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Is remote working damaging to the culture of your business?

Love it or hate it remote working is here to stay – there are some businesses that have lapped it up and run away with it, and pride themselves on their ability to offer this flexible way of working. Contrary to the belief of those opposed to remote working, remote working has nothing to do with being “lazy” or not wanting to work hard for a business, it offers a multitude of benefits including reduced childcare costs, reduced transport costs, reduction of wasted commuting time and the ability to be more present with family, etc. But it is not all sunshine and rainbows by working in a 100% remote environment, work is invading our private lives, our personal space, our safe space and, it is not for everyone!

 

Can a 100% remote model work?

 

Absolutely, and there are 100% remote businesses/ remote first that are thriving! However, the way we hire, the way we train, etc in a remote environment cannot be the same drag-and-drop model that has been used within an office environment. This is the same for hybrid working models – we need to adapt to the new normal. It is not about ‘let’s knee jerk and run back to the office 5 days per week’, and similarly your hiring woes cannot be fixed by implementing a 100% remote model, similarly if you are hybrid/ office based it’s not about closing all the offices without considering the adaptations you will need to make.

 

I have been speaking to several Operational leaders, as well as Recruiting specialists, looking at both hybrid and remote working patterns and discussing how they have overcome some of these challenges.

I have reviewed some of the biggest pros and cons of the hybrid model and would love to hear your thoughts.

 

“Remote workers are less engaged with the business”.

This is a topic that comes up as a huge pro-office argument; there is a view shared that remote workers are not embedded within the culture of the business and, therefore, they are likely to move to a new business for an inflated package – simply put there is no loyalty within remote models. It is true that several businesses have experienced a higher rate of attrition since working remotely, but a remote culture can be built.

Jordan Buck, Talent BP at Mojo Mortgages, has not experienced this, in fact, their rate of attrition has continually decreased. Now, as he mentions they are looking at doing more interactive face-to-face sessions as a development area, but they have really invested in creating a caring culture, where every voice is heard. They really get to know their people through in-depth hiring processes and several different slack channels, some for business, some for social, some for specific interests, etc that allow staff to get to know one another on a personal level (can we get to know people just via social channels?! I mean my teenage niece and nephews would argue yes – it’s a changing world after all).

They continually demonstrate their commitment to their employee welfare, well-being and creating a safe space for discussion. This was demonstrated when one of their employees jumped on a companywide webinar, whilst on parental leave, to discuss their experiences/ challenges of same-sex adoption. Another great key indicator is that 30-40% of hires now come from internal referrals who are proud to work for the Mojo brand.

 

One theme that came up continually through Jordan, and the CX Director of a premium retail brand, was that their workforce was engaged through the “mission,” so the time for playing all the cards close to the chest is gone – what are you doing? How are you going to achieve your objectives? And what role does each person play? Get your team aligned on the mission, ensure their voice is heard, and opinion valued, and you are on your way to getting your remote model working for you.

 

“Mental health is negatively impacted by remote working”.

 

According to a study by the BBC, collating data from Indeed and LinkedIn remote working roles attracted 2.8x the applications of their office-based counterparts.

 

Many people see the attraction of working remotely but remote working is not for everyone. In fact, it is impossible for some – they need the interaction of an office, and maybe a lot of their social interaction is done through work. As an Employer/ Hiring Manager, you need to ensure you are considering whether remote working is the right thing for the person you are hiring, particularly if they have never worked in a remote environment before.

Jordan discussed a big area of enhancement for Mojo in this space, where they have a bespoke psychologic evaluation platform, built on the baseline data of their top performers which has not only contributed to the reduced attrition rates but reduced the speed to competency by some 50% (impressive, no?!)

However, with Flexa reporting that 30.5% of people are looking for mental health support as a key benefit from an Employer, do we just need to enhance/ push this further in a remote working model?

 

“Remote roles alienate the entry-level talent”.

Areas where businesses have notably struggled when it comes to hiring a remote workforce is the training element, particularly for their entry-level/ junior talent. It is true that many of us, in our early careers, soak up best practice in an office e.g. just overhearing the best salesperson in the office on the phone, witnessing the highest performing customer service agent tackle a customer problem on the phone. Remote working takes away the capacity to do this in real-time.

 

This is something Mojo, as a specialist business, hasn’t had to try. As a mortgage broker, with a totally lead generation model, they are thriving in a flailing marketplace, meaning that have been able to snap up an experienced workforce, anywhere in the country, who would have been otherwise under pressure in a challenging marketplace. Crucially, however, Mojo does not offer up true entry-level roles, with every role across the business requiring at least 12 months of prior experience, and correct qualifications, for them to understand the industry processes and just adapt to the Mojo way of working.

 

However, a Site Director I know well, discounted this entirely. Having been forced into a remote-first environment in that fateful year, they tried the “copy and paste” method regarding the training that had historically worked well for them in an office environment, which sent their attrition rates into double figures. They addressed this by creating a whole new training strategy, model, and system, and overhauled all content to benefit their new remote-first model. Crucially, they have implemented a feedback survey, throughout key stages of the training programme (weekly in the early phases, then during the academy phase, and at the point of “graduation”). These feedbacks happen on a Friday lunchtime, and are a safe space for those in training to share real-life feedback with Operational Managers, allowing them to “sharpen” up their training programmes, whilst simultaneously demonstrating they are here to take on feedback, that every voice matters, and has made almost a complete eradication of those situations those in the contact centre know well (where is X? Never to be seen or heard from again), their attrition has plummeted to 8%.

 

Another huge player in the BPO world confirmed they have had to completely overhaul their training model and, using AI and a whole host of other smart tech they have been able to put in place “virtual floorwalkers” who can pick up gaps in learning or people struggling, and be on hand to offer immediate support! It has been such a huge success that businesses work with them just for their training systems, with a phenomenal degree of success.

 

“It’s easier to hire remote first/ remote roles.”

 

When advertising roles, we have found that remote roles get 2x the amount of applications than their hybrid counterparts, and office based roles get around 25% of the applications of their hybrid siblings.

Without a doubt, it makes it easier to hire talent as you can literally hire anywhere in the Country, and you are embracing a whole host of talent that cannot work in on office. Mojo has seen the huge benefits of this and now, with Jordan as the sole Talent BP within the business, is about to hire 98% of roles directly and reduce agency spend significantly. Of course, the Mortgage industry has had a notoriously rocky ride in recent times and Mojo, being immune to these challenges because of their business setup, has been able to hire a huge portion of talent from those affected by redundancy.

 

It is important to note, however, whilst Mojo is a remote-first organisation, they do still have 2 key offices in Manchester and London, therefore giving people the opportunity to work at these offices when they choose. With the choice in front, they have found that marketing staff are frequent visitors to the office as well as the SLT. If you are fully remote, with zero office space at all, you will naturally discount those who do not want to work from home or, quite simply can’t.

 

Is remote working damaging to the culture of a business?

 

When remote working is done correctly it is great – it can offer flexibility to those who can’t work in an office every day, those with mobility issues, childcare demands, or those who live in super remote locations, and those who have realised their productivity skyrockets from home. There are options and, from a leadership level, the retention of that culture in a remote working role is possible but you just must work harder. You can’t copy and paste what you have always done, you need to do something different so, weekly formal and informal catchups with the teams, slack channels interest, new career paths/ development opportunities, and an overhaul of your training programmes and systems – it is not cheap to manage correctly but you will attract a larger, more diverse talent pool. Remote working models still attract the most applications per role – that point is indisputable so definitely worth further investigation and investment.

 

Some argue that the hybrid model encompasses the worst of the remote only/ office first and is akin to a lifetime of fence-sitting, well don’t remove the splinters just yet because, here is the secret, people still enjoy working in the office, the creativity, ability to bounce ideas off someone and being able to grab someone for a quick chat without having to play several sets of telephone tennis! But there needs to be an element of choice/ flexibility , not a dictation, for office days! We have found the attraction of talent for 2 days is significantly higher than those doing 3 days for example. And, out of those choosing 2 days in the office, a whole host of others in the office choose to do 3+ days. However, those with offices and a remote first model will still attract a higher number of applications because of that one key element, choice! You will find those in your operation who choose to be in the office 3-5 days per week and those who choose 0 days. It is a great offering because you attract those who live locally to the office and don’t want to/ can’t work from home, as well as those who can’t ever/ always work from the office.

 

One thing is clear, 5 days in the office working 9-5 is not the way to go. This has been around since 1867 (I mean 1867!), and since then a lot has changed, including both men and women working/ having careers. The pandemic made people really sit down and assess what was important and that was balance – whatever that may mean. A lot of that meant, not working fewer hours, but adapting work to fit around lifestyle and losing things like hours of unproductive commuting times. These models really limit the talent you bring in, you will alienate parents, carers, those with mobility issues etc when you could be embracing a whole host of committed, talented individuals to push the business to the next level.

 

Diversity of talent, diversity of though equals a greater chance of success.

 

Flexibility means different things to different people. If you are committed to investing further in your EVP, and want further insight into what those who are looking, want, please reach out and see how we can help.

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