Workplaces—and ways of doing business—are continuously evolving. However, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, changes that may have happened gradually over the course of a decade were thrust upon the world’s workforce virtually overnight. Office professionals suddenly found themselves working from home. Education professionals had to master teaching online with little lead time. Even physicians had to turn to technology to treat patients remotely.
Not surprisingly, once employees had adapted, many found that they preferred this new way of working. No longer required to commute, they had more time for themselves and their families. Some used this time to think about what they wanted out of life and chose to pursue new hobbies or continue their education. Others realized they no longer liked the careers they were in and determined they deserved better.
As vaccines and boosters have become available, the risks of COVID-19 have somewhat lessened, and employers have called workers back to their places of business, not all have returned. Some of those who have aren’t planning to stay for long, either. In fact, according to a survey of employed American adults conducted by Resume Builder, an online resume creation company, one in four respondents intend to find a new job this year.
That’s a lot of employee turnover—and it’s going to be costly. Built In, an online community for startups and tech companies, estimates that replacing an hourly employee costs businesses an average of $1,500. The cost of replacing a worker in a technical position jumps to 100 to 150 percent of that employee’s salary. And turnover in the C-suite can cost 213 percent of the exiting executive’s salary.
Fortunately, this doesn’t have to happen to your business. You can retain your best employees and avoid costly turnover if you give them more of what they want. And right now, what they want is empathy.
“In 2022, employee empathy will be more important than ever. It is the pathway to building connections between people. These connections foster a strong culture and lead employees to be more invested because they feel heard and supported by leaders, and are ultimately more engaged at work. Engaged employees drive better business results,” explains Amanda Berry of Simpplr, a modern intranet platform designed to unite divided workforces and streamline employee communication.
What’s empathy, you ask? Simply put, it’s understanding your workers’ feelings, a willingness to see situations from their point of view, and the ability to actively demonstrate that understanding. One way to show empathy to your employees is to think about what they need to be successful in the ‘new normal’ we’ve all found ourselves living in. What are their biggest challenges? What tools can you give them to overcome these struggles? To get started, consider the following four suggestions.
1. Empower your workforce to work in the way that’s best for them, even if that’s at home.
In September of 2021, Gallup, a global analytics firm, found that 45 percent of full-time U.S. employees were still working from home. Among white-collar jobs traditionally done in an office setting, 67 percent reported working from home at least some of the time. Nine out of ten wanted to maintain that remote work in the future, at least to some degree.
Not having to commute, having the flexibility to balance work and personal obligations, and improved wellbeing were the most common reasons cited by surveyed employees for preferring remote work. Other reasons included feeling more productive at home and having fewer distractions when working away from the office.
Notably, Gallup found that 49 percent of the remote workers said they’d be likely to look for employment elsewhere if their employer removed the option to work from home. Whether your workers are struggling to afford childcare, have vulnerable elderly persons at home, are stressed by commute times, or just find it easier to concentrate away from a traditional office, you can show them you empathize—and avoid turnover—by continuing to allow them the flexibility to choose where they work each day.
2. If some or all of your workforce is choosing to work remotely, give them a better way to communicate.
In studies, traditional face-to-face communication has been found to be more effective than email because of the nonverbal cues conveyed during in person interaction. As a result, having to rely on phone calls or written communication is one of the biggest challenges remote workers contend with.
While video conferencing can simulate real world face-to-face interaction to some degree, it’s common for teams to overcompensate by scheduling unnecessary meetings. In fact, one study found that remote workers typically attend more than 10 meetings per week and spend more time in meetings compared to their on-site colleagues.
3. Make it easy for your employees to access the information they need to do their jobs.
When everyone’s working in the same office, it’s easy for your employees to ask each other questions if they don’t know something. It’s tougher to do this when they’re working remotely, and it’s also more empowering if they’re able to find the answers they need themselves.
You can show both your on-site and remote workers you empathize with this challenge by providing them with digital knowledge databases. Maybe they contain product information. Perhaps they include operational checklists or client FAQs. Put this information on your intranet in searchable form and you’ll make it easier for everyone to efficiently find details when they’re needed.
4. Give your employees the technology needed to collaborate on projects as a team.
Whether your employees are on-site or remote, modern collaborative software can help teams improve their workflow and efficiency. Programs like Teamwork, Slack, Asana, and others enable your workers to track project progress, manage tasks, and meet deadlines.
Many even integrate with Simpplr, and they also increase your team’s fundamental happiness at work. According to a study by Deloitte, a multinational professional services network, workers are 17 percentage points more satisfied with their workplace culture when they have access to effective digital collaboration tools.