Will We Ever Return to the Office: Looking to Major Corporations for Direction

2020 has had no shortage of surprises and learning experiences; from adjusting to face coverings to learning the laws of social distancing, our new normal is going to take some getting used to. One of the areas most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is the workforce and professional atmosphere.

According to Stanford University, a whopping 42 percent of the U.S. workforce is working remotely as a result of the pandemic and many experts expect the trend to continue. Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom says that remote work’s new sense of permanency has a lot to do with this sort of trial run we’ve had since the pandemic began. Bloom mentions that the old concerns, like lack of productivity and ineffective collaboration, have started to evaporate thanks to technology and employee participation. But what are the odds so many of your employees will be working from home offices over the next several years, and what challenges await?

In this post, we’re taking cues from how major corporations and influential businesses are handling the work from home dilemma. Plus, we’re examining some challenges and solutions to help you make the best decision for your organization.

1. Google

Google was one of the first major corporations to announce their work from home plans to the world, stating that they would keep employees home through June 2021, with some exceptions for employees who need to be in-office. Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, cited the ongoing pandemic as well as uncertainty around schools as the primary reasons they’ll be adopting remote work for the foreseeable future.

2. Aetna

Remote work has been embraced across a number of different industries, with insurance companies included. Aetna has been on the forefront of remote work, offering telecommuting for many employees as early as 2013. The remote work trend will likely continue for Aetna long after the pandemic ends.

3. Slack

As one of the most popular workplace messaging and communication systems, Slack is also leading the charge for remote work in a post-pandemic world. The company announced back in June that they’ll be allowing eligible employees to work from home indefinitely. Slack also said they’ll continue to hire remote workers as their organization grows in the coming months.

4. Twitter

Always on the cutting edge, Twitter reported via a company blog post, that they also plan to give their employees the option to work remotely indefinitely. The social media platform says, “…if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen.”

5. Zillow

Online real estate platform, Zillow, has opted to take a more conservative approach with the work from home model by pledging to offer remote work options through the end of the year.

6. Lincoln Financial

Lincoln Financial, who focuses on life insurance, annuities, and retirement plans, has a career page on their site dedicated to work from home. Lincoln Financial has also published a guide to helpful tips for working from home for their employees to utilize. This is an important consideration when overcoming potential setbacks of WFH.

By following the example of these major organizations that have already made the switch to remote work, you can make sure that your business is equipped to handle any potential pitfalls. Take a look at a company’s earnings and growth to decide they are a good example to follow. Additionally, try to duplicate the best practices of a company that is in a similar industry as you, that way you’ll be able to overcome many of the same challenges that company faced.

Whether you’re a giant corporation or a small business, what the next several months of 2020 (and beyond) hold is certain to no one. We may see ourselves embracing WFH until the rest of the year or forever, depending on your company’s service or product, culture, and the course of the public health crisis. As you reevaluate your options, keep these organizations and other industry leaders in mind.

WFH Tips to Help Your Remote Employees

No matter how long you plan to be working remotely, there’s always value in learning about new tips and tricks to help you and your staff adjust.

Provide adequate resources

Working from home serves up plenty of perks for many workers — no more commuting and lax work attire are WFH favorites — but there’s no question that moving your employee’s office into their home has some drawbacks, too. One of the biggest disadvantages employees and their employers are experiencing is the lack of office resources staff members have at home.

While you may not be able to relocate big office furniture pieces, fax machines, and cubicles, you should certainly make sure your organization is well-equipped with the essentials they need to perform their jobs. Here are a few staples to consider:

  • High-speed internet stipend
  • Hardware (laptop or desktop, mouse, an additional monitor)
  • Standard or standing desk
  • Chair
  • Organizational basics

Set expectations

For many employees, the work from home setup is a total transition from what they’re normally used to, so it’s important to set expectations and give clear instructions as you navigate this new normal. If you have an employee handbook, it may be a good idea to revamp it to suit your remote work structure. Include information like how to report to management, business hour expectations, guidelines for taking breaks and time off, etc. Setting forth these guidelines ahead of time will avoid miscommunications later on down the road. In fact, providing proper training and resources is one of the best things you can do to improve employee retention at your organization — no one likes to feel like they’re out of the loop!

Promote engagement and collaboration

Just because your organization is no longer interacting face-to-face doesn’t mean you need to forego collaboration. There are plenty of ways you can engage with your company in a professional way and in a more personal setting if your company culture subscribes to it!

Here are a few resources and ideas to think about as you look for ways to improve workplace engagement and collaboration as you WFH:

  • Use internal messaging apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams to connect departments.
  • Have managers set up regular check-in meetings with their teams to ensure communication is clear and morale has upward momentum.
  • Ask HR to schedule fun activities once a month or each quarter to reward your staff for their hard work — send them a gift card to pick up lunch or a happy hour drink!

Be understanding and flexible

Whether your business is already accustomed to remote work or not, remember to be patient with those around you. With so much going on in the world, your organization may need you to be a little more flexible and understanding during these complicated times. Do both your best as a business owner to support them as well as mitigate risk.

Final notes

Will we ever return to the office? It depends. For some organizations, working remotely has been a straightforward and positive transition, while others are itching to get back into the office space. Some companies are even implementing touch-free clock solutions to help companies get back up to speed while also protecting the well-being of their workforce.  As you navigate these next few months, consider the trends in your respective industry and make sure to leverage WFH tips to help you make things run more smoothly.

What has your work from home experience been like? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Samantha Rupp

Samantha Rupp holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and is the managing editor for 365businesstips.com. She lives in San Diego, California and enjoys spending time on the beach, reading up on current industry trends, and traveling.

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