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Do We Really Need Them To Come In To The Office? It's time to let them work from home.

A few days ago, as I watched yet another news piece on the Covid-19 pandemic (yes, it’s now a pandemic), my well-meaning daughter tried to console me with the idea that this virus acts as a mild flu.

About the same time, a friend questioned my decision to delay a workshop I was planning to hold at the end of this month. Once she became aware of my very real health concerns she, of course, understood my decision but not really my perception of the severity of this health crisis. (She does now, and actually told me she thinks I was ahead of the curve.)

Today, I read a post on LinkedIn, written by Susan Cain, about this very topic. In this post, she stated “We are at a critical inflection point”. I couldn’t agree more.

We are at a point where we all, as leaders, managers, and individual contributors, have to band together to determine how business can continue when people don’t want to gather in boardrooms, in workshops, in conferences, and in open work spaces.

This presents business with an interesting opportunity.

Most companies are well aware of the idea to ask their employees to work from home. While this presents some relief from Corona Virus, it adds to concerns about another type of virus – computer viruses, and the accompanying information security concerns. These are very real concerns that have led many companies to decide, in the past, to not let their people work remotely. At a time like this, what is the more pressing concern? Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

· It’s long been known that employees really want the flexibility to work from home. The payoff for employers is a considerable boost in productivity.

· There is reduced cost to employers when their people work remotely. If this is an on-going policy, companies find themselves paying less in office space rental. Even if this policy is only for the duration of the pandemic, there will still be cost savings in coffee and other on-site benefits, as fewer (if any) people are using them.

· On the other hand, allowing employees to work off-site presents concerns about securing technology and personal customer information. How can companies ensure their data is protected?

As mentioned, this presents business with opportunities to brainstorm, question current business practices, and collaborate to solve remote working issues.

At a time like this, corporate leaders need to draw on the expertise of their teams to come up with solutions to communication and data privacy concerns. Until now, companies have been able to put off those decisions with the idea of certain jobs requiring to be done from the office. Quite often this isn’t actually the case, but there is just no time to think about how to best get it done. Now solutions are needed.

It’s my belief managers will get the creativity and idea generation they need if they turn their people loose to come up with solutions. I’ve facilitated brainstorming sessions before where everyone was encouraged to state their ideas and work through them, and I've been amazed at the results. When a manager encourages the free-flow generation of possibilities, there is no telling what golden nuggets can be dug up. This type of activity not only ignites the creativity of employees, but it also encourages their retention. This is what makes employees feel valued and necessary. It’s what makes them feel they are bringing something of importance to the team and which gains them the connection and recognition they crave from their managers. This is the type of workplace they want to belong to—even if it’s a remote one.

The technology exists to keep people connected to the office and to each other. We now need to work through the best ways to enable this to happen to benefit all stakeholders. They say desperate times call for desperate measures. They also say that necessity is the mother of invention.

We are now in a desperate time.

It is now necessary for employers to look at the prospect of their employees working remotely and invent the ways to enable this—immediately. This is no longer something for companies to investigate for the future, because the need is urgent and is now. The upside? Companies will most likely find work does not suffer, but gets better. They will most likely see this move does not cost them more, but costs them less. They will learn that employees love working for a company that allows them the flexibility to work remotely and will, therefore, stick with that company longer.

At the very least, companies will realize how much their employees truly appreciate being able to stay safe, healthy, and productive at home. And that encourages business continuity in the best way.

cover image courtesy of freepik.

Laura Sukorokoff is the Founder and People Maximizer at C-Change Learning and Development. She is a firm believer in the power of people to be creative in the workplace. Reach out to her to help you unlock the potential of your team:

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