I've heard it now more than once: Companies coming up with plans to "get back to work." What they really mean, of course, is "get back to the office." Which, if you think about it, is an interesting association between work and office. The office is where work happens, right? Except I think, if nothing else, the past eight weeks have shown us that that's mostly not the case.
In fact, many of those companies have continued to work while most of the world shut down, just in very different ways. Now, they're coming up with plans to reopen their offices.
What if, however, your employees don't want to get back to work, at least not if that means going back to the office?
What many businesses viewed mostly as a short-term experiment during a crisis is now becoming, for many of us, just the way we work. I wrote previously about how more than half of workers say they'd prefer the option to work remotely on a full-time basis.
It comes as a surprise then, that an almost equal number of companies have little to no plans to support permanent remote work after eight weeks of quarantine. That's from the same IBM survey, which said that 47 percent of those employees say their employer isn't providing any support for even the remote work they're already doing. That's right--instead of coming up with a better way to do what employees have been doing for the past few months, companies are mostly trying to figure out how to get everyone back in the office.
It makes sense, on one hand, that companies that have spent large amounts of money on building or renting offices would want to put them back to use. My Inc.com colleague Don Reisinger wrote about how Salesforce's CEO said he hopes his employees are only "weeks away" from returning to offices that the company has spent big on building across the globe.
What doesn't make sense is that returning to the office isn't necessarily the best way to keep your team engaged, productive, and safe.
Let's acknowledge that there are many types of businesses that simply can't operate remotely. Anything that requires actual physical interaction, like lawn care or installing a roof, can't be done remotely. But those aren't office jobs anyway. If nothing else, the past eight weeks have shown that there are few, if any, office jobs that can't be done equally well from home.
If that's true, it's probably time for your business to have a plan. That plan should include asking yourself the following questions:
- How will we best serve our customers?
- What work needs to get done to do that, and how can we best make that happen?
- How can we measure productivity differently?
- How can I best support my team, keep them engaged, and help them be productive?
It's okay if you don't have answers to all of those questions just yet, but you can be transparent with your team about that fact. However, even with so much uncertainty, it's absolutely time to recognize that this very well could be what normal looks like for the foreseeable future. There's never going to be a better time to come up with a plan for your business.