Corporate America: Stop Your Back-to-the Office Plans
Here’s some tough love for you: it’s OK to favor employee safety over optics.
We are not post-pandemic. There’s just no denying it: the delta variant is putting even vaccinated people at risk. Now is not the time to proceed with your “get everyone back to the office” plans. It’s not smart, and it’s not safe.
Things were going so well; people were getting vaccinated in droves, and then it all slowed down. The motivated folks have their shots, and the hesitant are waiting. Then comes the delta variant, and now the evening news brings story after story of unvaccinated people landing in the hospital. It’s a tragic story and it hurts my heart.
Plans were already underway to bring workers back to the office sometime in September — maybe to coincide with kids starting school. When you stand back and look at the situation, the “sometime in September” date is arbitrary. It does not reflect the reality of the COVID situation we are in.
There are several factors at play here. Some in big business just want to go back to the way things were as though the pandemic never happened. But the world is experiencing a major medical incident, and the people in it are reacting to it the same way that any life-altering medical incident impacts them. They end up reevaluating their life choices, their priorities, and what they want the rest of their life to include. In addition, they are thinking about the fact that they want to HAVE a “rest of their life.” COVID is a deadly disease, period. We have to adjust our plans accordingly.
Other factors potentially favoring a return to the office building include the stress on employees: isolation; lack of company support for things like safe and ergonomic home workspaces; sharing space with spouses and kids; and managers not knowing how to manage remotely.
That said, some companies stepped up and have provided support in the form of reimbursement for Internet connection expenses, vouchers and/or recommendations for desks and chairs, and management re-training for handling remote teams. These are the companies that realize that business CAN operate remotely, and quite successfully too. Their employees will not be part of “The Great Resignation” that is causing a brain drain because employees are more than willing to leave and to find companies that accept and embrace remote work.
So the question becomes, “why such a hurry to get people into a physical space?” Is it just because that’s the way we’ve done it for the last 100+ years? Technology has freed office workers from the necessity of being in the same physical space to accomplish the work. Collaboration tools and online meeting services have blossomed to support that work style. And the last 18 months have proven that business can continue and thrive if 1) the right mechanisms are put in place, and 2) corporate leadership shifts how they manage their employees.
Ah yes, there’s the rub. Office workers have already made the shift; they’ve adapted to working remotely, and for the most part, management has not. Otherwise we wouldn’t see the push to get everyone back into the office. Corporate leaders and managers would be comfortable relying on their leadership skills, rather than relying proximity and physical position in the office as part of their management style.
Am I being blunt? Yes, this is meant to be tough love. I’m literally trying to save lives by encouraging companies to re-think how they do business: to embrace remote teams, and learn how to manage them successfully. This is what I do for a living: help C-Suite executives and other corporate leaders make the mental and emotional shifts to achieve successful remote leadership. And if I can save lives in the process, that’s a goal worthy of tough love.
— — — — — — — -
A lot of people talk about managing remote workers; I actually teach leaders how to do it. If that sounds like something you’re ready to do, let’s talk about it. Visit http://www.talktotoolie.com to schedule a call.