “poor”.
Like a lathe where you can’t adjust the height, or a software system with only one language option, bad technology that limits the ways employees can use it doesn’t create an empowering work experience. With technology playing a growing role in employees’ work lives, companies should strive to have systems in place that give workers a variety of customization and accessibility options so they can cater the experience to their needs and preferences.
Another option is to have employees use their own technology through a “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)” policy. A BYOD policy, which allows employees to use their own personal devices (cell phones, laptops, etc.) for work purposes, can save you money on technology while also giving workers more freedom to use the tools they already know and love. Just make sure you have software that’s compatible with a variety of devices, and a strong BYOD policy to safeguard your company from digital threats.
Find the right software for your needs and budget on our website.
In the midst of “The Great Resignation,” focusing on the employee experience is more important than ever if you want to retain your best employees. For more help, check out these additional resources:
*GetApp’s Employee Experience Survey was conducted in October 2021 among 629 full- or part-time employees in the United States: 217 employees who work the entire time at an office, store, or other centralized location, 201 employees who work some time at an office, store, or other centralized location, and some time remotely or at home (i.e., a hybrid work model), and 201 employees who work the entire time remotely or at home. The goal of this survey was to learn how work location and other factors impact job satisfaction.
Note: The applications mentioned in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.
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