Like me, I suspect you learned some new techniques during the required office shutdowns in 2020 (Zoom, Teams, Google Meet and all that). You may have learned to like some aspects of “working from home” or what we now seem to be referring to as “remote work.” No need to commute, no need to “dress up,” no annoying chit-chat with your office neighbor, a private bathroom – you know, stuff like that. In addition to working from home, some of you may have walked the dog, gotten your wash done, taken out the trash, and prepared dinner all before 5:00. What’s not to like?
We have all seen a variety of prognostications about the future of the office. Experts have predicted urban flight, empty office buildings, even higher productivity as remote workers focus solely on “their work.” Homes with one or more private offices are now all-the-rage. Is the office as we have known it dead? Hmmm…Let’s think about this.
You have probably heard the phrase “culture eats strategy for lunch.” (I wish I was the author of that, but I’m not) If you believe that “culture” (the unspoken and natural way that people relate to each other within a given environment) is a factor in your organization’s success, you will want to think clearly about how you approach the remote work revolution. Without doubt, there are a number of jobs that can be performed effectively, perhaps even more effectively, when working alone. It’s not hard to think of some of the productivity advantages that remote work can produce. In addition, it is certainly possible to conduct effective meetings in a virtual environment. And, there are considerable cost savings when we think about a reduction in square footage, travel, time, etc.
On the other side of the equation, we are “created for community.” Is it possible for leaders to create a dynamic culture without being together in the same space? If the culture is already established, is it possible to maintain that culture – long-term – without being together in person? Can the depth of human connection be duplicated virtually?
You can probably guess where North Group would land with respect to these questions. However, we certainly will not have the “last word” on the degree to which the remote work movement will become sustainable. As leaders, we need to be asking these kinds of questions. We need to be evaluating not only what is best for individual employees, but what is best for our business model, our mission, our core values, our clients, the sustainability of our organizations.
We have new and effective tools at our disposal. The world around us is changing. The dynamic culture within your organization needs leadership. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Don’t settle for the easy answers.
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