Apple and almost every other enterprise now find themselves looking to continue to support mobile and agile workforces following the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s a simple reason for that: many (if not most) workers simply don’t want to be in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day anymore.
Agility has become an HR issue
We know that remote working has transformed the workplace. Even Apple, a notoriously straight-laced company when it comes to insisting on a culture of presenteeism seems to have come to terms with this.
“It would seem that work from home and the productivity of working from home will remain very critical,” Apple boss Tim Cook said recently.
Following a year of remote working featuring record revenue and astounding product development news, Apple has agreed to permit workers to attend the office three days a week with an option to work from anywhere for two weeks once a year.
That’s a step in the right direction, but it seems likely to need tweaking to match the current mood, post COVID, according to a Dice 2021 survey of tech workers.
That data shows most tech professionals prefer remote and flexible work, with very little support for working permanently in the office: just 17% of tech workers think working full-time in the office is extremely or very desirable, while 59% think both remote and hybrid options are similarly as desirable.
It is also interesting that 29% want to be fully remote. Clearly, even with hybrid workforces it’s likely that some of the talent your enterprise needs will want to remain remote. Like device choice, it seems agility and the right to work remotely are now HR issues.
What they like and what they need
Employees like the cost effectiveness and flexibility of remote working and enjoy the chance to be more relaxed while at work. They also find the lack of distraction boosts productivity, and find they feel happier and more efficient than before.
[Also read: 4 items of office equipment replaced by iPhone]
There have been arguments that working remotely can damage work/life balance. In fact, for most employees, the reverse seems to be the case. Dice claims three quarters of tech workers feel that their work-life balance is better or the same as it was before COVID-19, compared to 24% who claim this balance has declined.
It is interesting that the reasons for such decline seem to reflect poor management choices. Some employers have made increased demands and we know there have been problems in which management has failed to respect boundaries between work and personal time.
Anecdotally, at least, what I’ve picked up in conversation is that those managers who are the most demanding in terms of posing such expectations are frequently the same managers who insist on employees returning to the office full time.
I rather suspect such autocratic management will be replaced with more goal-driven, empathic team leaders as remote/hybrid work becomes the norm. And perhaps that is why 34% of tech workers claimed to have difficulty maintaining effective relationships with their managers, up from 22% one year before.
“The companies who succeed in attracting and retaining top talent will be those who take the time to build an agile approach that gives technologists flexibility and control over their work environment,” said Art Zeile, the CEO of Dice.
They’ll vote with their feet
Tech industry managers must pay careful attention to another trend highlighted in the survey: around 48% of technologists are interested in finding new employment opportunities as they emerge from the pandemic – up from 40% lass quarter and 32% in Q2 2020.
That’s implies a highly competitive employment market in which the very best tech workers will seek out jobs that bring them the flexibility they need.
I think that’s going to be a problem for Apple’s slightly cumbersome hybrid model, as tech workers will seek out more agile models, though Apple has committed to tweaking and improving its own. Already, for example, some companies have committed to never making employees attend the office again, giving workers a chance to live anywhere they want in the world while holding down a job with that decision.
When it comes to offices, the focus is on making these places hubs that provide a mix of productivity and personal support — the best Wi-Fi, the best printers, and access to a trained counsellor, for example.
On the other hand, an Apple opportunity does have huge additional benefits, not least its focus on cutting-edge product development and the personal realization and growth involvement in such projects provides.
Where we are today, remote and hybrid work must sit beside a package of inducements (and not just pay) designed to attract and retain increasingly agile workforces.
Developing a new approach
Of course, the world’s biggest tech firms have made deep investments (such as Apple Park) in making the workplace they offer nice to go to. But one thing the pandemic appears to have taught most who could stay productive out of the office is that that there is, as the old adage claims, no place like home.
Workers are more willing than ever to engage with new approaches to working culture, while employers, including Apple, must remain open, sensitive and imaginative in order to support that need.
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.