The pandemic has shaken everyone’s world, from the way we live and socialize to the way we think about life itself. Many of us are still dealing with the horrors of loss of life and health issues from which we will never truly recover. For most of us, the past few years have dramatically changed the way we work, from where we work to how we work. Although more than three years have passed since the world was locked down, the impact of the pandemic on our lives continues whether we realize it or not.

At the beginning of the outbreak, the corporate world was completely working from home. We turn to tools like Zoom and Slack to keep our business going and connected. Most companies are either laying off or furloughing some of their workforce. Some do it out of survival, while others use it as a catalyst to “lose weight.” Those who cut back too little learned the hard way that fewer people don’t always equal efficiency. The nine-to-five quickly turned into seven-to-ten: working from dawn until late at night. The toll of burnout was quickly apparent, resulting in a regrettable loss. Coupled with the YOLO (You Only Live Once) philosophy sweeping the workforce, countless companies lost great talent. We are no exception.

As time passed and fears of COVID-19 dissipated, most companies forced a hybrid model on their employees. Some businesses, notably those in the financial and legal sectors, have reverted to pre-pandemic norms requiring employees to work five days a week — taking a toll on their new way of life.

chart your own course

In such a competitive market, it is crucial to stand out. While it’s important to know what our competitors are doing, we don’t copy policies just because they’re the popular orders of big shots sitting in ivory towers, far from the pulse of the people. Unlike most companies in our field, we listen carefully to our employees, understand how they feel, and most importantly, we see the ominous: When we have been more successful over the past few years, why Do we need to go back to the office and be more at home than before? Why reduce our quality of life by forcing us to take a more dangerous public transportation system into a dangerous city? We are far more productive at home. We save a lot of money by not having to commute. We moved to different states during the pandemic. All of these emotions — and more — are real and cannot be seriously denied. The veil has been lifted. We’re more successful than we imagined — and our people are far happier.

We soon found out that we could no longer operate as usual. The company also has some major advantages, if we’re really being honest with ourselves. There’s no denying the significant savings on rent and pantry items. Our footprint in one of the most expensive cities in the world has shrunk. We’re finding great talent all over the country because we’re no longer tied to a certain geographic radius.

While this all sounds logical, we know that eventually people will want and need Human interaction with colleagues. Undertone has always had an incredible culture and the last thing we want is to ruin it! We understand the risks: fewer human interactions lead to weaker relationships, which leads to higher attrition. There is also the question of career development, especially for the Gen Z crowd.A working paper by Heck, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the University of Iowa and Harvard, finds that remote workers may pay Hidden Career Punishment. While remote work does increase productivity, it also reduces the amount of real-time feedback that is a key factor in career development. The theory is that young people are less likely to learn, upskill or advance and are therefore more likely to change jobs. It all makes sense and makes sense, right? But if the theory does make sense, why hasn’t it happened to us? Why do we see the exact opposite? What is our secret?

secret sauce

We believe it’s our non-enforced hybrid model – a work-anywhere policy that really taps into some of the most powerful dynamics: being heard and valued. We understand the importance of intrinsic motivators and use them as our compass. Whenever we roll out a policy or program, we always ask ourselves the following questions: Will the program promote employee engagement and well-being? Will this enhance the employee’s sense of purpose, respect and appreciation? Does the success of this policy depend on trust in our employees? Do we have the courage to take this leap of faith? For us, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

It is our policy to allow employees to use the office as they please. We are headquartered in New York City and have coworking spaces across the country where employees can come and go as they please. In addition to a few occasional mandatory meetings each year, our employees have valuable flexibility to work in a way that suits them.

Don’t get me wrong. The decision was not made without reservation. As with all new things, there is always an element of risk. Fortunately, the gamble paid off. In fact, we hit the jackpot! Since launching this policy in 2021, we have seen year-on-year increases in employee satisfaction, productivity and retention.

A good culture is important to the survival of any organization. A great Culture is key to the successful functioning of the unforced hybrid model. I often hear things like, “Wow, you guys are so close! How do you develop such a great relationship with your team, especially when you don’t work face-to-face on a regular basis? What’s your secret?”

At the risk of sounding too silly, I always reply that our secret is genuine love and mutual respect. Nothing works without this key ingredient. You have to really care about your team. You have to treat them as people, not human resources. Hiring great people builds a working family that shares those values. Authenticity can be felt no matter the distance. The best laughs or heartfelt conversations happen over Zoom because the old saying is true: love knows no boundaries.

But as another famous saying goes, sometimes time and love are not enough.In order to retain top talent, you
must develop Great talent. Whenever possible, we conduct the training in person because we believe it is the most effective. We have a robust training program that, in addition to our tuition reimbursement program, offers soft skills training such as internal and external sales training, management training, interview training, and time and stress management training. We strongly believe in providing employees with the capabilities and tools for continuous growth, both within and beyond their current field.

Another important factor is feedback, which needs to be provided frequently and in real time. Out of sight out of mind. We provide managers with guidelines regarding our social and behavioral expectations of them. We planned many touchpoints. Managers create a custom feedback plan that best suits the needs of the team. Some teams need more face-to-face collaboration, while others are better off working independently – another example where we don’t enforce a one-size-fits-all approach.

Fascinating to see how people actually come in on a regular basis and not because they have but because they choose arrive. It’s purely psychological: if they’re forced in, they’re likely to do so reluctantly. Some teams like to come once or twice a week, while others like to come three times a week. Due to distance or preference, some teams only meet quarterly in-person. That’s okay too. To ensure everyone can meet company-wide, Undertone hosts an annual off-site summit where we all come together to strategize and network. This is a great opportunity to meet everyone, especially new hires, in a fun and relaxed environment.

If you were to talk to every single one of our new hires, they would say that our non-compulsory blending policy was a major determinant of acceptance to our offer. When we hear a new sales executive say, “I told my spouse, I can’t wait to make a lot of money for Undertone because of the way they treat their people.” It makes us proud and encourages us to continue on our path . There is no doubt that this model works. But only with the right attitude, the right people, and the courage to trust each other.

Louise Peddell is the Vice President of Human Resources for Undertone, a Perion company.

The opinions expressed in Fortune review articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of: wealth.


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