There are global issues impacting workers and, in turn, informing their values. Workers are increasingly making career decisions based off of factors such as corporate dedication to inclusion, sustainability, and other modern values. A 2022 survey by Benevity found that some companies see turnover lowered by more than 50 percent among employees who participate in their corporate purpose programs.
Companies must speak to these values—and enact the policies necessary to support these commitments—if they wish to attract and retain talent. So, what are some of the key priorities that workers have, and how can companies approach them in a way that resonates with workers?
Recent data show that workers value autonomy and flexibility. A large component of flexibility involves nontraditional work models, such as hybrid and remote work. For example, a 2022 survey by Deloitte found that three of every four Gen Z workers prefer hybrid/remote roles. Not only do workers feel that remote positions allow them to take more control over how their time is spent, but the survey also indicates that it helps them save money on costs associated with daily commutes, enables them to focus more effectively, and allows them to see loved ones more often.
It should be noted that many lab processes cannot be performed remotely. As such, R&D companies, diagnostic testing labs, etc. seeking to capture workers must offer flexibility in other ways. Besides allowing remote work when feasible, this could mean more paid time off, flexible working hours, and other arrangements that enable workers to fit their jobs to their lives—rather than the inverse.
To successfully implement remote/flexible working options, employers must adopt new technologies that allow such work to be executed effectively.
Embrace technological change
Adopting new technology that allows remote work to be conducted more effectively demonstrates an open-mindedness and results-driven attitude in leaders that young workers will find appealing.
However, video calls merely emulate the experience of meeting in person. It is important that companies leverage innovative technology to enhance, not just facilitate, work otherwise done in person to sustain the flexible work options. An example of such technology is mixed reality (MR).
MR technology projects informational overlays and 3D models out into the real world, typically through a headset, allowing an intuitive way to interact with digital objects. MR headsets can take the experience of collaborating to a new level. For instance, rather than viewing a building render on a 2D computer screen, lab design teams can don headsets and walk through the space virtually. They will experience a sense of scale and presence that cannot be replicated on a 2D display in an office, allowing them to more easily determine if the lab design will serve their needs, identify bottlenecks, and optimize equipment placement. Additionally, MR can overlay utility runs and infrastructure over the real environment, allowing users to see exactly where electrical lines, plumbing, etc. are located.
In other cases, equipment service technicians can view a live feed from the MR headset, allowing for remote, streamlined troubleshooting and decreasing the number of onsite service calls.
Adopting new technology can also further a company’s environmental sustainability goals—another point that workers have identified as a priority.
Implement sustainable practices
According to the Deloitte survey, deriving a sense of purpose is critical to retention: “Those who are satisfied with their employers’ societal and environmental impact...are more likely to want to stay with their employer for more than five years.”
Laboratories have a disproportionate environmental impact due to their stringent air quality requirements, energy-intensive equipment, and high levels of plastic waste generation. Younger demographics especially want to minimize their environmental footprint at home and work, aligning with organizations that share their values.
While ultra-low temperature freezers and fume hoods are frequently targeted for energy improvements in the lab, other newer technology, such as sustainable centrifuges that have energy-efficient hibernation modes and minimize energy loss due to friction, can go far in reducing a lab’s carbon footprint. Equipment manufacturers are constantly finding new ways to increase their products’ efficiency and decrease waste generation. Additionally, environmental monitoring systems can illuminate which aspects of the lab consume the most power, allowing lab managers to make data-driven decisions to improve their lab’s carbon footprint.
Embracing flexible work and minimizing travel can also be an effective way to increase sustainability. The “remote work revolution” spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic saw a global trend of decreased pollution levels in urban areas as many workers suddenly had no daily commute. Empowering lab staff to work remotely and partnering with vendors that incorporate remote service options continues to contribute to that positive environmental impact while demonstrating commitment to those shared values.
Building the lab of tomorrow necessitates appealing to the leaders of tomorrow. By establishing a rapport with workers now by offering flexible work models, prioritizing sustainability, and adopting the technology necessary to execute on those fronts, employers will be positioned to have productive, innovative labs as work culture continues to evolve.