What a roller coaster! Remote work has gone from a small group of workers (mostly sales work on commission from home), to a major training/retraining job for organizations. Now we hear the “back to the office” chant is gaining momentum. How do you plan which way to go, and what are the tell-tail signs?
The latest projection I’ve seen sets the date of continuing remote work to be the Spring of 2022. To be safe, push it out to late Spring. That is, unless another variant comes along more lethal than current forms of the pandemic. Then all bets are off.
The government hasn’t been much help either. Different agencies (Federal, State and Local) have diverse mandates. School requirements are dissimilar. Child care is in play, with one state declaring that 3-year old’s and up in child care must wear masks. Can you imagine a 3-year-old complying? If a parent pulls their child from child care, then they have to work from home, find a person for home care, or quit.
Big companies started to recall workers to the office in July, only to reverse themselves in September. Just imagine the confusion and family planning issues of hundreds of thousands of people. Here are some thoughts to help sort alternatives for you:
- Watch what’s happening in the commercial real estate market for your organization the general market. If your company offices are for rent, chances are they are rethinking their policies for workers. Some are closing down the large facilities and moving more to hybrid work. Others are diversifying their offices to smaller units
- Companies are caught in a catch-22. If they continue remote work, the cost of main office space with very few commuting to work is high. If they “force” workers to the office, or even a hybrid system, workers may seek remote positions elsewhere. The question is, can performance and results remain high enough working remotely, to fund the liability of keeping the offices open for when the pandemic is under control?
- It seems to me that the hybrid system of remote and office work to a planned schedule may be the compromise. There has to be compromise for different industries. The hospitality and restaurant industries may have to move toward multiple part-time workers based on a schedule that is appropriate and mutually convenient to the owners. Why is that? Because only about 15% or so of workers want to return to full-time office work, while over 70% or so want a hybrid system that gives them more flexibility.
- Expect more training in supervising remote groups, effective video meetings, the balance of work and life issues, communications problems with alternative solutions, setting priorities, managing quick changes, open-ended video discussions, and the like.
Organizations are trying to figure out the best way to proceed. They must also understand that the best way to communicate with customers, vendors, managers/supervisors and employees are one-on-one face-to-face discussions. How to accomplish that dynamic will determine how to best move forward and accelerate results.
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