We humans are forgetful creatures.
Hopping from one crisis to the next, we forget the staggering lengths we’ve been through to get where we are. We forget the chaos, and the uncertainty.
Cast your mind back to March 2020 – if you haven’t blocked it all out, that is.
The UK, USA, and most other countries around the world had either entered or were entering a national lockdown, in response to Covid-19.
If you were lucky enough to evade the virus, for your loved ones and friends to be safe, and to still have a job – you felt grateful. Many of us did.
But not all of us were as lucky. Some of us lost people to covid. Many more lost work, as entire industries fell apart.
For the lucky ones, we either got put on furlough, or got put to work remotely.
They were interesting times, to say the least; especially for people trying to work while raising children (if anyone’s been through home schooling and work, you’ll know how utterly impossible the two are in tandem).
But working from home, for the majority of office-based workers, was a revelation, and a revolution – a proof of concept that they could have it all.
Once office-bound workers could now do their job from their dining table, bed or sofa. Their commute was eliminated. They got to have more family time, eat cooked lunches, take meaningful breaks, and explore their own passions with the hours saved each week.
So, when that call came from business leaders to say “we’re going back to the office now” – you can imagine the response among those who wanted WFH to stay.
They begrudgingly went back to commuting one hour in both directions. Back to eating flimsy, overpriced sandwiches. Back to dreaming of the hobbies they had time to pursue in their longer evenings.
Where they once felt grateful for still having jobs, they suddenly felt resentful.
“We’ve seen the other side; and the grass really is greener”.
Returning to the office felt like a punishment. No more time for personal growth. Less sleep. Hours of your day, lost. Motivation – sapped.
And so, workers started to quit.
This isn’t so much an anecdote about the end of WFH, as it is a reliable process for decimating your own workforce; if you really wanted to shed some employees, just tell them to come back to the office full-time.
They could be one 360-second meeting away from throwing in the towel.
The evidence for this is piling up. Workers would rather quit than go back to the office.
Ending WFH it wasn’t just a mistake in 2021 – it’s a mistake now and forevermore – because the world of work is never going to be the same.
Our mindsets have shifted dramatically from “live to work” to “work to live”.
And there’s absolutely no good reason for employers in offices to demand an end to WFH. The majority of it boils down to corporate paranoia, and old-school mindsets about who should be doing what in order to be productive.
Hey, leaders: busy doesn’t mean productive. If seeing your people in person, sat at desks, doing “stuff” is your measure of productivity and success, then – sorry to say – you’re wrong.
Instead of fearing remote work and assuming the worst of employees working from home, look at KPIs. Look at your HR stats, like retention. What’s scarier; an hour of “productivity” lost to YouTube or Facebook – or costs reaching into the hundreds of thousands to replace experienced practitioners?
The cost to replace seniors and specialists is between £40,000 to £100,000.
That’s big money in a climate of seemingly flippant job-hopping, where employees are keen to set clear boundaries between work and life.
Let’s say you run a small workforce of 25, in a competitive industry like marketing. Your company turns over £1.8 million in a good year. You decide that it’s time to end WFH and get back to “reality”.
Let’s use the conservative estimate that 38% of those workers are going to quit within 6 months to a year, rounded up for easier maths.
10 of your team quits over WFH ending; 8 entry-level executives, and two seniors. That could cost your company a total sum in the region of £250,000.
So, what’s scarier? Losing 13% of your turnover to poor (and avoidable) employee retention, or WFH?
Why are so many businesses that can enable WFH still pushing for a return to the office, instead of leaning into remote?
If you trust your team, and give them the tools to work remotely, you can actually boost productivity. Working from home caused a productivity uplift of 13%, even if it’s just for one day a week.
Not only does WFH eliminate commutes, it eliminates heating and powering giant office spaces. That means lower bills and smaller business infrastructure for you, and less CO2 pumped into the air for everyone else.
WFH forces better communication and accountability. No more “he said, she said” or undocumented conversations that get forgotten. It’s all tracked and traceable. Say you’ll do something, and there’s a record of it.
Research from before the pandemic has already shown that remote work can improve productivity, employee retention, and generally makes employees feel trusted. It’s a boost to quality of life, and business outcomes.
WFH is the future – and with the right culture and tools at your company, that future is bright.
ClearHub’s remote working experts have helped countless teams in complex IT, software, development and DevOps roles to change the way they work together over long distances. By hiring in expert consultants to design and develop robust remote working platforms, you can retain your best talent, attract new talent, and maximise productivity – with a remote working expert on your side.