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Generation Remote Work or…

How you gonna keep’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?

Senior managers from law firms to media companies to software developers are all asking the same question. How do I get my team back into the office? And as they ponder this question, and are cheered on by the commercial real estate industry, I ask… why should they care?

  1.  They say, Traditions, and  I say: How about because that’s the way we’ve always done it… Here’s a well-deserved, OKAY BOOMER!
  2. They Say Productivity, and I say: The data says that the majority of people are more productive working remotely as opposed to the office; for instance, a study by Podoscore of over 30,000 workers found a 5% increase in productivity for remote workers.
  3. They say, Culture, and I Say: I find it difficult to believe that smart people can’t figure out how to instill a culture of shared values, shared worth, and teamwork in today’s remote workplace. An Ergotron study of 1,000 workers found.
    • Mental Health: 56% cited mental health improvements, better work-life balance, and more physical Activity.
    • Job Satisfaction:88% found that increased work flexibility led to better job satisfaction.
    • Physical Health:75% stated that the hybrid workplace resulted in better physical health.
    • Work-Life Balance:75% said that hybrid work improved work-life balance allowing them to spend more time at work and life.
    • Comfortable Work Environments:62% found the home work environment to be more comfortable with better furniture.


Office Occupancy Rates

It’s important to acknowledge the huge economic impact of the new world of hybrid work. How many office park delis went out of business? How many downtown restaurants are no longer open for lunch? What’s happening to commercial reality companies?

The Dow Jones Real Estate Index 3-year return was -4.31 percent as opposed to the S&P 500, which returned 6.2 percent.

It’s important to acknowledge the huge economic impact of the new world of hybrid work. How many office park delis went out of business? How many downtown restaurants are no longer open for lunch? What’s happening to commercial reality companies? Remote work threatens the economic health of cities, which is why some politicians are said to be proposing bills to force government workers back into the office. The Office Work Industrial Complex wants us all back in our cubes.

Government, Industry, and the Chamber of Commerce all want people back to work in the office. That just might be why business-friendly politicians want us to be less, productive, less happy, and less healthy as they demand workers return to the office.

The Live-To-Work Generation

Baby boomers like me grew up surrounded by parents who had 1 or 2 jobs throughout their adult lives. My generation’s parents retired with generous corporate-funded retirements. My generation grew up with parents who returned the loyalty of their employers with well-earned loyalty. We grew up with the work ethic of Live-to-Work. Under the economic pressure of the mid-1970s, companies started moving from worker loyalty to maximizing shareholder returns.  In the 70s, layoffs were frequent, and pensions became as rare as unicorns.

The corporate fielty of my generation that experience lay-offs and retirement-ain’t-my-problem corporate policies somehow irrationally picked up our parent’s corporate loyalty DNA. It reminds me of a study.

Scientists exposed male rats to the scent of cherry blossoms and then administered a mild shock. Two weeks later they paired the rats with female rats. Two generations later, the grandchildren of these rats experienced a fear response when exposed to the cherry blossom scent.

The Work-To-Live Generation

The children of baby boomers watched their parents slave away for companies that showed no loyalty. Companies that featured aspirational mission statements while ending pension plans, reducing health insurance support, and laying off workers at the first hint of shareholder hiccups didn’t inspire servitude. Apparently, unlike Rats, the Live-To-Work ethic didn’t pass to our parent’s grandchildren.

The work-to-live generation defines themselves by what they do outside of work. They aren’t pilots or accountants, they are people, they are mothers, they are humans.

How To Tell Them Apart?

  • Ask the person who they are:
    • If they say they are an accountant – They are a Live-To-Worker
    • If they say they are a surfer – They are a Work-to-Liver
    • If they say they are an Actor – They are a Waiter

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Remote Work

The facts according to Glen, or what some might call my opinions.  Most people are more productive, banging through transactions, in a well-appointed, comfortable home office than in a traditional office cube farm. There are fewer interruptions, fewer distractions, and no time wasted in commuter traffic. The data supports there are productivity advantages of remote work.

Most workers enjoy remote work over slogging through traffic to join a hoard of faceless numbers in a cube farm just in order to have the honor to hear their cube neighbor whistling the latest Taylor Swift boyfriend-bashing tune.

Yet there are drawbacks. Learning from watching people work, quick ad-hoc meetings, and asking questions of a co-worker or supervisor. Innovation often takes place in informal water cooler conversations. Don’t underestimate the value of being called into an unplanned meeting where corporate strategy is refined and defined.

Many business leaders point out that employees that work in the office and have frequent contact with leadership have more opportunities for advancement. That’s a bigger incentive to a Live-to-Worker than a Work-to-Liver.

The Great Resignation & Quiet Quitting

Defining the terms:

  • The Great Resignation – a term used to describe the current phenomenon of a large number of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs or considering leaving their jobs, which has been observed since the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused many workers to reassess their priorities and reconsider their work-life balance, leading to a desire for more flexible work arrangements, better pay, and improved working conditions.
  • Quiet Quitting –refers to a situation where employees are physically present at their job but emotionally disengaged, unenthusiastic, and uncommitted to their work. In other words, they are not actively looking for a new job, but they have mentally checked out of their current position and are no longer fully invested in it, creating negative consequences for both the employee and the organization. For the employee, it can lead to feelings of boredom, frustration, and dissatisfaction. For the organization, it can result in decreased productivity, reduced quality of work, and a negative impact on morale and team dynamics.

Current Workforce Reality

Employers who ignore the mindset reality of your millennial (born between 1981 and 1996), and gen Z, (born after 1996) at their peril.

Embrace the productivity gains, and worker satisfaction inherent with remote work and think about processes to foster innovation, mentoring, and culture building. Ask yourself, how can I build a strong culture in a hybrid work environment? Think about the processes you can put in place with a remote workforce that fosters innovation and continual learning.

  • Building an Intentional Culture With Remote Workers
    1. Establish clear communication channels: Effective communication is critical in a remote workforce. Ensure that everyone knows how to communicate with each other, and establish protocols for different types of communication (e.g., email, chat, video conferencing).
    2. Foster a sense of community: Create opportunities for team members to get to know each other on a personal level. This can include virtual team-building activities, informal chats, and sharing of personal interests.
    3. Set clear expectations: Establish clear expectations around work hours, response times, and communication etiquette. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and can work together effectively.
    4. Encourage collaboration: Encourage collaboration by creating opportunities for team members to work together on projects and initiatives. This can help to foster a sense of teamwork and a shared sense of purpose.
    5. Celebrate successes: Celebrate team and individual successes, no matter how small. This can help to boost morale and create a positive team culture.
    6. Emphasize trust and accountability: Trust is essential in a remote workforce. Emphasize the importance of trust and accountability in all aspects of work, including communication, project management, and decision-making.
    7. Invest in technology and tools: Provide your team with the necessary technology and tools to work effectively remotely. This can include video conferencing software, project management tools, and collaboration platforms.
    8. Provide ongoing training and development: Provide ongoing training and development opportunities for your team members to help them develop new skills and stay engaged with their work. This can also help to foster a sense of community and shared purpose.
  • Fostering Mentorship and Learning
    1. Create a mentorship program: Establish a formal mentorship program that pairs experienced team members with new or junior employees. This can help to provide guidance, support, and career development opportunities for remote workers.
    2. Encourage cross-functional collaboration: Encourage remote workers to collaborate with team members from different departments or areas of expertise. This can help to broaden their skills and knowledge and provide exposure to new ideas and perspectives.
    3. Provide ongoing training and development: Offer ongoing training and development opportunities for remote workers. This can include online courses, webinars, and virtual training sessions. Encourage employees to share what they learn with their peers to promote a culture of continuous learning.
    4. Facilitate informal learning: Provide opportunities for remote workers to learn from each other informally. This can include virtual coffee chats, peer-to-peer learning, and knowledge-sharing sessions.
    5. Use technology to facilitate learning: Use technology to facilitate learning, such as online learning platforms, virtual classrooms, and collaborative tools that allow remote workers to work together on projects and assignments.
    6. Provide feedback and recognition: Provide regular feedback and recognition to remote workers. This can help to motivate and engage them and provide opportunities for growth and development.
    7. Lead by example: Set an example by demonstrating a commitment to learning and development. Encourage managers and senior leaders to participate in training and development activities to set the tone for the organization.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the deal, you can whine about teams’ wants, needs, and desires, or you can deal with it. You can alienate them, have them join and be part of the great resignation, or watch them quietly quit. Alternatively, you can follow creepy Donald Rumsfeld’s advice:

“You go to war with the Army you have and not the Army you might want…

Embrace reality, deal with it, and design processes and systems that allow you to have a highly productive, innovative, engaged workforce.

I’ve worked with companies to help them build systems that foster learning and culture building in a remote world, and these systems work. Want to discuss how we can make your team a highly productive, constantly learning, innovative, and engaged team? Maybe you’d rather see how long you can swim against the tide? Either way, your teams have been to Paree, and you aren’t going to be able to force them back to the farm. Schedule a call here.

Want to learn more about building a high-performance culture with an onsite or remote team? You can check out my new book, Intentional Leadership, available on Amazon, in Hardcover, Kindle, or Paperback by linking here.