I count 24 weeks since the music stopped. March 5th turned out to be my son’s last in-person day of 6th grade and the beginning of this never-ending summer. Since then, it seems like every facet of our lives has been impacted in ways large and small. As we emerge from the initial crisis and into a new – and potentially long lasting – reality, it’s clear that some of the changes will be permanent.
This week I spent some time with 20 or so business leaders who reflected on this question of “What’s changed permanently?” Here are some of the themes that emerged:
- Flexibility to work from home is here to stay. Many companies who were hesitant of this practice prior to COVID have now worked through the kinks, purchased the necessary equipment and have discovered that productivity is not suffering as they might once have thought. This is great news for families who may require flexibility. This is sure to accelerate gender equity, as often, the job of balancing family and work is born by women.
- Hoteling is a keeper. Though we can be pretty productive on Zoom, many report that there really is no substitute for getting your team in a room with a white board and brainstorming or solving problems in real time. Several companies reported looking at ways to create an opportunity for these conversations and accommodate employees who work from home but need to be in the office episodically. Hoteling space allows for people to have a place to land when they are in the office, but not a permanent fixed space. This practice may shrink the footprint of many companies. Commercial real estate will likely suffer in the long term.
- Achieving Platinum Status is out. Road warriors whose wings were clipped have had to adapt to other ways to meet their goals. Many of these folks are in sales and rely on relationships to win business. As businesses realize just how much they spent on travel and entertainment and that sales can still occur in this climate, there is likely to be a permanent shift that results in reduced travel. What’s more – the sales targets – the procurement people, vendor managers, etc. – are potentially working from home and not looking for in-person meetings or to be wined and dined. It’s important for sales execs to understand what’s changed in their target’s world so that they can meet them where they are – likely in a virtual place.
- Accessing New Talent Markets is “in.” Several companies we talked to had come to the same conclusion – if everyone is working successfully remotely, why not look outside our geography for talent. Further, layoffs have resulted in a flood of high-quality talent in the marketplace. The virtual environment presents opportunities to hire specialized talent not previously available and talent outside a company’s typical geography. We hope Silicon Valley and Wall Street are taking note of this trend and will start to employ people in the middle of the country for high skilled, high paying jobs.
We’ll continue to monitor the changes as we head into the fall and beyond. We’d love to hear from you about the trends that you are seeing in your workplace or industry. Email me at Meg.Crosby@PeopleCap.com with your insights. #MaskUp