Fast Company tells its readers that every sector is being hit by The Great Resignation. But Saucal hasn’t been affected by the loss of talent some companies are seeing.
And I don’t expect us to be impacted, either.
If I sound overly-confident, it’s because deep down I know that the Saucal team shares the same philosophy around work: You should be able to work where you want, and when you want.
In fact, The Great Resignation is so far away from Saucal’s world that I hadn’t even heard of it until a colleague mentioned it a few days ago. I did some reading about what’s happening and why employees and contractors are leaving their jobs in droves. And I got it – completely.
The Great Promise
Who remembers the arrival of the Internet in the mid-’90s and The Great Promise? I was just a boy in the remote Northern Canadian town of Yellowknife when the net arrived, and it opened up a whole new world for me!
The rest of the (connected) world felt the same way, too. The sense of anticipation was huge. A revolution was on the way. No one knew quite what kind of revolution, but it would be big, and full of opportunities, too.
Thousands of words were said and written about how life would change. The Internet would renew democracy and the voices of marginalized people would finally be heard. New forms of community would arise, joining people with shared interests and goals across vast distances. We could expect to work remotely, travel where we wanted while working, and – some HR experts predicted – even work fewer hours.
The Great Promise has soured into something that at its worst is brutally hateful. At its best – if I can even use that word – it’s monopolized by tech giants set on squeezing out anything they see as a threat.
Reversing The Great Resignation
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Great Resignation can be stymied if businesses and employees and contractors work together to make this vision something real.
If your business is struggling with The Great Resignation and you’re on a mission to win back workers, these are tactics I recommend you consider. They’ll make your business run better and your employees and contractors a lot happier – and for you that means more productive!
Fulfil the promise of the internet!
The first step for businesses large and small is to fulfil the promise of the Internet. How? Use it! Don’t ask clients to come in and sign papers when it can be done online and securely with tools like DocuSign.
Too many hours are wasted with face-to-face first-time meetings when you may not continue working with a supplier or consultant. Use online tools for the first connection, and save that in-person get-together for growing the relationship. This definitely makes an impact!
I’m old enough to remember the years of flying across continents for meetings. Travel and expense budgets were eaten up quickly. I’m not suggesting that you use Zoom for everything; a lot of work can be done on Slack or asynchronously.
I understand why people and tech companies flock to San Francisco in the U.S., or Toronto and Vancouver in Canada, and London in the U.K. It’s the culture. And those cities are awesome. But on the other hand, I never understood why it was so concentrated. A lot of people work on the Internet, they don’t need to be there. You can find cities in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. with insane levels of affordability, and work remotely. One needs to leverage that!
One other point – you don’t have to hire in a specific city, or country. Unless you have some specific legal requirements (like SpaceX) I get it. Otherwise, branch out! Some people will want to change cities, provinces, or states. If so, let them! Figure out how to make it work.
End the commute!
Before starting Saucal with my business partner Dominik Sauter, I worked in Toronto for about eight months, commuting to and from home each day to a downtown office. Toronto, the seventh largest city in North America by population, isn’t friendly to commuters. Its public transit system – the envy of the world in the ‘60s and ‘70s – is outdated, over-crowded, and unreliable.
I won’t mince words. I hated that commute and couldn’t understand why it was necessary when I could do the exact same thing from my home office. But I was told I’d need to be there for a year before I earned that privilege. It just didn’t make sense to me.
And the big picture around commuting shows us that millions of people are prisoners to long commutes every single weekday, making them stressed and exhausted. Has anyone tallied the mental health cost of the commute?
Then of course there’s the cost to the planet. Unless they’re cycling, workers are unwillingly forced into polluting the planet when without doubt emissions should be headed in the opposite direction.
People fell in love with working from home!
For the last decade when I told people I worked from home, they looked at me like a poor, second-class citizen. I had no commute. I had the comfort of my house, and I was way more productive.
Big business said “It couldn’t be done,” and then BOOM, they had to do it, and things worked out. Who would have thought? It’s time to adapt or die. You can’t rest on your laurels forever. And there are no excuses.
COVID-19 forced working from home on millions of contractors and employees, and they loved it, and appreciated the flexibility it offered. Responsible workers got the job done and respected their employer’s time. It’s working out for both parties, and businesses are discovering that there’s a hidden cost saving – no expensive leasing, property management fees, or property taxes.
Workers don’t like feeling they’re at risk
Consumers love the convenience of late shopping, and apps like Uber and Skip the Dishes, while workers like the flexibility that part-time work and apps offer. But COVID impacted that, this time making front-line workers feel they were at risk. Part of the problem was the lack of clear contractual agreements with clauses around contractor personal protective equipment.
Should businesses have done more, or at least something? Probably. But by not acting, they left a vacuum which is quickly being filled by unions. In Canada, Gig Workers United is going from strength to strength, while in the U.K. the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain is the main trade union challenging employment law around part-time and gig work.
Most businesses loath government regulation, so if you don’t want unions knocking at your door, or more government policies forced on you, the best (and respectful) thing to do is communicate with contractors regularly. Listen to them. What issues are they facing? What do they want from you? What can you provide?
If you’re a worker feeling unsafe in your job, go out and find a solution that brings you safety. That often involves innovation that itself is an opportunity. Focus on solutions, and if that doesn’t work, find a new job.
Struggling to bring staff back to their jobs?
If you had to let workers go before the pandemic started, it’s not surprising they’re unsure about returning. Afterall, COVID is still here, so if someone returns there’s no guarantee that they won’t be let go again.
To retain staff, you need to inspire people. As yourself: Can staff feel as though they can grow, Do co-workers like and respect each other? Is the work meaningful? These are the things that keep people. It’s not all about money . . . in fact, it rarely is. Finally, are you innovating as an organization?
The secret to successfully working from home
For Dom and me, working from home was the ideal choice when we created Saucal. We were most comfortable in our apartment, and obviously it was cost-effective for a start-up. Eventually, we got an office, but we were stuck with commuting again.
So we returned to our homes, but tweaked things quite a bit. We needed dedicated work spaces. In doing this, we found the secret: You can separate work from home. When work was done, I left my workspace, and as a result, it left my mind.
Next, Saucal was growing. Given that we knew we never wanted to commute again, it made sense to commit to hiring globally. And with this decision we’ve been able to acquire the best of the best. The globe gives us enviable choice when it comes to hiring – and there are some pretty talented people out there.
This doesn’t mean that working from home is easy. Distractions can arise so, again, a dedicated work space is best, and you need to have discipline. But with the right people, attitudes and tools it can be successful. See our recent article Working From Home and Managing a Remote Team for the full details.
Don’t be tempted with a hybrid work-from-home model
On the surface, the hybrid model sounds great because it appears to fulfil the needs of both parties. For a small number of businesses and employees it does work. However, in my view, it’s not the answer because it can give you the worst of both worlds!
An employee doesn’t have the freedom to travel because they still have to be in the office sometimes. And because they have to be in the office, they have to commute. For employers, there are schedules to keep track of, and it just adds another layer of tasks to take care of.
The keys to running a remote team
Do we have it all figured out? Not at all. We are learning and adjusting all the time. Geographically, the Saucal team extends as far as Pacific Time (GMT minus 7) to Central European time (GMT plus 2). And because we value allowing our team members to work from anywhere, it’s conceivable that one could be in Hawaii and another in Japan.
To ensure projects progress smoothly, we do have a rule: Each team member must be available at least three hours a day during Eastern Time. That way, we’re able to collaborate and converse in real time.
In addition, I have to stress that in-person meetings are STILL KEY. For us, we have found that if the team meets annually, or every eight months, it’s a huge help in terms of bonding, connecting, reaffirming values, and setting the goals for the next six to eight months.
Dom, me, and a couple of senior Saucal team members make up the executive team, and for us meeting every quarter is good. We know that certain creative work is best done in-person. And we found if we were together long enough, we’d exhaust the time, and would have a ton of ideas to work on until we saw each other next.
As mentioned, we value freedom of location and so we’re working towards full asynchronous work. That way, we can truly have staff in all corners of the globe.