In Episode 2 of our Working Forward podcasts, my cohosts and I had the pleasure of speaking with two dynamic HR executives about the future of work from the employer’s perspective. Ellen Meza, senior director of global benefits for DocuSign, and Kelley Shimansky, chief human resource officer for Tyler Technologies, graciously shared their thoughts on the future of remote/hybrid work, the importance of communication in widespread workplaces, and how technology is reshaping everything we do—including where and when we work. Here are some of the takeaways.
1. Remote work—with flexibility—is here to stay
Remote work existed before the pandemic, but COVID sent it to unexplored heights. Now that the dust is settling, where do employers stand on the remote vs. in-person divide? Some employers obviously need their employees on-site, and some may just prefer it. But the pandemic proved that remote workers can be just as productive—and often more so—when they’re not saddled with commutes, can live where they want, and have more freedom to attend to families and personal interests. On the other hand, some employees prefer a separation between their home and work lives and miss the camaraderie of the office. The solution for many employers may be a hybrid model, where employees who can successfully work remotely are allowed to do so, while maintaining physical locations for those who prefer it and for in-person work when necessary. Regardless of the approach, investing in robust collaboration technology will be important for maintaining teamwork and communication as employees work in a growing number of locations and on varying schedules.
2. Staying connected is essential
At the start of the pandemic, many employers fretted that they’d lose the daily connection to their employees and the culture that they’d built over many years. What many have found, however, is that technology has allowed them to be even more connected than they were before. Just a few years ago, managers and executives who oversaw widely dispersed teams had fewer opportunities to get in front of all of their employees at the same time—and when they did, at great expense. Today, online meetings allow direct communication with employees at any time, wherever they are. This ongoing personal connection has enabled companies to maintain their corporate goals, visions and cultures, even as their teams have spread out geographically.
3. The definition of a “workday” is evolving
As technology has allowed more flexibility, businesses may also want to consider when and how their employees work. What if some employees do their best work at night? Or they want to work around their kids’ schedules or their caregiver responsibilities? Being available remains important, but the traditional 8-to-5 workday is less relevant if employees can prove that they produce on an “asynchronous” schedule. Focusing on outcomes, not the hours, can give employees more freedom and greater job satisfaction. This mindset also allows employers to widen their hiring pool to candidates who live even further from their traditional time zones—perhaps even globally.
4. Mental health matters
It’s been said that “mental health is the new pandemic,” and employers should be doing all they can to support their employees and their families as they continue to navigate through a challenging era. That support needs to come from the top down. CEOs and other executives can do a lot to help reduce the stigma of mental health issues and encourage their teams to get help when they need it. Unfortunately, the capacity and infrastructure to support the increasing need isn’t always there, but digital resources and online therapy is doing a lot to fill in the void. Make sure your employees’ access to mental health care isn’t limited by where they live.
5. Listen to your employees
Finally, our guests emphasized the importance of listening to your employees. There are still many unknowns as we navigate through this new reality. Whether it’s through formal surveys, meetings or just personal communications, before making sweeping changes, take time to learn what your employees are thinking about and what concerns them about the future. Even if we don’t know what’s coming, employees will appreciate having a voice in the conversation, and they can add value through their own expertise. Use our new communications technologies as a two-way conversation.
Be sure to tune in
This was a great conversation, and I encourage you to watch or listen to the whole episode to learn more. You can access this and all other episodes on our Working Forward homepage, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube.