Are you working remotely nowadays or are you again driving to and from the office every day? A more lenient approach to where you work from, is another long-Covid symptom, but while some claim better efficiency, others still believe that optimum performance requires a formal work environment. Then, we haven’t even touched on worcations!
From having a dress code, office etiquette and a policy on stationery to working from your bed or even your holiday destination, the way we think about our work environment is being challenged. Managing the expectations across a whole hierarchy of employees and across a variety of disciplines are also not that straightforward. Insisting on staff working from the office is not all about policing, is it? I hope not!
Elon Musk got quite some airtime this week about his letter to Tesla employees, essentially telling them to come back to work at a main Tesla office. “Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla. (Read more) It is especially Twitter employees who expect Musk to be their new boss soon, who might feel worried. Twitter’s current policy is that employees can work from home “forever”. “Wherever you feel most productive and creative is where you will work and that includes working from home full-time forever,” CEO Parag Agrawal told Twitter’s nearly 100,000 employees earlier this year.
But perhaps Tesla and Twitter employ different skill sets and have different objectives. Musk reasons that Tesla will not continue to manufacture “the most exciting and meaningful products of any company on Earth” by phoning in. And there might be some truth to that. For some types of industries, real life teamwork might be essential. Not all jobs can be done over the phone. But for many Twitter employees, reliable Wi-Fi might be all they need.
Going into the office was the status quo for many years and of course it will take time to get used to working remotely and at flexi hours. What makes it more difficult is that there is not a fit for all. Some employees do perform better in a controlled environment and there is something to say for traditional office hours. Even though you might be getting the job done working in the early hours of the morning, you might react slowly to an urgent email sent during normal hours.
The easiest option might be to have everyone back at the office. The most efficient approach, however, might be more difficult. Perhaps it would mean that we have to consider the requirements of each different job. For some, having less interruptions and being in a less constrictive space, can increase productivity and creativity – if that is what is required from the position. Much has to do with the commitment of the employee, of course, but unfortunately those who are taking liberties working remotely, will probably be the same ones playing solitaire while in their office and on the clock.
Other than working remotely, another of the biggest post-Covid trends, is the worcation. Perhaps, after being locked down and unable to travel or explore, many of us have a more serious bout of wanderlust. Those with a “You Only Live Once” attitude are not afraid of the pandemic, they want to make the most of all their opportunities. But anyone who has ever worked for a boss or a salary, know that there is only that many days of leave and only limited resources available to pay for extended holidays. Most employees can’t afford long absences from work to travel the world. But what if you can work while you travel? For many, having access to the internet and online tools for meetings are more than sufficient. They can still perform efficiently. You’ll be surprised to learn that these “digital nomads” are not only Millennials, but even families, making use of online school curriculums too.
The demand is so big that some countries have recognised the need for so-called “digital nomad visas”, “remote work visas”, or “freelancer visas”. In this way countries compete for foreigners to work there and contribute to their economies, without actually working in their economy. (Read more) The urge to travel and see the world is nothing new. Pre-Covid, we’ve often referred to the world as a “global village”. It was easy and often affordable to travel the globe – even if it meant working holidays. But for most a working holiday meant something completely different to what we understand as today’s worcation. There can also be a differentiation between working remotely and being a digital nomad: “digital nomadism is more of a “lifestyle choice”, while remote workers are still full-time workers.” (Read more)
Employers and their HR managers have a whole new challenge. Is it possible to employ a different policy for each different discipline? Are you happy to pay for the job being done regardless of whether it is in the office, at the dining room table or overlooking the beaches of Bali? I have staff that can and will do their job regardless of the hour or location. Others, need to be in the cellar, making the wine, for instance. When you worry about performance when allowing staff to work remotely, perhaps you have to introduce better ways of measuring performance?
I love staying on top of trends, but they challenge the traditional way of thinking. It is easy enough to ignore things that are uncomfortable in the short run, but I would rather advise to think and learn and equip yourself to deal with the new ways. I understand that people want more flexibility. Perhaps in a difficult global economy, the value of a monthly income will make employees less demanding, but Covid has definitely encouraged us to live life to the fullest and that trend is not going away soon. And don’t we know by now that content employees perform better?
Productivity is hard to police – even when all your staff is in the office. Perhaps the time for policing is over. Perhaps we should give people their goals and objectives and measure them against that, regardless of where they work from? Is that possible? It might be easier to rather have everyone check in and out, but to actually determine the contribution employees make to your company, requires proper ways of measuring performance. If worcations and working remotely can get us to adopt a proper measuring system to ensure efficiency and productivity, these trends might be doing companies a real favour.