Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made headlines last week when he announced that all employees can choose to work from home even after the coronavirus shelter-in-place orders end (this week he extended the policy to Square, where he’s also CEO). Google and Facebook have told employees who are able to work from home that should plan to continue doing so until 2021. On the east coast, The New York Times reports that executives with Barclays, JP Morgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley believe it’s “highly unlikely” that many of their employees will ever return to their Manhattan offices. These companies are not outliers. The radical changes so many of us have made to our daily workstyles will have a profound and permanent impact on how we communicate and collaborate with one another.
That is one of the key takeaways from a virtual roundtable entitled “The New Normal? How the Global Pandemic Will Change the Way People Work”. Click this link to access the recording.
“Business leaders and team managers should expect more of their employees will stop asking ‘When can we return to the office,’ and start asking ‘Why do we have to return to the office?’,” says our colleague Beverly Rubin, Planview AdaptiveWork’s VP of Global HR, who served as the moderator.
Beverly opened the discussion by polling the hundreds of attendees on what concerns they have as their workplaces start to re-open. The majority indicated that not contracting Covid-19 is their top priority, particularly given the possibility of a second wave of infections later this year.
Panelist Steven Hunt, PH.D., who is Chief Expert, Work & Technology at SAP North America, and an industrial-organizational psychologist, said business leaders need to set aside company policies that restrict when or if employees can work from home. He argued the fact that companies were forced to adapt to teleworking so quickly proves there are a number of benefits to giving people the freedom to decide whether teleworking full- or part-time makes sense for them.
“The primary traits we look for when hiring someone is not whether they can commute to an office,” Hunt added. “We pay people for what they do, not where they sit.”
So many of us are entering our third month of working from home, doing our parts in the global community’s effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus. We’re balancing work and family responsibilities, and trying not to go stir-crazy. You might think the majority of people can’t wait to leave their homes and return to their offices, but Hunt points to a recent Gallup poll that finds the opposite is true:
- 62% of employed Americans are working from home – double since mid-March
- 59% prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible, once public health restrictions are lifted
- Only 41% want to return to their workplace or office, as they did before the crisis
Consider also a new report from research firm Valoir which found that the rapid transition people had to make to work from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has had just a 1% reduction in their productivity.
“Organizations are surprised productivity is increasing and overtime is decreasing. They’re billing for the time they’re working, not commuting. Projects are getting done, work is accomplished, clients are satisfied. People may not want to work remotely 100 percent of the time, but a majority will want to some of the time or at least have the option,” added panelist Dr. Mark Bojeun, Director of Program Management at Skyline Technologies Solutions and author of “Program Management Leadership: Creating Successful Team Dynamics”.
Suzanne Rudnitzki, Chief Operating Officer at Smarsh, said it’s important for managers to stop tracking how much time employees spend in the office as the way to measure whether work is getting done. Rather, they should examine how an individual’s work outcome supports the company’s success in meeting its business objectives.
She also expects another profound change all employees will have to adjust to will be determining when it’s truly necessary to schedule yet another meeting.
“Before the pandemic, you used to be able to walk down the hall, tap someone on the shoulder, and ask them a question,” she said. “Now, I’m seeing people schedule meetings instead, and everyone’s calendars are overloaded. If you have a question, ask someone directly, don’t schedule a meeting.”
Of all our panelists, David Walters OnePM System Manager at Siemens Energy may have the most experience in teleworking. He doesn’t actually have a “home office” at any of the company’s facilities because he spends at least 75% of his time traveling and working from home.
“When I’m working with someone, I often don’t know where they are, and I don’t care,” he said. “They got the work done or attended a meeting, and it’s fine.”
David added there are instances when it’s more beneficial to get his team together in person.
“There’s still something about getting together in a room if you have to wrestle a problem to the ground that is much more effective than holding multiple webinars and video conferencing meetings. We’ve also instituted a policy of bringing the whole team together on a quarterly basis – that visceral contact must still happen.”
Our wide-ranging discussion on how our workstyles will change, and why business leaders need to change their mindsets, was just the first 20 minutes of our discussion. We also examined how companies should prepare to address the long-term emotional impact this crisis will have on employees.
We will provide more details in a subsequent post and follow this link to listen to the entire session.
While our panelists were able to answer a number of attendees’ questions, there are many more they didn’t have time to address. They’ve agreed to do so on our blog, so be sure to subscribe to stay up to date.
And as your organization prepares to re-open your offices, expect some employees to race back to their desks, and others to request permission to continue working from home part- or full-time. Your ability to accommodate everyone’s preferred workstyles is vital to achieving effective business agility. Our new ebook, “Powering Remote Work” can help. It provides our expert guidance on how to implement the most effective methods and platforms for facilitating effective collaboration between remote workers and their colleagues in the main offices.
To download your free copy, please follow this link.