CEOs must adapt to a hybrid workforce or risk losing employees

Hybrid Workforce

By Tony Gruebl and Joe Poling – Contributors

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review warns CEOs not to jump too quickly onto the remote workforce bandwagon as the business world emerges from the pandemic.

Instead, the article advises, they should take their time, examine employee surveys about the benefits of working from home with a skeptical eye, rebuff the hype around what market leaders like Google and Facebook are doing and give the subject careful review before making a decision.

But the move to a hybrid workforce is well underway, and CEOs who refuse to transform their culture not only risk losing their top employees but could drive their companies toward extinction.

For all of the human tragedy and economic disruption associated with the Covid-19 virus, the pandemic has given companies an opportunity to reimagine how work is conducted. While this period has been painful, it has been nothing short of revolutionary in the workplace.

More than 12 months after the pandemic flipped our lives upside down, CEOs have seen that in many instances employees have not only adapted to the new reality of how work is conducted, but they have become even more productive, anecdotally, while working from home.

And now, they are demanding change.

Nearly 30% of professionals surveyed by LiveCareer, a resume and job search consulting firm, say they would quit their job if their employer abandoned the hybrid model and forced them back to their desks.

We advise companies to carefully analyze performance and the impact of remote work on the culture of their organization. If the outcomes are positive and they outweigh negative impacts on culture, remote work should continue. But if remote work’s effects were largely negative, it should be dialed back until positive impact is achieved.

During this 12-month period, we have seen anecdotally from our small and mid-sized company clients that the efficiency of top performers, who are generally responsible for 80% of any one company’s work, has increased.

Top performers are not only executing at a high level remotely, but are logging more hours. Why? Because there is less daily friction: They don’t waste time commuting — the average one-way commute time in the U.S. was 27 minutes in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — nor do they ride elevators or have time to engage in small talk around the office coffee pot. When someone steals 10 minutes of your time each day, those minutes add up.

Top performers cite the benefits of working remotely, which include more family time, helping their kids with homework, attending sporting events or running a quick errand. Keeping top performers happy is paramount and retaining them is the job of every CEO.

The remote office has also opened up the market for talent, not just in Baltimore but across the country and even around the world. A superstar software programmer in Idaho who is not keen on moving to the East Coast can work just as effectively in Boise as they could in New York.

There are also opportunities for CEOs to strip out costs and restructure how they are doing business. They can reduce office space, parking, HVAC, the travel budget, coffee supplies and yes, even toilet paper. The technical challenges no longer exist. Zoom and Teams calls are effective at bringing teams together. It is not about structure or process or governance, it is about adjusting culture.

If the world goes back to the 9-to-5 office grind, with employees fighting morning traffic and sitting at their desks five days a week, the star employees will find companies to work for that don’t subscribe to the traditional work model. The reality is their lives have changed, and so has the work world.

Tony Gruebl is the founder and president of Think, a Baltimore-based technology and operations advisory firm that provides on-the-ground transformation and consulting. Joe Poling is Think’s director of client solutions and executive program manager.

Published Baltimore Business Journal: