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Radhika Panjwani is a former journalist from Toronto and a blogger.
Voices urging business leaders to orchestrate bold and transformative changes in the post-pandemic workplace appear to have reached a crescendo just as vaccination efforts start picking up steam.
However, in the mostly harmonious chorus, an out-of-tune note from Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon recently caused some agitation among workers and management experts.
Mr. Solomon ruffled more than few feathers when he rejected the idea of work-from-home as the new normal.
“It’s [remote working] an aberration that that we’re going to correct as soon as possible,” Mr. Solomon declared at a conference recently. Admittedly, the investment banker’s statement was uttered in relation to some 3,000 new recruits who, he said, wouldn’t get the “direct mentorship” they needed. He promptly ordered staff to return to work in-person in June.
Companies presently hammering out a return-to-the-workplace policy would do well to learn from the fallout from Mr. Solomon’s remarks. For instance, Internal surveys show stress and burnout among Goldman Sachs’ employees is rampant. Employees said they are expected to work 100-hour-plus-weeks. Industry insiders, management experts and other business leaders remain critical of Goldman Sachs’ less-than-humane policies.
Unfortunately, he’s not alone. Last September, JP Morgan’s chief executive officer Jamie Dimon said working from home had a negative effect on productivity.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Study after study has revealed productivity has soared during the pandemic.
Case in point: JP Morgan reported some US$18-billion in revenue and US$7-billion in profits in the first quarter of 2021. The company’s revenue exceeded analysts’ expectations.
Quite the opposite of a substandard result one would expect from a supposedly unproductive workforce, wouldn’t you say, Mr. Solomon?
The attitude demonstrated by Change-resistant CEOs means they will ultimately lose out on attracting — and retaining — talent.
The trauma and uncertainty of battling a pandemic forced many employees to recalibrate their priorities. Post-COVID, these workers, may be reluctant to undertake gruelling commutes or shoulder unreasonable workloads for an inflexible employer.
Rebecca Paluch, an assistant professor at the Sauder School of Business’s Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Division at University of British Columbia, has studied the relationship between organizations and employees during changing employment trends.
Contrary to popular belief, she says telecommuting has not eroded company culture or productivity. She does admit, however, that telecommuting for more than a few days will get in the way of fostering connections among employees. Ms. Paluch said remote workers may experience loneliness and isolation from a lack of personal interactions.
Post-COVID, organizations will have to re-evaluate some of their human resources policies to set clear expectations for employees transitioning permanently into remote work, should they decide to go that route, she said.
“I believe successful organizations will navigate these challenges by carefully incorporating employee feedback and considering the links between HR strategy and the overall business strategy,” Ms. Paluch said.
Remote working aside, planning for the eventual return of workers to the office must also include rearranging or redesigning of office space for physical distancing. Thankfully, this may mean the end of cubicle farms. Cramming people into tight spaces after beseeching them to respect physical distancing guidelines may not go down well with all those that witnessed the devastation caused by COVID-19.
Best practices must also include the continuation of stringent cleaning protocols, upgrading air filters and filtration systems, and allocating — and following — occupancy maximums for inside the office as well as on elevators and common areas.
Some companies are mulling split shifts or rotating “‘in-office” work weeks. Most will likely introduce a hybrid model, one that will allow employees to work one or two days from home.
The Gensler Workplace Survey 2020 found that post-pandemic, most workers would prefer a hybrid model that allowed them to work from home and at the office.
There’s no doubt COVID has disrupted the workplace. What remains to be seen is whether companies are willing to relinquish power and trust their employees or will they undo months of digital innovation to slip into old ways.
What I’m reading around the web
- Your digital footprint might just be one of the reasons you’re unemployed. Landing a job during a pandemic may require you to do a bit of work. And while you’re at it, it’s probably time for you to not give in to your impulse to weigh in on every bit of chatter on social media accounts.
- Heard of the Musk Effect? More like the domino effect. Whether it’s an innocuous tweet or a monologue delivered during SNL, Elon Musk can singlehandedly throw the stock market into a frenzy. He’s at it again with bitcoin. As reported in CNN, days after Musk tweeted Tesla would not accept cryptocurrency, the price of bitcoin and other crypto have been in free-fall.
- Who says chatbots aren’t intuitive enough and can’t follow conversations when they meander off topic? Just ask Google’s LaMDA. According to its makers at Google, LaMDA — short for Language Model for Dialogue Applications” — can engage in an endless number of topics, smoothly.
- Expensify, a company in the expense report management business, is disrupting work culture by tossing out the book on old and tired practices of employee retention and engagement, Techcrunch reports. Not surprising, considering the company’s CEO and Founder David Barrett was a former P2P (peer-to-peer) network hacker.
More opinion from Globe Careers
Forced COVID-19 lockdown measures made me face the fact that I was overworking myself Writer and recent graduate Karen K. Tran offers three tips for those looking to take a step back in the Globe’s Leadership Lab.
When we finally return to offices, how should we shape the workplace of the future? Whether employers like it or not, employees will be returning to a different culture than the one they left pre-pandemic, Eileen Dooley writes.
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