In March 2020, 85% of associations said their staff primarily worked onsite. A year later, only 8% of these associations plan to return to their traditional office setting. This is just one of the dramatic changes revealed by the State of Association Workplaces Post-Pandemic Survey from Achurch Consulting and Association TRENDS.
Most associations are now adopting a hybrid or remote work model. But what if your association plans to stick to the old status quo? How can you convince your volunteer and/or staff leadership that a flexible work model is the best choice for your association?
Challenge: bridging the gap between what the board (or CEO) wants and what employees want
It’s drilled into every CAE’s head: the board should focus on strategic decisions while staff executives focus on operational decisions. However, not everyone got that memo. In some associations, the board has undue influence on decisions concerning the workplace. Some of these boards think it’s better to have staff working together in one place. Their resistance to hybrid or remote work is puzzling when countless studies show the benefits of a flexible work model.
Board composition is often to blame. If older members dominate your board, they could be biased toward older ways of working—the world they’ve always known. But it’s not always a generational issue. Some board members are biased toward what they see in their professional lives. If they go to the office every day, they don’t see why you can’t, too. They don’t always consider what’s best for association staff productivity, retention, and recruitment.
Maybe it’s not the board but the association CEO who is out of step with employment trends. This isn’t so unusual given the many headlines we see about management wanting employees to return to the office while employees wish to continue working from home. Talk with employees or to gather deeper data, conduct an assessment to find out what they prefer and how they work best. Make sure you are also aware of what professionals in the association industry prefer. After all, they’re the people you may need to hire in the future.
Research-backed benefits of a flexible work model
We’ve seen our clients and many other associations reap the many benefits of remote work, and researchers agree it has its advantages. You can reference the following information to help make your case to the board.
- Greater productivity. A Stanford study found that remote employees were 13% more productive than their counterparts. When you establish communication and meeting protocols, employees have even more time for focused, productive work since distractions and needless tasks are minimized.
- Increased operational efficiency. Staff become more intentional about using technology since it powers all communication, collaboration, and data-sharing. Absenteeism is reduced because staff no longer need to take time off for doctor’s appointments, a minor cold—or a child’s sniffles.
- Competitive edge for talent acquisition and retention. People are seeking a healthier work/life balance and employers who can provide the workplace flexibility that allows it. They’re enjoying the commute-free lifestyle and the extra time and money it’s saved.
- Improved staff wellbeing. As long as the organizational culture respects work/life boundaries, remote employees aren’t as stressed as they were when trying to juggle office hours and commutes with personal responsibilities. Remote employees have both the quiet time and camaraderie they need. They have more autonomy about when and where they get work done, which leads to increased intrinsic motivation and improved morale.
- Lower operational costs. Among our association survey participants who attempted to calculate the ROI for having a remote workforce, 89% said it was a favorable return. Some of their financial gains came from releasing or reducing office space. Of those associations that leased office space in 2020:
- 19% will not renew their lease and will opt for a smaller space or no space at all.
- 18% will keep some or all but repurpose the workspaces.
- 6% will keep some or all but lease out portions.
Their bottom line was also improved thanks to lower expenses for real estate taxes, utilities, janitorial services, office furnishings, kitchen supplies, parking or public transportation stipends, paper, and printing. Associations with remote workplaces can reinvest these funds into their programs and people.
Flexible work is the future of work
Let your board know how rapidly and definitively the association talent marketplace has changed in the last year. The professionals you want to hire are not only looking locally for new jobs; they’re looking nationally and even globally at employers who offer a hybrid or remote work environment.
Association executives must have the flexibility to choose the best work model for their organization—remote or hybrid. Find out what your employees want and craft your future together. A collaborative approach to your workplace will ensure their support as you tackle challenges together.
To learn about the experience of hundreds of other associations as they moved to a hybrid or remote workplace, as well as our insights on best practices for a flexible work model, download our State of Association Workplaces Post-Pandemic Survey.