When the pandemic hit, most corporate offices and businesses were forced to shut offices and they encouraged employees to work from home. For many, this was a blessing in disguise. Working right of your bedroom or dining room saved millions a ton of time because:
- The time they took to commute back and forth work was chopped down resulting in saving time and money.
- Individuals got to utilize that time to complete work-related projects, spend time with family and not work late nights and weekends.
- This also saved many businesses by reducing operational expenses (rent, meals, and entertainment). Businesses could use these funds to reinvest back into their business as working capital or allocate towards raises and bonuses for those employees who overperformed even by working from home.
This was a win-win even in a situation where we were seeing the broader world continuing to navigate through the pandemic with many challenges lined up.
That said, there were many businesses that either had to shut down temporarily or completely cause working remotely was not an option. Brick and mortar retail companies, restaurants, and theaters were the ones that suffered the most. Working from home wasn’t even an option. Even construction and real estate field agents suffered, although real estate in general (home buying) continued to boom in the pandemic.
The pandemic changed the way the world worked. For industries where flexibility and remote work were an option, this proved to be a benefit for both employees and employers. Especially for employees since many rank “flexible working conditions and remote work” as one of the biggest drivers and perks to taking a job.
Now as stated earlier above, this necessarily does not mean that every industry can afford to adhere to this type of setting. Even for industries that encourage remote work, it may not be feasible for the employees in case the employee does not have the resources to meet the remote work requirements. For example - if an employee has space constraints at home, this option may not be suitable for the potential employee.
Hence why flexible working conditions are such an important feature that should be introduced by industries that can afford to do so and more so for job functions that can fit into this type of setting.
Flexibility means - “allow every team to take their own decision on whether they want to come into office physically or work from home. There shouldn't be a one-solution fits for all approach. If people can work from home indefinitely and over-perform and deliver, then let that be the case. If some teams need to come in once a week or once a month, then that is what works for that team”.
On the work-from-home topic, one thing we want to clarify is that it is not ok to burn your employees. Being empathetic and understanding is crucial. It is not ok to let your employees work till midnight with the notion that their bed is just a footstep away. Setting boundaries is crucial for their health and mental wellness.
Flexibility also means “don’t pressurize your employees to come in just because you want to keep an eye on them”. If this is the case, are we hiring people with the notion that we trust them to deliver only if we keep an eye on them? Aren’t we not hiring people with the notion that we trust them to deliver, communicate, be responsible and get the job done regardless? Physical presence has nothing to do with delivering and being productive. It only plays a role in case the job function only allows for productivity if delivered in person or if an employee has distractions and space constraints at home. Then too, there are cafes and other spots nearby their home that they can choose to work from if they prefer to do so.
Hopefully, we all have some empathy and understand that both employers and employees are from the same breed - the human breed. No one is above anyone. No one should use their ego and power over someone to make them miserable or helpless. By this we mean, if you are the employer and you have people working for you, don’t use that power and make others miserable. Understand, be empathetic and support the flexibility if the job functions allow supporting this kind of setting. If a person’s job is to enter data or use the computer or even make calls using their phone, then we don’t see any reason why this can’t be done remotely from the area of their convenience. Even meetings can all happen via video. Just think for a second - why are companies like Apple and Zoom investing in making video calling features? So that we can see our loved ones at any time and we can communicate and perform any business activities in case of distance constraints. Yes seeing each other in person is different and the feeling is so much better. Informal conversations by the cooler or cafe are great to break the ice and getting to know each other. But that has its time too. Wanting to see each other just to keep a tap on them on what they are doing isn’t the best feeling. That’s more like micromanaging and bossing around which goes against all leadership principles.
We are here for one another and will only grow because of everyone’s combined efforts and support. No one makes it to the top alone. Let’s be more flexible with our people and lead by example. Focus more on employee productivity and them delivering the job rather than focusing on micromanaging and physically keeping an eye on what everyone is doing. Trust your people! Without trust, everyone will be miserable.