When I worked in global Internal Communications in Corporate America for decades, I would regularly approach HR about the need for our company to have a telecommuting policy. The vast majority of the time, the answer was, “No,” because senior leaders did not trust that employees would be productive at home. Leaders wanted to physically see employees working – in the flesh.
Enter COVID-19. In March 2020, companies across the world closed their offices and told employees to work from home. At that time, we did know that a massive, long-term social experiment was about to begin. One year later, hundreds of millions of workers are still working remotely.
Employers would not have chosen this; it was forced upon them. They’ve had to become more nimble, flexible, resilient, and kind. And more importantly, we’ve learned a lot. We meet too much, employees in an office setting are not more productive, and the sense of connection we feel to co-workers gets lost when we are not physically co-located.
Some companies plan to remain 100% remote post-pandemic, while others will choose a hybrid model where employees can choose where they work. Others will demand that everyone come back. Whatever option you choose, I think this forced experiment was good for employers and employees. Leaders now see that telecommuting does work and many employees will now have options not afforded to them pre-pandemic.
Jill, What Can I Do? Communicate with your employees to find out what they want your workplace to look like post-pandemic. If you make a decision without their input, employees will disengage, as people want a say in important decisions that impact them. Conduct a ‘Return to the Work Safely Survey’ to gauge what people are thinking and to the extent possible, execute on what you hear. This approach will pay dividends for your company for years to come, as you figure out your new world of work.