Increase employee retention with remote work options and workplace wellness

Employers that are seeing high turnover or failing to attract top talent might want to revisit their remote work policies and put some effort into workplace wellness programs.

A new report finds that many people dislike the open concept office and want flexible work options and that workers don’t feel their employers care enough about their health and wellbeing.

According to the 2019 Staples Workplace Survey, more than half (52%) of employees in the U.S. and Canada say the open office layout creates distractions and 40% say that their office space is too open. But that doesn’t mean you should put in walls and doors. The solution to the open workplace isn’t closing it up, says the report. Rather, it’s providing flexible work options.

A whopping 90% of those surveyed said that they believe more flexible work arrangements and schedules would improve morale. Sixty-four per cent of workers say they work remotely at least some of the time, but only 34% of employers have a formal or informal flex work policy in place.

Employees no longer embrace the traditional 9-to-5, says the report, and prefer an environment accommodating to needs that may change day to day. Chris DeMeo, Vice President, Staples Brand Group, said in a statement, “The smartest employers are acknowledging this reality and offering their workers more autonomy when it comes to where, when and how they work. It may be a leap of faith for offices used to the old ways of doing things, but it’s one that could yield dividends in terms of recruitment, retention, and productivity.”

A third of employees might look for another job

Another recent study found similar results in Canada. That survey found that 62% of Canadian employers offer the option to work remotely and that 47% of respondents whose companies don’t allow for this feel frustrated, and wish they did have the option. In fact, a third of respondents (33%) said they have considered searching for a job with a company that offers remote work options, and 14% are actively looking. And more than a third (36%) of employees would consider taking a pay cut in exchange for a remote work option.

The Canadian survey also found that employers who offer remote work options see a number of benefits, including improved morale (62%) lower absenteeism (59%), operational cost savings (55%), and lower employee turnover (50%).

Employees want workplace wellness taken seriously

Another finding of the Staples report is that employees prioritize wellness, but many employers are coming up short in this area.

Two out of five employees (41%) would take a 10% pay cut for a job with an employer that cares more about their health and wellness. Moreover, more than three quarters (78%) believe their employers have a responsibility to help them stay physical and mentally well.

Unfortunately, the average grade given was a “C” when respondents were asked to assess their employers’ focus on health and wellness. Less than half of employers offer any sort of wellness program, and only 22% of workers say their offices have a dedicated “wellness room” they can use for things like breastfeeding or taking medication.

“We’re learning more and more every day about the connections between work and our overall wellbeing. We know that stress, extended periods of sitting, and the prevalence of unhealthy snacks in the office can all have serious physical consequences, and the mental impact of long, busy work days can’t be overstated,” said DeMeo. “But employers don’t have to accept this as ‘the way things are.’ They have so many options for improving their employees’ health and wellness and bolstering productivity, ranging from gym reimbursement programs and fresh fruit in the break room to ergonomic furniture and standing desks, to even dedicated ‘mental health days’ for employees feeling worn down.”

More findings of the 2019 Staples Workplace Survey:

  • 41% of employees have taken mental health days.
  • Nearly a third of millennials say they’ll likely leave their current job in the next five years for more money.
  • Employees with disabilities are less likely than employees with no disabilities to say that their offices accommodate their needs. Seventy-seven per cent of employees without disabilities say their office spaces enable productivity, vs 64 % of employees with disabilities.

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