Almost three years after a nearly overnight switch to remote work at the start of the pandemic, is it time to go back to the office? This question continues to polarize managers and employees alike. Some even feel strongly enough about their answer to this question that they are quitting their jobs over it. Companies seem to still be determining what respective value remote versus in-person work offer to their organization. Where any given organization lands on this issue depends on a number of factors, and though strong opinions abound, it isn’t an easy question to navigate.
From my vantage point as a financial executive in the healthcare industry, I believe virtual financial services offer tremendous value to organizations—to a point.
Too often, businesses look at remote work as “all or nothing.” We are either all in the office every work day, or everyone works from home without exception. While I understand the need for a sense of fairness among employees or simplicity in managing the work environment, an all-or-nothing attitude blinds executives to creative solutions that might add value to their organization.
As much as I recognize the benefits of offsite work options, a fully remote virtual workforce will not be a good fit for every company. However, I believe a hybrid option could benefit almost any organization. Perhaps employees could work remotely on Mondays and Fridays, or maybe certain administrative tasks could be done virtually by employees working remotely. An openness to hybrid options also gives companies an opportunity to evaluate whether interim or part-time solutions could be a good fit. Additionally, remote work can be a great way to make progress on important but not urgent projects, which are often overlooked in a busy office. Remote workers with the right expertise could be hired to tackle these projects with complete focus while other projects or tasks that require higher levels of interaction can be taken care of in-person in the office.
Trust but verify (and educate)
Reports consistently indicate that the primary benefit that people who prefer working from home value is flexibility. But I have seen that taken too far on some virtual teams I have led. I once had a remote employee who wouldn’t take calls during the workday because she “didn’t take work calls at home.”
Education and clear expectations are key to making this arrangement work. Because remote work has become such a buzzword, people assume they know what an organization means by it when they offer it as a work option. Companies must clearly define what working from home means to them and what their expectations of their employees are. Document processes and desired outcomes. Neither the company nor the employee should make assumptions about what is or is not expected or appropriate. Organizations need to take the first step in starting a clear line of communication.