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When the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of businesses to close their doors, remote work suddenly became the norm for many of the world’s top corporations. Suddenly, systems and processes that multi-decade corporations had come to depend on were thrown out the window. But, this time of change also ushered in technological advances and needs that had not previously been seen or considered before the work-from-home trend took hold. 

Remote work before the pandemic was already on the rise; a Gallup study found 33% of American employees worked from home in some capacity in 2019. Now, that number is up to 67% of Americans working remotely. Currently, multiple trend reports, as well as anecdotal studies, show that a large majority of Americans hope for their jobs to remain remote in some form or fashion going forward. Clearly, this is not a short-term trend and we should all start thinking about the importance of maintaining connection with this new form of difference. 

With this in mind, there is a key difference between a company that shut its physical doors and simply moved everything to online spaces, and a company that has truly embraced the digital transformation and is working to make employee’s online experiences as substantive and special as in-person work did in generations past. All of these changes are coinciding with one of the largest happenings our nation has seen in decades. 

The Great Resignation, or the Great Reshuffle, is an economic trend where millions of American employees have resigned from their jobs voluntarily. This trend began mostly in early 2021 amid wage stagnation, inflation, stimulus help from the government, long-standing job dissatisfaction, and health and safety concerns surrounding the pandemic. 

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The companies who are working in tandem with the technology solutions and advancements that are created to uplift and empower employees are the ones who will come out on top in employees’ minds in this era of the Great Resignation. The types of access that new forms of technology providers, go far beyond a weekly video conference with your manager. 

To retain human connection in this new era, collaboration and project management tools, direct chatting platforms, fresh and dependable HR access, and time tracking are just a few of the examples. But what else?

So, the question that remains on every business owner or operator’s mind: How do I hire and retain employees in this time of uncertainty, inflation, and technology? What do I need to make sure I am providing and how can I support ongoing employee connection and positive work cultures?

If your business is in a remote-first capacity currently, I have a few thoughts on employee retention, experience and excitement. The first is simple: identify what would make your employees happiest. Conduct “stay” interviews with your current employees and determine exactly what they are looking for. Ask questions like: 

“What work structure works best for you and your lifestyle?” 

“How does our current work environment foster your growth? How can we improve it?”

“What would you like to see from the company in terms of employee development and engagement?” 

It seems like a simple answer to a complicated question, but if you want to help the people you work with stay with the company, understanding their specific needs and desires is the first place you should start. 

The second step, in my opinion, is to take stock of all the phenomenal virtual and digital experiences that can be utilized for human connection. We’re seeing this come into play with major organizations tapping into the metaverse. 

Some companies that have experimented with making their own virtual worlds include Facebook’s Horizon and the Microsoft Workspace. These mega-corporations have clued into the fact that employees are experiencing extreme amounts of Zoom fatigue as a result of spending many hours a day in the flat, 2-D video conferencing experience. 

So step aside, Zoom … now we can get creative and have our team’s virtual meetings feel real, socialize casually via our own digital avatars, and truly build and collaborate almost as if we were in person. 

If companies are receptive to the idea of utilizing the power of tech and supplying their teams with headsets and software, it will allow people closer to you to sound more distinct where those who are further away sound further allows for more realistic connection and conversation. Just like being in the same room, you can have a one-on-one connection with a co-worker even when the environment is full of 30 other people! 

By allowing employees a space or experience in the virtual world, other opportunities are suddenly available as well. Now, an employee who is in a wheelchair can join the company’s VR basketball team, or the two teams from across the country can be working on the same virtual model in the same “room’ “The opportunities to infuse virtual tech into daily work and productivity are essentially endless. 

Virtual experiences will only continue to heighten our experience of our world, and I believe a massive arm of that experience is our work life. Depending on your industry, you spend somewhere between 50-90% of your day working or with your colleagues. It’s important that you enjoy the experiences while you’re there. 

Li Yao is head of people at Offbeat Media.

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