Microsoft made news in announcing plans to reopen its offices and enter the hybrid-work era. Goldman Sachs is bringing employees back to its offices in June. Google says that in the post-pandemic world, it expects most of its staff to spend about three days per week in the office.
Whether, when and how to bring which associates back into the office – and the implications of having a hybrid workforce – raise a whole lot of questions. We’re having a conversation about all of that right now. The leadership team at your organization is probably talking about it, too.
Here are some things to consider as you decide what’s right for your people and your business.
Examine Your Longer-Term Strategic Objectives And Financial Goals
Some business leaders are taking a hard line on returning to the office. They believe that when the company makes the request, coming back to the office is just part of the job. Other people think it’s fine for associates to continue working from homes if that’s what they prefer to do.
How will you as a company leader handle it? Do you force it? Should associates be able to decide whether and when they return? How do you address worker well-being? Will people feel safe? The bigger debate is why people have to go back to the office at all, other than the fact that businesses have office space and leaders want to see it filled so they feel good as the management.
What is your corporate stance? In making that decision, consider how you’ll manage the new environment and how it fits with your longer-term strategic objectives and your financial plan. There are some things that are just easier to do in person. But you also should analyze whether it’s really necessary to have people in the office for specific functions. Would those functions, processes or teams operate at less than their peak if people were not in the office? And if they were operating below peak, would it derail you from reaching your company objectives? If the answer is that it doesn’t derail you, then maybe they’re in the remote category.
This may seem counterintuitive. But when you evaluate what you need to achieve your goals, be sure to figure employee experience into the equation. If you don’t address the employee experience, you may not have the team you need to realize your key objectives. As McKinsey notes, “Companies know that a better employee experience means a better bottom line.”
Assess The Tools, Technologies, Policies And Protocols You’ll Need
In this new work world, you need to analyze and act to design the optimal workspace.
For example, business leaders now have to figure out how to support different in-office schedules. I’ve asked my team to go out and find hoteling software. That way, Unisys associates will be able to reserve a spot in the Dallas office. And the company will have the ability to monitor and control the number of reservations to enable social distancing as needed.
You can’t leave all that up to the office manager. If 20 people show up in downtown Dallas one day, I don’t want to put the office manager in the position of deciding who can and cannot come in. I want to avoid turning away employees who have just driven 45 minutes to the office only to be told that they can’t work there today. That would just create friction and frustration.
Align IT Investments With Your Company Culture
People are experiencing meeting fatigue. It seems like everybody thinks that because you’re at home, you must be free. So our calendars are filling up faster than ever before.
Yet despite all the work people are doing, many companies are using or looking at employee monitoring software and asking people to leave on their cameras. I refuse to do that. If you do that, you’re essentially telling associates that you don’t trust them, don’t believe they are good people and are concerned they will steal from the company. That creates the wrong culture.
Employee monitoring is becoming an ethical issue. My view is that there are other, better ways to measure productivity and how things are working than resorting to employee monitoring.
Examine Your Data To Understand Efficacy
We’ve all had about a year and a half of operating our companies in the new world brought on by the pandemic. There’s plenty of data to examine regarding what did and didn’t work.
Take the time and effort to mine that data. Work to understand where the efficacy lies.
I think that most companies need a new operating model. It’s a new world, and Covid-19 won’t be the last pandemic. That means you have got to be prepared for a touchless business model.
There are people who want to operate in person, but many people may not. Now you’ve got to do both. Does your operating model change? You bet it does. Will you have to address working policies around personal time? Yes. All that stuff now needs to become pandemic-friendly.
The bottom line is that in this new era, one size doesn’t fit all. Figure out what works for you.
Unisys has a set of design principles on which the Unisys senior leadership team has agreed, and we shared it with our outside consultants. These design principles lead us to the company culture and outcomes we want. If we design anything that violates even one of these design principles, we throw it out. We rethink it. It can’t exist because it goes against our principles.
Avoid looking around and basing your model on what somebody else is doing. If you take that approach, you are ignoring your culture. Do what’s right for your people, clients and future.
This blog was originally published on Forbes.com. Link.