The goal is keeping the good parts of work from home, replacing the bad with the benefits of office teamwork.
Corporates looking ahead to a post-Covid world are taking stock of how the shift to work from home (WFH) has changed the ways that teams function—for better and worse. This requires weighing the beneficial flexibility offered by remote work against the detrimental loss of collaboration that is only possible when people are in the same building.
- As some companies consider abandoning offices altogether, many practitioners at recent NeuGroup meetings shared how they hope to retain the conveniences that have come with WFH while reestablishing a positive office culture that cannot be replicated virtually.
Technology benefits. The near-universal shift to WFH has accelerated companies’ embrace of technology that can boost efficiency and encourage collaboration, albeit virtually. Those tech solutions are here to stay.
- Messaging apps and video conferencing platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams became crucial for uniting team members spread far and wide. One member said they also “work really well for broader organizations too,” connecting employees who may not have interacted in a physical office, including members of different finance teams.
- Members also found success with project management tools like Asana and WorkBoard, which they plan to keep using. “They can be really helpful to put specific structure to the workflows you’re tracking,” one member said.
- “The best part is they provide great visibility to the entire team for what others are working on, and the facets of their work.”
The productivity puzzle. One member, echoing others, reported a rise in productivity at the start of the shift to WFH. But as fatigue set in, brought about in many cases by too many hours working, that productivity declined at some companies.
- Some companies have established specific virtual work hours, but members said they ran into challenges enforcing this, especially after the early days of the pandemic.
- “Some people just work until midnight because they’re at home and they can have dinner and still be at the office,” one member said.
- That said, many members are planning to allow part of their workforce to continue working from home to some degree. “We learned that you don’t necessarily need everyone together all the time,” one treasurer said.
Returning to the office. Many members see physical offices as irreplaceable, capable of fostering innovation that can only come through unplanned interactions in real-life spaces.
- One member said it has become difficult to get employees to think outside the box without in-person collaboration. She looks forward to restarting the company’s whiteboard sessions.
- “It is really challenging to recreate inter-team communications,” another member said. “Cross-functional problem solving is even harder to replicate.”
- A third member remarked that “lots of conversations get funneled through management” in the WFH environment, preventing the creative solutions that can come from spontaneity.
- When it comes to onboarding new employees virtually, one member reported “really uneven” results, saying that many new employees do not settle into the company without interpersonal instruction.
- In the long-term, the member said, a return to offices will benefit the onboarding process, even if the employee ends up working virtually most of the time.