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By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL
“As we’ve moved to virtual work, we haven’t just coped, we’ve actually thrived.” – Suresh Kumar, CTO at Walmart
The COVID-19 pandemic has ripped the band aid off any question of the validity and viability of remote work. Companies are on notice that workers want more flexibility and balance in their work lives. Working From Home (WFH) has long been a desire of working families, people with young children, and those with elderly parents. Not to mention the commuting hours wasted in traffic jams and backups, adding hours to the typical workday.
With the onset of the pandemic, with lockdowns put in place to contain a highly communicable disease, employers and employees have had to adjust to make remote work productive and to preserve the company culture. In some cases, that new way of working isn’t going away any time soon, and employers are worried that people will refuse to come back to the office, or worse, quit and go elsewhere.
Recently, I had a phone conversation with a former colleague who is now a vice president and general manager of a major New England firm. Her company offers both remote and hybrid work, depending on the employee’s assignment. One of her comments that struck me was that a nearby competitor is demanding their employees get back into the office immediately, and she’s discovered that the competitor’s people are “voting with their feet” – leaving that firm, and joining hers, enjoying far more flexible working arrangements. Research has shown that 72% of knowledge workers polled across six different countries prefer hybrid work, with the option of joining colleagues in the office several days a month.
The benefits of hybrid or remote work are not limited to employees alone. Employers can now pull talent from a much larger talent pool, without the expense of relocation or in person interviews. Studies have also shown that productivity soars in a hybrid environment. Less commuting time means more productive work time. And resources are saved. The costs of renting space, buying office furniture, and in general, operating costs decrease, even with a WFH stipend. In fact, a number of well-known companies, Twitter and IBM among them, are now considering giving employees the option of remote work on a permanent basis.
Some may believe absence from the office will impede their career growth or dampen their social interactions. Neither of these have to be true, if managed properly. It’s up to employers to provide opportunities for people to gather. It’s important to keep teams together to avoid these WFH pitfalls. Suggestions range from synchronizing times for remote work and office work time. When people are working from home, limit the virtual meeting time so people can concentrate and get their work done with fewer interruptions. Install an independent camera feed for the conference room when talking to a distant remote worker. Make sure that the remote people can see and hear everyone in the room at all times.
In addition, maintaining company culture and on-boarding new employees remain sticking points for some employers. Do your research and be patient with people. WFH is new to everyone, not just the boss.
The hybrid/remote workplace requires a new set of rules and behaviors for everyone. Office work is unlikely to ever return to the way it used to be. WFH is here to stay. The horse is out of the barn. Be adaptable, available, and productive, and you and your company can navigate WFH successfully.
“People are more productive working at home than people would have expected. Some people thought that everything was just going to fall apart, and it hasn’t. And a lot of people are actually saying that they’re more productive now.” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook
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Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas.
Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society.
Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University.
Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.