Considering the recent debates on what form of office work will take shape in the future, this article takes no sides! There are impacts on all stakeholders. This article serves to open the minds up and shed the light on the consequences of such decisions on the new generation of leaders (Fresh Graduates / Youth).
Since Nov/Dec 2021, I have been hearing of multiple organizations and governments calling for back to office. My first reaction was yeah, finally we are back to the norm. Then as I started thinking it more, my thoughts were (still are), yeah, eventually, we are all going to return to office work, but at which level and at what cost?
Corporates around the world are still trying to find a way to maneuver the challenge: Go back to doing business in the traditional way or adopt the “internet firms’” new way of working or trying to figure a new model? In other words, allow flexibility or not!
“The corporate world has been consistent with one thing: “Leadership Teams” keep changing and with those changes comes a new and different corporate strategy leading to a different Point of View.”
Some companies have taken the work-from-home as an excuse to do some cost cutting while others gave the employees the choice; you can call it freedom through responsibility, and some have come up with a different model of alternating days or weeks.
Some other great “people driven” organizations have allowed 2 months a year of remote work from home country (MENA or other expat-based organizations)!
Most of the options sometimes have a backfiring effect as employees tend to work more from home because they can’t define the working hours, nor stop replying to e-mails while at the dinner table instead of practicing the work-life balance.
Last week my friend came back from the Netherlands after joining a new company whose head office is there.
My first question was: What was the best thing you found there after your initial 8 weeks?
Without hesitation or thinking, he said: “everyone is working because they love to work; they work hard and surely can sometimes stay late to meet deadlines. But the minute they leave work, there is no mentioning of work till the following morning or post-weekend when they are back in office!”
I followed with a question: what if they receive e-mails on their mobile? What if the boss needs something urgent from them? My friend just smiled and turned his head: no one (including the CEO) is allowed to have company email access on their mobiles or their personal computers (not for security reasons). Work is done in the office (except for special Laptop flexible team members who work remotely or whilst on a business trip; they manage their own time).
Urgent matters are a result of poor planning and anticipation!
“This is LEADERSHIP! Leadership drives employee loyalty!”
In addition to employee loyalty, there is another important aspect that has not been tabled very often: what is the leadership impact on remote working generally, and more specifically on new joiners’ development, especially fresh graduates?
To me, the benefits of RTO on fresh graduates outweigh the drawbacks.
Let us start by the general point: impact of remote or RTO on the overall business vis-a-vis the employee(s) morale and how would the latter impact business and the overall productivity levels.
COVID era taught us a lot! As productivity is the “Ultimate” goal, it is enabled by technology. The latter is here to stay.
My advice to whomever is making these decisions has 2 parts:
Part 1: how are you going to decide on?
I suggest a shortlist of 10 questions to be addressed by all those involved in the decision-making process (including recommendations from team members or advisors):
- What are the business benefits (measured in productivity & finances and supported by proper facts)?
- Is this decision driven by a business model change or your lack of trust in your employees? Has your decision taken all aspects into consideration?
- Is the decision of increasing remote work driven by a cost saving exercise (i.e. real estate rental space / utilities / Transportation salary cuts, etc.)
- What costs are tied to the impact of Remote or RTO decision on the morale of the employees? What is the price of this employee flexibility? At what cost does it come? (Hint: mutual trust & loyalty)
- What is the impact of a wider range of global opportunities or more precisely global exposure on employee satisfaction?
- What would the challenges include: the famous home office positive (and arguably negative) impact on employees?
- What functions are required to RTO and which functions are more productive working remotely?
- Has there been a communication plan around this? Are you using Zoom/Teams/Skype/other digital platform or is it a face-to-face town hall speech addressing the reasons & the concerns?
- What type of future office is the new vision looking at? Is it a corporate office with ties and hierarchy or an organization as flat as possible with a young and vibrant office feel?
- What impact will remote, or RTO have on the unemployment record or even on your loyal employees?
To put things into perspective, experienced people can and will continue to operate in any model as they are driven by outcomes rather than location. Humans have worked in various unplanned or unforeseen situations and will continue to do so. Build your trust in your employees and let them build that trust in you. Trust is key to loyalty, commitment, and satisfaction; these lead to productivity increase!
But the worry is how to deal with our new Talents coming out fresh from their studies and enable them to thrive? This leads us to Part 2.
Part 2: How are we going to make it a driver to a successful developmental working model for new joiners / fresh graduates?
- What about onboarding new employees (especially fresh graduates)? How is the onboarding process going to work remotely?
- What is the impact of the human / physical interaction and at what cost?
- How will we make up for the loss of learning from peers in the office?
- What will replace the water cooler, photocopy, printer moments & coffee breaks?
- How will your mentoring programs work? What is their impact on the mentors in terms of time and availability?
- What are mentees required to do differently to maximize the output of the mentor-mentee relationship?
- When and how are the cross-functional learning sessions planned and are they just a tick box?
- What other enablers to the development of your newly joined talent are needed to complement your program? Those meaningful side conversations that provide more in-depth learnings than a full crash course.
- Have you looked at the new & effective communication styles, techniques, and tactics to enable those joiners?
- How will you gauge employee morale or pulse employees’ challenges?
- What is the impact on the cultural fit, teamwork, and collaborations?
- What connections are they building? Will these new coalitions benefit them and the organization?
- What is the impact on company policies and how will these be enforced: how will you enforce a “harassment policy” in a hybrid model? (If you have already done so, what are your learnings?)
- How are these new joiners evolving and how do they learn?
- What is the impact on these new joiners’ commitment & loyalty to the organization?
A lot of questions present themselves. Obviously, I presented more in Part 2 because that requires leaders to step up!
To those negatively stereotyping the new joiners as “demanding and entitled”,I would say: YES, they are entitled to be given the opportunity to learn and develop. They are the ones who will be making these tough calls in the not-so-distant future! We have a duty towards the youth that goes beyond company process and step by step guides. Leaders play a major role in enabling youth development. To provide an opportunity for new joiners to grow & develop, leaders must apply different leadership styles based on the readiness level of each individual. They should allocate sufficient time to coach, direct, establish rapport to empower and bring out the best in them.
The ability to work from home or anywhere in the world is an incredible benefit that many organizations are now offering as a perk. The flexibility and autonomy of remote work has greatly outweighed the benefits of free food, an ergonomic work setup, and more than what the office used to offer. However, one very important aspect of work culture has taken a hit: the ability to build strong and meaningful relationships with coworkers, employees, and leadership.
Start simple by building in time for connection and bonding into your company culture. From virtual happy hours to icebreakers before a meeting, incorporate pockets of engagement into your meetings and presentations to help your employees feel close, even while working apart.
Decisions on RTO or any form of hybrid is a change! Change requires people involvement. Change is a process, and it should be enabled, adopted, and used by all functions, but most importantly, accepting the importance of Change Management should firstly be fully endorsed by the “Leadership Team”.
This is how the ProClipse Consulting Team will advise you to set the course of your future direction and help you implement your successful business decision.