Opportunity: Permanently Send Your Workers Home
Did your company resist telework for years and then send many of its workers to home offices? If so, will you now pay to refit your offices for social distance, only to close them again and return your workers home if and when the coronavirus spikes? What will you do about those who are afraid to return? Is it possible that almost everyone can instead work at home permanently?
Scale of the Opportunity
- Save $7,740 per head1 in real estate costs alone.
- Eliminate the uncertainty about if and when and how jobs will return to the office.
Some workers may be unable or unwilling to work from home. Some managers may be unable to lead effectively from afar.
Managers, carefully check your savings assumptions with Finance. Otherwise, corporate cost dynamics and tax rules could undermine what appears to be a strong business case. Finance leaders, check with IT leaders on the technical and operational implications of cost cuts.
During the next 30-60 days:
Communicate that you are preparing to make a decision, and seek your employees’ input. Set a positive, forward-looking tone. Answer questions if you can, and listen. At the end of the period, make a clear go/no-go decision about eliminating the offices. Communicate it to all of the stakeholders.
- Assess the gaps. Determine what technology training and remote working skills your managers and workers will need.
- Protect employee relationships. Encourage remote teams and individuals to interact with each other online, or in person, when safe. Encourager fun and companionship. Proactively make paid time for it.
- Put into place the technology and training to ensure the IT security required in your industry.
During the next 90 days to 1 year
Adjust: Revise performance assessment criteria for workers and managers to account for any changes. For example, without face-to-face communication, it may take people longer to learn how to work out exceptions to business processes or solve problems. Systematize how you will handle these going forward.
Organize: Decide by the end of the year what changes to team leadership and individual roles will be needed.
Budget. Allocate time and money to equip workers with the right devices, VPN, software, and service. Consider how you’ll accommodate workers who altogether lack work space or have small children at home. The overall savings may be large enough to rent office space for these exceptions.
Avoid postponing this decision. If you wait for certainty, your company will look like it is stuck. Instead base your decision in the information you have.
Avoid a last-minute scramble. Expect pushback from some employees, and allow time for the transition. Afterwards, wait at least 3 months to assess how well individuals and teams are adapting to working at home. Set realistic goals–after the abrupt shift in 2020 it may take months to settle down.
Temporarily hold off on any disruptive business systems migrations you can postpone. The office closures, staff cuts (in many cases), and the underlying stresses of the pandemic are hard enough for now.
Identify the real costs of working at home, differentiating between one-time and ongoing costs. Use the actual expenses of the first 90 days to inform your estimate.
Assess the likely cost of moving back to the office, since social distance will entail costly redesign. Also, the office will likely accommodate fewer workers. Weigh the risk that a premature move back to the office might be reversed as lockdowns are lifted and then reimposed in the face of new outbreaks. You’ll need this comparison to complete the business case for permanently working at home.
Develop criteria to assess how well specific teams and individuals would fare working at home permanently.
Identify areas in which you need consultative help and training in order to succeed.
1. Global Workforce Analytics Telework Savings Calculator at globalworkplaceanalytics.com).