The business case for IC, Part 3: The workplace of the future needs to be communicated
— September 16th, 2020
Google extended its work from home (WFH) operations to mid-2021. Facebook expects half of its workforce to be remote by 2030. Twitter is giving its employees the option to WFH permanently.
Big Tech isn’t the only industry embracing a distributed workforce.
- WPP, the world’s largest ad agency, says returning to the office will be voluntary.
- Jess Staley, the CEO of Barclays, says the big city office “may be a thing of the past.”
- The French automaker Groupe PSA said the company has “decided to strengthen teleworking and to make it the benchmark for activities not directly related to production."
The business case for Internal Communications is one side of a coin. The other side is your company’s vision for how it will succeed in a post-COVID environment.
The transition to fully remote or work-from-home (WFH)/in-office hybrid models is a smart business decision that aligns with emerging employee desires.
A survey of company founders in the UK revealed:
- 90% of respondents are able to complete their work remotely
- 92% want the flexibility to WFH some or all of the time post-COVID
- 56% say they are more productive working from home than in the office
Your bosses can’t stop the inevitable. As more companies choose to go fully or partially remote, it will be difficult for execs to hold out on the traditional office model.
- 58% of employees are willing to take a pay cut in exchange for a better lifestyle (source)
But wait. Maybe companies won’t go all-in on remote working. In an interview with The New York Times, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says switching from in-office to fully remote is “replacing one dogma with another.”
What’s the Vision?
The COVID disruption has passed. The current status, where X number of employees are working from home for an undetermined amount of time, will not last. The company must move forward decisively.
Your company might adopt a new model of working that is either fully or partially remote. Internal Comms should have a few questions, the same questions employees have, including:
- What’s the long-term plan?
- What goals do we want to achieve in the new model?
- What’s the vision?
- How will this be rolled out?
- What’s in it for me?
Your leadership needs to do the work of envisioning the company of the future. It’s the job of Internal Communications to express and reinforce the plan and vision, and that’s why your function is as vital as ever. For the company to thrive, employees need to know what’s going on.
Assume there is a reset (or reimagining) of the company’s long-term plan. New goals may be decided, such as decreasing the carbon footprint by eliminating office space, increasing savings by foregoing annual summer gatherings and conferences, or boosting morale by allowing employees to work from wherever they want.
- Internal Comms will disseminate the new vision, goals, and values.
How Will We Work?
What’s more, new “worforce systems” need to be put in place. Moving to a fully remote operation, for example, is not a one-and-done deal. Mark W. Johnson and Josh Suskewicz, co-authors of Lead From the Future, say that in such a transformation there are many interdependencies, both human and technological, that need to be addressed, such as:
- The technologies (existing and yet to be created) that you will need to make your system workable, including collaboration, creativity, and productivity tools.
- The resources (your physical footprint, people, and the technology interfaces you use to organize them) and the policies, practices, and processes your system needs to function. These include HR considerations like travel, talent development, and compensation; operational issues like office design and logistical challenges like “hoteling”— making temporary desks available to remote workers when they need to work on-site.
- The rules, norms, and key metrics you will need to prescribe to preserve and enhance your culture and values. (source)
All of that…which technology to use and how to use it...new HR programs designed for virtual environments...rules on expectations for showing up and performing...all of that and more must be communicated to employees, constantly.
How to Win
Johnson and Suskewicz say that, “At the end of the day, the organizations that can develop the clearest, most inspiring visions, learn the fastest, and pivot the most capably, are the ones that win.”
They’re right, but I’ll add an IC twist to their declaration and suggest, “At the end of the day, the organizations that can develop the clearest, most inspiring visions and effectively communicate those visions to employees, are the ones that win.”