Remote? Fully back in the office? A hybrid arrangement?
There is a raging debate on the future of where work should happen. Will it be mostly remote? Fully back in the office? Some sort of hybrid arrangement? In the wake of the COVID pandemic, many employers are struggling to determine the ideal work location.
COVID changed the location of work for many, but not all
Before COVID, most organizations favored the in-person approach. Remote work was reserved for a select few — those operating fully in the field or individuals with special talents and strong reasons for remote work accommodation. Hybrid arrangements were also relatively rare, usually amounting to a work-from-home-on-Friday schedule.
Then came a global pandemic, and a mass relocation of work from office towers to makeshift desks in kitchens and spare bedrooms. For some, this was a welcome change. Many employees realized they could work from anywhere, and they embraced this newfound freedom — setting up truly remote offices in new locales. For others, the move to a home office was a shock to the system requiring major adjustments.
Many families were forced to jockey for space, as two working parents had to set up shop alongside school age children doing their best to learn remotely. When I first started to work from home, my complaints about the lack of hot coffee and tasty snacks in the breakroom were met with an icy stare from my wife. Nor did she appreciate my calls each morning to let her know I made it safely to the office following my seven second commute.
For other workers, remote work was never an option, pandemic or no. While some had to contend with short-term shutdowns, a huge percentage of the workforce was quickly needed back in the factory, on the floor, at the warehouse or climbing the rig. Our economy cannot hum without a large contingent of humans reporting for duty each day.
Many employees are resisting the return to in-office work
The pandemic also generated unforeseen outcomes, including the “great resignation.” Millions of people decided they were done, and they left the workforce. Now, employers are realizing that many of those still working remotely are not interested in joining a great stampede back to the office, and are in fact part of a great resistance to the notion of showering, putting on a suit or even clothing deemed business casual, commuting and wasting time at the water cooler. Some have converted their newfound freedom to increased productivity and output, and some now covet their extra time and flexibility.
However, many CEOs now expect to see their employees back at their desks, working hard from eight to five, Monday through Friday. In some cases, companies are easing back to a full schedule with an interim hybrid phase. Others are mandating a full return to the pre-pandemic way of working in the office.
Some of these executives are well meaning and on point. They recognize that it is unfair to expect those staffing their factories to show up for their shifts while those with white collars get to work from home. Others lament the negative community impact on area retailers, restaurant operators and real estate owners who have fewer workers around to shop, eat and occupy office space.
Other leaders are old school and believe that unless they can see employees toiling, it can only be assumed those workers are doing laundry, binge-watching Netflix, and largely ignoring their occupational responsibilities. Supervisors also worry that collaboration and cross-pollination is all but impossible on Zoom or Webex, and the lack of in-person magic that occurs in hallways and conference rooms has evaporated.
At Enterprise Health, we understand the quandary. Our clients are large organizations who operate their own onsite employee health clinics. These corporations, health systems, government agencies and universities support in-person workers who manufacture, process, research, provide patient care and teach. They use our software to manage medical surveillance, document worksite injuries and illnesses, and provide quality clinical care to keep their employees present, productive and healthy. In many cases, these same employers use our telehealth capabilities to provide care to remote workers when an in-person visit is not practical or necessary. Our software works for onsite, hybrid and remote conditions alike.
Our approach to our employees is similarly flexible. We embraced remote work long before the pandemic, with the philosophy that if we had to look over the shoulders of our workforce, perhaps we had hired the wrong people. When COVID surged, we were able to continue supporting our clients without a hiccup, as most of our workforce worked largely from home already.
Enterprise Health provides employees work-from-wherever options
As COVID is subsiding, we are providing our employees with options. We believe most will prefer to remain in remote-mode, giving us more flexibility to hire talented individuals located far from our backyard (that’s a softball pitch to those displaced from Meta, Twitter, Google and the like).
We are also taking occupancy of new office space in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, where we are headquartered. We are setting up shop as a flagship tenant at the Electric Works, a just opening revitalization of an old General Electric campus near downtown. For employees who prefer a hybrid work environment or a full-time office, we are providing first class space. We are committed to a “work where you want” philosophy, and we trust our employees to make the choice that is best suited to their needs and preferences. We are also investing in our local community, and we are collaborating with other local businesses and educational institutions to create a world-class collaboration and innovation space.
We believe this flexible approach is the right one, as the social contract between employers and employees continues to evolve. We know our employees value flexibility, and we believe our strategy will help us attract new, self-starting, motivated people from far-flung locations and nearby locales who are excited about helping us improve worker health and safety.
Interested in working for Enterprise Health? Check out our current job openings.