There is no playbook for how to move forward given the pandemic, ever-changing government policies, and the wants and needs of employees regarding their safety.
The data shows people are as productive as they have always been but are employees happy with their work, do they understand the feedback they are receiving, and are they feeling connected to the culture?
Do employees feel valued and validated without the literal pat on the back and the coffee room conversations?
If employees start losing the initial adrenaline of quickly transitioning to work-from-home and start to miss their coworkers --we are social beings after all-- how do we solve the issues this global pandemic has thrown our way?
Maybe there is a way for us to reimagine how we interact and still allow the in-person conversations that foster stronger relationships and a deeper connection to the company mission. There may be a solution to each business's particular situation, one that allows us all to forge a way forward.
As businesses juggle decisions to keep employees working from home, debating whether to welcome them to the office and re-imaging the use of office space entirely, there is an underlying question about the long-term effects these choices will have.
We at Benschop Singh & Charpenter take in-person meetings very seriously and utilize our collaboration as a means to create innovative solutions and problem solve from different perspectives. But how do we do that safely while ensuring our employees feel comfortable and confident in the office?
We follow the guidelines that are present in our office, we stay several feet apart, we wear masks, and we walk down the halls in the directions of the arrows on the floor. We sign waivers daily and recognize the perceived risk of going to an office building and sharing our space with other people. Our solution is not the answer for all businesses or all employees; we understand our situation is as unique as we are.
At BSC we acknowledge the issues that would plague our business if we did not meet in-person, and we make our decisions based on the collective choices of everyone involved.
Data shows that working from home can cause burnout. There can be no distinction between work, regular life, and play. Unplugging, literally and figuratively, from work is hard when you associate your home with a working space and when that space is so readily accessible. Staying in the same place to do everything works for some people, but not us – not right now.
People in social careers like to interact. We enjoy collaboration. Before the pandemic, the growing use of collaborative spaces and non-descript working areas showed that workers enjoyed spending time together.
We want to connect. We want to come together. We want to feel and be safe.
The US moved to remote work in many industries swiftly and quickly without thought of the consequences. Evaluating the productivity of workers shows they are delivering the same quality of work they did previously. Employees are hitting the same metrics, and they are online just as long if not longer than before. This data is a necessary component to a greater whole, but how sustainable can a business be when people forget the culture from which they came?
How do you measure things that are not so tangible? How happy are people? How much do they still believe in the mission they are serving? How appreciated do they feel?
When an employee feels disconnected from something greater than their contributions, it may be hard to see themselves as more than just that individual.
As we imagine a new version of the future, we think it would be interesting to observe how employees feel about never going back to an office, never having in-person meetings, and never having an impromptu happy hour between colleagues.
Whatever the solution may be, at BSC we believe it is worth it to have a conversation with employees. It is worth it to give them the ability to control the risks that they take in their life. And it is worth it to make choices that allow everyone to feel safe and connected to the work they are doing.