It’s a seller’s market for employees right now, and they have the upper hand.

But firms that offer a flexible schedule can also have an upper hand in attracting talent. Depending on which source is referenced, between 30% and 60% of workers said they would choose to leave their job for a role that allowed full-time remote work.

This is important because workers want to work remotely – at least some of the time. Research from FlexJobs found that 97% of stakeholders expect some sort of flexibility for remote work. A survey by Owl Labs found that 80% of workers expect to work remotely at least three days a week and more than 90% expect to work from home at least one day a week.

This is likely because the four-and-one model (four days in the office and one remote day) doesn’t seem all that flexible. And for stakeholders who have grown accustomed to working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, many might not go back. This is the new normal. As such, you need to learn why employees like remote work and how you can sharpen your leadership skills to offer the flexibility stakeholders are now demanding.

Flexible and remote work options are no longer a nice-to-have – they’re a must-have in today’s job market. So this article will offer you some tips to manage remote employees so you can attract and retain the right talent.

The Appeal and Expectations

There are many reasons why stakeholders want remote work. First, it allows them to save time (they don’t have to commute) and money – around $6,000 on clothes, takeout food and transportation over the year.

Workers have also found a more logistical work/life balance. This isn’t about the feeling that work and life are balanced – rather, this means actually planning out logistics that help you balance things. For example, I had a Coaching member whose car needed to be replaced, but instead of buying a new one, the member and their spouse simply planned their schedules in such a way that they would each only need the car on alternating days.

Read more: The Future of Client Meetings and Remote Work

Workers want to work remotely and they want to know certain things when it comes to a hybrid schedule. They want to know when they are working from home and how many days a week. They want to know where they are working when they are in the office. They want to know what is expected in the workday. For example, one partner firm I work with likes stakeholders to come in for a half day a few days a week just to be in the same space as each other.

Lastly, workers want to know what their workspace will be like both at home and at work. Clearly lay these out for them and communicate expectations and options.

The Stakeholder/Manager Disconnect

Best Buy was once famous for its Results Only Work Environment at its home office in Minneapolis. Instead of evaluating employees based on office attendance, employees were evaluated based on performance. While news organizations reported that the program failed because an incoming CEO nixed it, there were cracks in it beforehand.

First of all, the flex program was mostly available to low-level executives and high-level individual contributors. It was mostly for the people managing managers. So they were out of the office and were causing chaos because they were trying to micromanage their team members. The employees were still working, but the managers felt like they’d lost their power. And even though the program was successful in terms of productivity, it was eventually done away with.

Oftentimes, when you take away the in-person interaction with the employee and the boss, the boss sometimes loses their mind. Picture the way the character Bill Lumbergh from “Office Space” would saunter over to employees’ desks and lean over, taking up space in an attempt to control. Lumbergh-style managers can’t do this anymore.

I also venture to say that managers like that might distrust employees and feel they’re not productive because they don’t have eyes on them for eight-hour blocks a day. But rest assured that research has actually found a 22% increase in work productivity when working remotely.

So really, you need to let go and trust. Don’t be like Lumbergh.

How to Not Be Lumbergh: Tips

There are five core leadership skills you need to be a better leader to remote employees. 

First, you have to be much better at planning ahead. If you were used to being able to just walk over to your team members’ desks to ask them to take care of something, you have to shake that habit and replace it with a new one of planning what you might need from them, then asking for it in advance.

When you have remote employees, likely they’re in the flow and they might not get to your email right away. Since remote work has given them the flexibility to work hours when they’re most productive, sometimes they are doing laundry in the middle of the day or caring for a sick parent. In that case, ask them to check their email at 11 a.m. (or whatever time works for you) every day in case you have things you need them to do. Stop the drive-by task distribution and plan ahead when things need to be addressed.

Read more: How to Handle Competing Ideas on a Return to the Office

Second, have clear communication. The remote work environment is such that people can’t see your nonverbal cues or hear your voice inflections. Every time I do a presentation, I practice at least three times so I get the right stories and the right emphasis. When we don’t have clear communication, we try to find what we’re saying while we’re communicating it. There’s no better way to confuse people than not being sure what you’re trying to communicate until after you’re done talking. Plan to make your communication as clear and concise as possible.

Third, have clear expectations. Give clear guidance on what is done by whom and by when. Also, give your stakeholders the ownership to define what “done” for a task looks like. On our Coaching team here at Carson, we define what done looks like for our goals, which we call Rocks. Since stakeholders define it, they have more buy-in because they’re part of the process, rather than consuming the process.

Fourth, have effective meetings. Two major problems I’ve seen with leaders is they’re under-communicating and assuming their stakeholders understand what’s going on, or they’re over-communicating. You have to avoid either extreme. To do this, you can ensure the meetings are taken care of operationally and mechanically. You don’t need to manage the meeting yourself – you can delegate to more operations-focused stakeholders.

Last, my old tried and true rule – don’t be a jerk. If somebody does something wrong, don’t scream at them and be toxic. Be adaptable and know there are going to be glitches. Now that we’re settling into this new normal, many firms are making permanent changes that are going to take them into the future of remote work. It’s still iterative, so as you’re figuring things out, allow people to make procedural mistakes, while also focusing on giving them constructive feedback so they don’t make those mistakes in the future.

The greatest stress that most working people have in their life is the person they report to. So not being a jerk is more important than you think in alleviating your stakeholders’ stress.

Time to Get Flexible

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, research indicated that people would take a 10% pay cut to be able to work from home most of the time. But now, many workers are actually getting offers for more than their current salary to work fully remote for other firms. 

While this might change in two years, right now there is a massive talent shortage and forward-thinking employers are paying much more than they ever have before because the best people demand the most flexibility.

We have partners and coaching members who have lost team members because they lack flexibility. Hopefully, the tools in this article can help you hold on to your best team members and be flexible into this remote work future.

AUTHOR

Dr. Gerry Herbison

Executive Business Coach
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