COVID-19 Is Forcing Employers to Embrace Workplace Flexibility
To reduce the spread of virus, many employees are shifting to home-based work arrangements. How will that work and will it last beyond the pandemic?
With news of COVID-19 sweeping the nation and the world, many organizations have sent their employees home to work remotely to help prevent the spread of the illness. Leaders who previously weren’t comfortable with allowing flexibility in hours and location of work have been forced into these arrangements out of sheer necessity.
Before COVID-19, many businesses easily incorporated flexible work schedules into their cultures. Allowing employees to flex their hours around children’s schedules and accepting work-from-home arrangements as necessary are key examples of the flexibility some offer. Younger generations, such as millennials and Generation Z, especially appreciate this and often value it above key attributes of a job such as salary or benefits.
For those who believe they must physically see an employee to know they are getting their work done, flexible work schedules are uncomfortable at best or completely out of the question at worst. Likewise, a recent article discussed how many believe trust must be earned to have the privilege of such flexible work arrangements. The article, from Harvard Business Review, suggests that in reality, trust must be given instantly. If we are trusting our employees with company resources, access to files, and more, we also should trust them to manage their own time wisely. Otherwise, why do they work for us in the first place?
In my personal experience as a manager, I’ve found my employees are often more productive when they work remotely. Without the barrage of meetings that maybe weren’t all necessary, the office chatter and other interruptions, working from home can allow a great space to get heads-down work done. I’ve even personally found that I can accomplish more when I work remotely and sometimes select a day to stay at home so I can write press releases, develop strategy, or simply catch up.
During March I saw many colleagues and friends posting on LinkedIn and Instagram about saying goodbye to their offices for a few weeks. As a leader, I was not nervous. Though I’ve only been managing my PSA team for eight months, I trust them immensely already and know how hard they work. As Colorado began to announce extended spring breaks, I knew that I and members of my team would have to work remotely for an extended period of time. I felt confident about this because my team is equipped and capable to get the job done.
Luckily for me, managing my team remotely comes easily. However, this exercise has been more challenging for other leaders who are not as comfortable with remote work. And the fact is, some security company employees simply can’t work from home, such as those who need to be in the field every day, or certain central station employees. (See related article, “Monitoring in the Time of COVID-19” at www.SDMmag.com/monitoring-covid-19.)
First, from a practical standpoint, it has caused many organizations to quickly scramble to ensure their employees have the technology they need to do their jobs remotely (certainly something we can learn from for the next budget cycle). Also, they’ve probably had to learn how to manage each employee remotely. No two employees are the same, so your style must be different with each. Some need more frequent check-ins, others need you to be available via phone, text, e-mail or chat, to bounce ideas off of. Knowing how your team works in the office can greatly apply to how they work remotely, just with more technology needed to bridge the communication gap.
I can’t help but wonder if next year we will see the proliferation of flexible work schedules occur more rapidly. Sure, these arrangements increase every year anyway as technology makes it easier to do so. However, I also believe many leaders who may not have been comfortable in the past will learn during their experiences with COVID-19 that their teams accomplish just as much when they aren’t in the office. While it’s currently hard to find any silver linings in this situation, perhaps this will be one.