By Larry Fulop, SVP, Marketing & Technology
In the wake of a global paradigm shift, the business world has found itself at a crossroads when it comes to remote work policies. The pandemic forced us to adapt swiftly, pushing us into a new era where working from home became the norm rather than the exception.
Now, as business leaders and executives, we face the task of evaluating the pros and cons of this remote work revolution. Let’s explore these aspects from an objective standpoint, considering the impact on our associates, culture, and overall business operations.
Work from Home (WFH): The New Normal
Pros of a Remote Work / WFH Policy
Yes, WFH has many benefits that have come as natural byproducts. So, first, I’ll delve into the compelling reasons why a work-from-home policy can be a game-changer for your organization. Here are some of the pros from my vantage point:
- Flexibility for Associates: One of the undeniable advantages of remote work is the flexibility it offers our associates, which can significantly improve their work-life balance, increasing job satisfaction.
- Focused Work Environment: With fewer office distractions, remote workers often report higher levels of focus and productivity. This can lead to more efficient workdays and increased value contributed to the business.
- Expanded Talent Pool: Remote work opens the doors to a nationwide talent search, significantly changing talent acquisition efforts for organizations that service beyond local or regional geographies. We can recruit the best talent, allowing us to tap into a broader and more diverse pool of skilled professionals to best serve the needs of our growing client base.
- Cost Savings: While MicroAge maintains offices because we believe so strongly in face-to-face connection as the fabric of building and maintaining our strong organization culture, some businesses may benefit from reducing or eliminating offices and/or facility assets altogether. Another option to consider is improving the energy performance of the buildings to accommodate for specific days and times when associates are in the office versus not. While this can require upfront investment to retrofit upgraded energy systems and ultimately take time to recognize the ROI, if you own and intend to keep the building asset(s), this can pay back significantly over time.
Cons of a Remote Work / WFH Policy
While remote work undeniably offers a myriad of benefits, it also presents its fair share of challenges that demand our attention. As we navigate the remote work landscape, it’s imperative to remain vigilant about the potential downsides and consider how they might impact our associates and the overall health of our organization. Here are some of the challenges associated with remote work and how, in my view, they can be effectively addressed.
- Missing Face-to-Face Interaction: As you may have seen in a recent post from our CEO, Rob Zack, face time is a big deal at MicroAge. It’s fundamental to maintaining our strong organizational culture where we work together like a truly well-oiled machine. Remote work simply can’t replace the value of that in-person interaction and can take a toll on your culture. We have to acknowledge that certain aspects of our organizational culture and collaboration may suffer, and we’re proactively working on creative ways to head this off sooner rather than later. More on this below.
- Challenges in Gauging Productivity: Measuring associate productivity becomes a nuanced task when working remotely. Decisions regarding attendance tracking or defining what constitutes a productive workday can lead to uncertainty and potential dissatisfaction among the workforce. It’s a delicate balance between setting performance expectations and micro-managing people day to day, no doubt.
- Job Stacking and Overworking: In some cases, remote associates may engage in job stacking, taking on additional tasks outside regular working hours or, sometimes, during working hours. This can be challenging to monitor and might blur the line between work and personal life.
- Turnover and Retention: While remote work broadens our recruitment reach, it can also result in higher turnover rates. Associates now have the freedom to seek employment anywhere, making it more crucial than ever to focus on retention strategies and building a strong, well-bonded organizational culture.
Rebuilding Organizational Culture
Maintaining a thriving organizational culture while embracing remote work requires a delicate balance. We cannot underestimate the importance of fostering a sense of belonging and connection among our associates while acknowledging that this new paradigm may be here for some time. So, as we navigate such unchartered waters, here are a few strategies we’re enlisting.
- Motivate Through Positive Reinforcement: Instead of forcing associates back into the office, we can motivate them to return through positive incentives. Recognize and reward in-person interaction and collaboration.
- Team Building Activities: Consider hosting team-building events and organization picnics to encourage camaraderie. These activities can help bridge the gap created by remote work.
- Generational Considerations: Understand that different age groups may have varying preferences for remote work. Tailor your approach to accommodate these differences and create an inclusive work environment.
- Adapt and Evolve: Continuously assess the effectiveness of your remote work policy and culture-building efforts. Adjust your strategies as needed to meet your workforce’s evolving needs and expectations.
- Embrace Opportunities for New Hire Face Time: We’re getting creative about face time. We’ve started a tradition of flying new associates into our HQ location on a quarterly rolling basis (e.g., each quarter, we fly in all new associates hired in the previous quarter). They spend several days meeting the team they’re working on, other teams they’ll collaborate with, and getting true quality time with coworkers and our leadership team. When I say ‘quality time,’ I mean it. We get to know them personally and professionally and take a vested interest in them on a human level. We learn about their interests outside of work, their history, their families, their pets, why they do what they do, and more.
The truth is, it may seem like we’re in the technology business, but at the end of the day (overused cliche intended), we’re in the people business. And that’s not a cliche!
Yes, the pros and cons of a work-from-home policy are complex and multifaceted, and it’s hard to know with certainty what’s next. As a leadership team, our challenge is to balance flexibility and maintain a strong organizational culture. Have we mastered that balance just yet? Admittedly, no, but that’s OK. It’s getting our creative juices flowing, and we’re working through it largely unscathed like so many other organizations across the country.
Ultimately, our commitment to a thriving organizational culture and the happiness of our associates is guiding our decisions. By embracing the positive aspects of remote work and implementing creative strategies to address its challenges, we are working towards a new model that drives our collective success in this evolving landscape. While the path forward may not be crystal clear, I’m confident our adaptability and willingness to evolve will lead us toward a brighter future than we ever thought possible before.
“Larry has more than three decades of experience in the technology space. A UCLA grad, he has worked at IBM and Arrow Electronics and served as a vice president and general manager for Avnet Technology Solutions before coming to MicroAge. As MicroAge’s vice president of marketing and technology, Larry’s vision has sparked a transformation of our core business to become a complete services and solutions organization.”Larry FulopSenior Vice President of Marketing & Technology