Today, on the RecruitingDaily Podcast, I am speaking with Dr. Reetu Sandhu, Organizational Psychologist, and Lindsay Lagreid, Culture, Well-being, and Employee Experience Advisor, about what Work-From-Home could look like if we did it right.
On behalf of research conducted by Limeade — a mobile-first employee support amplification program with science-based solutions that are proven to work — we’ll be dissecting data on employee experience that will help us create the most utopic version of Work-From-Home possible.
A few of the big questions: Are people more or less productive during the COVID pandemic? What is the research telling us about the most successful vision of Work-From-Home? How should organizations foster the transition into a post-pandemic, flexible workplace?
There’s a lot more. But you have to listen to learn.
Listening Time: 27 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s William Tincup here, you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today, we have Reetu and Lindsay on from Limeade and in particular, they do work inside of why maybe it’s going to be interesting for them to explain.
And we’re going to be talking about what could work from home or WFH look like if we did it right, which is on everyone’s mind. Everyone that works in HR and in recruiting, everyone kind of cares about this topic. So let’s just jump right in with introductions, Reetu introduce yourself. And then Lindsey, you introduce yourself. And then one of you introduce what you do at Limeade.
Dr. Reetu Sandhu: 01:12
Great, thanks so much. My name is Reetu Sandhu and I am the director of Limeade Institute. So what Limeade Institute is, is the research function within Limeade. Limeade focuses on the employee experience as a whole. So what the Institute gets to do is really focus on the research and science that informs everything within the employee experience, because there’s a lot of it. There’s a lot of research in that space.
My background is in organizational psychology, so I absolutely love this stuff. And I get to work with the research team and we conduct both primary research. So some of our own research, as well as secondary. So what’s out there already existing in the academic world, what’s been conducted recently, what’s existed for forever and that we can rely on to understand how do we do things well? How do we care for employees? And let’s listen to them. What do they need?
So Reetu before Lindsay introduces herself. So are you a Sci-op person?
I am a Sci-op person, absolutely.
I’ve spoken at Sci-op a couple of times. And two things about Sci-op people. A, propeller heads. Two, not afraid of alcohol, turns out. At least has been my experience. So I might’ve been hanging out with the wrong crowd. So I’ll leave it at that, but all kidding aside, really, really great group of people. So I’m glad that you are one of those folks. Lindsay? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Yeah, absolutely. Really excited to be here. My name’s Lindsay Lagreid, I’m a senior advisor for the Limeade Institute. So I have the really fun job of kind of taking all this incredible research that Reetu and the research team does. And then figuring out how in the world did we get that out into the world and the right places and modalities so that people can use it.
So really making research actionable to serve our customers, inform our product roadmap and help the market move in a more human and progressive direction when it comes to the employee experience. I think we really are in the midst of a once in a century opportunity to transform and rethink how we make work happen. And we’ve got some early signs that some folks are missing the boat on this, but also some really interesting, very human approaches that I think I’m excited to see how they unfold.
It’s interesting because COVID, I think a lot of people have said the same thing, but we were on some of these paths before COVID, but COVID sped some of this stuff up. Some level of flexibility or work from home or remote hiring or remote work, that was a completely foreign to us. Everyone working from home on Friday. That was a bit traumatic for everyone. But again, I think you’re right. It’s a once in a century, maybe even more than that, we have an opportunity. We have a great opportunity and rethink the way that we do things. So let’s jump right into what could work. What work from home could look like if it’s done well, so we’ll start. Reetu why don’t you start us off and kind of give us what you think it looks like. And then Lindsay, you follow her.
Yeah. What’s interesting is that and you mentioned this, you said we’ve sort of, we sped up into work from home and we just kind of jumped right into it. And I think what’s interesting is that no one planned for this. This wasn’t a perfectly planned, we know what we want to do, it’s all coordinated, figured out everything’s going to work out for everyone. We were thrown into it, right?
So I think that one thing that some companies that are itching to get back or even have made claims to be back on a certain day or are already back said, Let’s come back, we’re ready to come back.” I think that we’re forgetting that this wasn’t an ideal situation. This wasn’t a, “We are now all working from home, period.” It’s, “We’re all working from home because we were thrown into this.”
So this hasn’t been an ideal situation. And I think that it is an opportunity though, to learn, “Okay, well, what’s been working?” Given the sort of context that it’s not an ideal situation for a lot of people. Most people probably weren’t prepared to be working from wherever they began working from. Whether that was still at their place of employment, I’m sure things look differently. Or if it was from home.
So I think that there’s actually now instead of “let’s just go back to how things were, because that’s what we knew.” I think we actually have a really good opportunity to look at the two and say, “what have we really liked?” And what we’ve seen from research we’ve conducted is folks really, really like the flexibility and what comes with that is really thinking about what do I need for my life? What do I need to do my best work?
And having the choice. Having the sort of ownership and saying, “I’m going to continue to do my best work.” People aren’t slacking. I think that there’s been this perception that work from home is sitting on the couch, eating a bag of chips, watching TV, and you’re not doing anything, right? You’re not really doing work. But our research has shown that people are, if not at the same level of productivity, they’re may be even more productive.
It’s interesting. It’s figuring out where you thrive. So the individual, the employee in this case, has to figure out where they thrive and what that looks like. And so does the company. They’ve got to come to some type of understanding. I’ve seen here, especially in Texas, I’ve seen labor day as some type of line or demarcation of, “Okay, everyone’s going to come back to work after labor day.” And not everyone wants to go back. First of all, some people want to go to the office. So that’s stated and covered. But some people don’t. And so having what people will kind of overuse is hybrid as a term, but just having the flexibility of saying, “Where do you thrive? Where do you do your best work?” And how does the company leverage that? Lindsay, what’s your take that’s similar or different than what we’ve already said?
Yeah, no, I definitely agree with what we’re saying. It’s so interesting to sort of observe this conversation happening in a global scale, because there’s just so many sort of bizarre assumptions that we’re making. I feel like we have two choices. Either I’m back in the office nine to five, five days a week, or I never see you again for the rest of my life. [inaudible 00:08:20] approach. And the beauty is that the answer is going to be somewhere in between for every single employee and it’s going to change most days. So the catch all here is trust.
If you trust your people, they will do great work where it best suits them. I think a part of this conversation that is not happening at the volume that I would like it to be having, is the perspective of creating an inclusive workplace. So many organizations made statements last year after the murder of George Floyd, about their commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. And now a lot of what we’re hearing is you must go back to doing work the way that these people in positions of power like to have it done.
Yeah. Which is not… Well, it’s the antithesis to inclusive, right? That’s actually, it’s interesting that you brought trust into it. Because I really I love that you brought that into it. It’s like, “Well, first of all, if you don’t trust the employee, why are they employed?”
We got to hire people.
Let’s just do some basic stuff here. Let me ask you kind of a directed question around what a beneficial kind of a home environment look like. So you have done research on this. So what is, for the folks that are listening, what is a successful, beneficial work from a home environment look like? What has your research been telling you?
Yeah, I think it’s one that’s really primarily… There’s a real center focus on a dialogue between employee and the organization. Our research found that over 56% of employees hadn’t even been asked for their thoughts. And I also think that is going to look different for each employee. If you’re a neurodivergent person who needs certain sensory controls in place so that you can focus, then your work from home situation is going to look different than the extrovert, who is the one of three people who take up 70% of the time in most collaborative meetings.
I think that’s another myth that I’m a little frustrated that we continue to hear is we have to be in person in order to collaborate. And what that tells me is “We have to be in person to collaborate again, the way I, a person in a position of power, like to have collaboration done. Because I’m extroverted because I like human interaction. I don’t have social anxiety. I don’t have family members in other countries who are still in the very depths of the COVID pandemic. I’m ready to return to things being done the way I like them and so everyone else should too.”
And I think after having over a year of space to acknowledge the magnitude of the sacrifices that people were required to make in order to do work the way that we did it before. Not being the kind of parents they wanted to be, not being the kind of partners they wanted to be, not taking care of their own wellbeing. We’re seeing this digging in their heels. They’re not going to make that sacrifice anymore because it’s been proven that it’s unnecessary. And so what we’re seeing [inaudible 00:11:14] from people in power.
For a lot of knowledge workers, the air’s out of the bag or the air is out of the bottle, right? Now I know I can do that job remotely and do it better. To Reetu’s point, I can actually perform at a higher level and I don’t necessarily have to go to the box to do the job.
What I find, and it validates some of the research that you all are seeing on the employee side, is on the recruiting side the word “commute” creates a reflux action from candidates. Because everything goes swimmingly, job, comp. They’re just moving a conversation through. And then all of a sudden the recruiter’s got to hit them with, “Hey, listen, with this particular job, you got to be in the office two days a week. There’s flexibility there. You can kind of pick the two days, but two days I really want you to be in the office” blah, blah, blah. And all of a sudden that person, that candidate, Google maps it. And they’re going to say that “that’s an hour and a half from my house.”
I’m not going to do that.
And they don’t have to. They can go work somewhere that’s not going to make them do that.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. [crosstalk 00:12:26] And in terms of the commute, that actually emerged as we conducted a recent study across, I think, five different countries and had over 4,000 folks responding to this. Full-time employees. And we asked them how they felt in terms of moving forward, looking forward to the next year and what they were anxious about. And especially for folks who were previously working on-site and thinking about going back to that. One of the top three. So of course one was being exposed to COVID-19.
Fair, safety. Got it.
Next, the idea of having less flexibility.
Third was commuting to work again.
Yeah, I don’t need to learn Spanish. Got it, you know? I can only do so many books on tape before it really gets boring.
Right. That’s a really good point. And Lindsay, to the point that you’re making around those that are in positions of power and thinking, “oh, I can do this, I’m fine with this. Let’s just go back to the way things were.” Another thing that I think we have to kind of realize and call out is there’s a fear of changing things up. We as human beings are hesitant and fearful of the unknown or, “well, this is how we knew. We know this, we know it works, we know how to do it. So let’s just go back to that because we’re more in control with having people back in the office.” It’s a control thing.
So this will be a little bit loaded, but it feels like, and again, you all sit on data. So you all are going to be able to tell whether or not this is true or not, but it feels like this is a predominantly male and older male kind of command and control kind of mentality. I got to see the person to be able to believe that they’re working.
And I don’t know if you all have broken some of this stuff down into gender and age and some of that stuff. But the reports you hear out of Wall Street, the ones that alarm me the most is you hear Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. It’s like, “everyone’s coming back into the office.” First of all, to Lindsey’s point about that being really kind of an anti-inclusion. Just the concept of everyone has to be back in the office. First of all, we’ve learned some things, some good things about how work can be done differently. But also it kind of feels like this is just it’s protectionism.
Right? Go ahead.
Yeah. I do think that’s sort of a fair generalization to make. Obviously there’s nuance to-
Yeah, of course.
… But what I think is so interesting is those same people who are so committed, “I want to be able to see the person. Nine to five, butts in seats” are also the people that if it was up to them, they would hire a pair of hands but unfortunately there’s a brain attached. They don’t want to deal with the humanity of their people.
That research that Reetu alluded to, of respondents who used to be in a physical workplace and were now considering the prospect of going back to that, 100% of them have anxiety about that. Do you know how rare it is in research, especially with an N size over 4500, to have a hundred percent of anything? And so again, these are these companies that, “oh, we care about your mental health. Get a therapist. But please come back to the office nine to five, you’ll be a less present parent. You won’t be able to get your workouts in anymore, you’ll get less sleep, but I’ll feel better.” It’s-
Because I can see you.
… Just a lot.
I mean, we’ve talked about the inclusive but it’s also to your point about wellbeing and mental health. And those that have family members that they’re taking care of or kids or whatever that their home situation’s like. Now you’re basically suggesting to them that your job comes first. And now your job, your job in this office comes before all those other things, which is sad on some level that we didn’t learn some of these lessons.
Let me ask you about transition and the concept of okay transitioning to whatever… Obviously I think all three of us kind of think ultimate flexibility and kind of employer-led whatever kind of fits them where they thrive. I think we all feel that way. How do you think that organizations should help foster whatever transition you’re going to go through?
I think slow down to start. I don’t know what magic about labor day. Why is it a light switch? And I don’t even like the word return. I don’t think [inaudible 00:17:27] was all that great. So I think going down is the first thing. What would you say Reetu?
And then asking folks how they feel and what they want and what they’re comfortable with. It’s shocking to see how that still isn’t happening. There are assumptions being made about “Oh, folks are so excited to be back in. We’re doing them a favor. We’re going to do this and that.” But that’s just not the case. And so I would say, have you asked your employees what they want? What makes them comfortable?
This is where the concept of employee listening and kind of the mechanisms of pulse surveys and finding out in real time kind of what people feel because it could change. And it often does change from person to person, from day to day, week to week, et cetera. And again there are, oddly enough, I’ve seen in some of the research around fresh grads. That they want to go to an office because it’s their first job. They want to dress up, they wanted the socialization.
Okay, so fair enough. But again, that’s flexibility. That’s dealing with that flexible situation and saying, “Okay, fantastic. You just graduated from Colgate and you want to go to Ann Taylor and buy a bunch of suits and go into the office.” Cool. I want to do that with my first job, I respect that.
But it’s almost like personalizing it to every employee and saying, “There’s a place in where you thrive and that might change. Let’s have the flexibility to change that. And that might change for you, but do your best work wherever and however you want to do it.” And letting them drive that. I think that’s one of the things I love about your research is it’s “This is employee driven. Whether or not you like it or not, it’s going to be employee driven. And this is where it’ll show up.” Which I’m sure y’all are researching as well, is in retention.
Right. And attracting top talent. I mean, think about… People just don’t seem to connect the dots sometimes when we talk about that, attracting and retaining top talent. But we can all think of name three companies you’d never worked for. That is an expensive list to be on. [inaudible 00:19:47] fumble this the way they may have fumbled Black Lives Matter movement. They may have fumbled early COVID days, are going to deal with the consequences of being on that list for more people.
And I think it’s just so interesting because the answer is really quite simple. It is about trust. Just trust people and tell them to work where they thrive. And so over-complicating this and needing to have Monday, Tuesday, Friday. Well, why in the world is that? That’s completely arbitrary. There’s no data to support this. And so I do think we are seeing people quit their jobs.
We are seeing massive turnover, great reshuffle of 2021. And I think it’s going to take time, but the truly great organizations are going to be the human and humane organizations. They’re going to attract and retain top talent and those other companies that don’t take that approach. They’ll still be fine. They’ll pay big salaries and all that stuff, but they’ll have a two-year revolving door that will be so expensive that eventually it will catch up to them. And I think I’m so hopeful because employees have so much power right now.
I do think it’s important to acknowledge in this conversation that for the majority of people working, this isn’t even a conversation that applies. They’ve been putting their health and their families at risk every day being frontline, utility work, all of those things. And so there is a great deal of privilege to this conversation in general. But I do think employees in general have power now and I think that’s a really beautiful thing.
I couldn’t agree more. And I think companies, as you say… Companies that listen and understand that. And I think some of this does fall on ar least at the feet of the chief people, officer, chief human resource officer, to be the advocate for their employees. To then say, “Listen, we’re listening to them. And here’s what we need to do strategy wise.”
And if that doesn’t happen, there’s going to be a disconnect. Disconnects going to be on the attraction side, as you’ve already brought to bear, and also on the retention side. And you also… I’m worried, and it’ll be interesting to see what your research kind of sees down the road is how we create kind of second class citizens or different types of citizens. Probably a better way of saying it, with those that are in the office, versus those that work remotely.
It will require actual intentional culture work. Which [crosstalk 00:22:20] we have a keg and we have a ping-pong table so you can-
Welcome to the fraternity house. [crosstalk 00:22:28] Yeah. It’s like we didn’t learn these lessons. I love that your position is because it’s like, we had this wonderful moment where we can learn a bunch of things about how work can be done, could be done, should be done. And okay, well, let’s go back to December of ’19. Because it was working so well back then.
And that’s the thing, it wasn’t working well then and this last year has been ridiculous. So why, to Lindsey’s point, are those our two options? Those should not be our two options. And it does come back to, are we being inclusive?
Because one thing that I do know folks have maybe felt more of is if you were in a workplace where there was a mix of some people working onsite and then others not working on site, there might be a disconnect where there’s nine people in-person and there’s one person on the screen on the video call who’s just not included.
And now maybe because there are more people that fall into that camp, that one person, and maybe everyone, just feels better and feels more included. So going back again, we shouldn’t have to choose between those two options. We should say, we want to make sure everyone feels included. Everyone is listened to and we are helping all of our employees do their best work and supporting all of them. And again, it’s going to take intentionality and we’re going to have to do something different.
I couldn’t agree more. Go ahead, Lindsay.
I have one sort of asterisk, pretty major asterisk to this employee feedback strategy. Because it’s very important, but I was working with one of our customers and they had a group that was getting together to talk about this transition, what’s next and “let’s do a survey, we’ll ask what they want.” And I was like, “Can we ask the leadership team if they’re ready and committed to acting on all the things-
… Ask people about first.” Because if you ask people, “Hey, do you want to have one Friday off a month for your mental health?” And 96% of them say yes. And then you say, “Actually just kidding.”
Yeah, just playing. Well, that’s pretty much everything. If the C-suite and the board isn’t behind it, it’s not going to happen. So really the survey needs to go to them first and go, “What are you willing and able to both put money behind and actions behind and what are you willing to support?” And then now let’s go find out what our employees really care about and our candidates.
I mean, if we’re really being inclusive, we talk to our candidates, talk to our employees and find out what’s going to really unlock their potential and get them excited about the work that they do. And then let’s go do that. And again, it’s almost like with those old books that you’d read. You design your own ending of the book, your own adventure. This is kind of how work is now.
It should be designed around the individual and let them again, to the point of trusting them to do their best work. Putting them in a place where they can thrive and then trusting that they will thrive. I can talk about this all day and you all are wonderful and you’re doing great research. S I would ask the audience to go to the Limeade website and go to the institute part of it and go look at their research and consume it. Because it’s wonderful stuff. So thank you so much for coming on the show.
Thank you, this was a blast.
Thanks for having us.
Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast, until next time
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.