What Business Practices Should We Be Shifting?

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By Colleen Torell, JD
April 08, 2020
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Stay-at-home orders forced companies into an experiment; separate nearly all functions from their standard physical work space while maintaining engagement and work productivity and quality.

It may feel distant but the day will come when we return to the office. In the meantime, what data can we collect to evolve not only our business continuity plans but also our mindset around virtual work?

Companies can leverage lessons learned to re-evaluate whether work historically required to be completed in the office might switch to a hybrid in-office/remote—if not exclusively remote—schedule.

Potential Gains

Attracting and retaining talent: Job seekers across functions, levels and expertise consistently seek employers who allow for flexibility. Establishing practices that support distance work will make you a more attractive employer to those whose lives demand it.

Real estate: Think back to the gradual shift from rooms full of paper files kept on site to physical and then digital archiving. How could an increase in remote employee contributions have in the footprint of your space? Companies make significant investments to accommodate their workforce. What might your organization save if it traded dedicated space for every worker for shared space/hoteling policies?

Do not judge dips in productivity or engagement too hastily as necessary casualties of remote work without considering the bigger picture. Some impediments to productivity are unique to current events.

The scale of anxiety that people feel right now it at the same time extraordinary and temporary. It extends far beyond an individual’s health concerns to the threats to friends and family, job security, worries about the economy, stress of home schooling, accommodating college students’ return home as they shift to distance learning, and increased competition for space and technology resources while full households are contained in their movements.

Social isolation is a frequently cited downside of remote work in general. In better times we have other outlets for connecting with people in person – cafés, coffee shops, co-working spaces. In Spring of 2020 social isolation is absolute.

Every day we function from home we accumulate evidence of how much “office” work we can accommodate given our removal from business as usual. And every day we learn a little bit more about how work might change when we return to the physical locations of our business.

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