As we mentioned in a previous post, 74% of CFOs say they expect to move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19. And we’re already starting to see those plans being rolled out.
Recently, Zillow approved a remote work policy for the rest of 2020. As GeekWire reports, “The policy reflects rapidly-shifting office culture expectations for tech companies as the COVID-19 pandemic changes how we work and live.”
That’s because due to this work-from-home (WFH) experiment many organisations have had to conduct, many CEOs are starting to see that remote work is feasible and offers perks they previously hadn’t considered. As Zillow CEO Rich Barton expressed, “My personal opinions about WFH have been turned upside down over the past 2 months. I expect this will have a lasting influence on the future of work.”
The company has even rolled out a new virtual onboarding program for employees hired during the COVID-19 crisis. So far more than 100 new hires have completed virtual onboarding and another 200 will do so over the next few months.
Since the program began in early March, Zillow onboarding project manager Sarah McLamb and Zillow human resources operations have gathered mostly positive feedback. They’ve also made some tweaks to the program, implementing monthly “Virtual New Hire Open Houses,” and a new Slack channel that all new hires are invited to join so they can support one another.
Looking to the Future
There’s no sign Zillow will completely cut work from home from their tool belt once this pandemic has passed. “We’ve been forced to make Work From Home work. Which means we know we can make it work in the future,” Barton said. A Zillow spokesperson echoed that sentiment, saying “We’ve learned a lot over the past two months and have watched our teams pull together from their homes to keep the company moving forward. This situation has dramatically changed how we envision our future of work and we expect this experience will influence our decisions going forward.”
Global Workplace Analytics president Kate Lister said the COVID-19 crisis will be a tipping point for WFH programs. In the US, she expects over 75 million employees to be working from home before the crisis is over, and more than 25 per cent of employees to continue working from home multiple days a week once the pandemic has passed—that’s up from less than 4 per cent who did so before the pandemic. That means 25-to-30 million employees in the US alone will regularly work from home within the next two years, up from just 5 million who do so half-time or more now.
Pat Turnbull, President of Workplace IQX, a consultancy focused on helping businesses grow through strategic, organisational and workplace transformation, said that “from the employer side, there is greater recognition of the overall business benefits of having robust work-from-home capability and readiness.” Similarly, Lister noted that “from the employee side, the genie is out of the bottle. Having tasted the experience, most will not want to give it up.”
Lister believes that other accelerants of the adoption of WFH policies will include:
- Reduced fear and resistance from managers once they’ve had the chance to work from home themselves
- Greater awareness amongst leadership of the WFH potential for reducing real estate and travel costs, particularly given the threat of another recession
- Increased scrutiny around disaster preparedness from investors/shareholders
- Greater societal awareness of the environmental benefits of reduced commuter and business travel on sustainability once they’ve seen the actual impact WFH can have
Making Work from Home, Work
To make WFH a lasting way to work, however, companies must provide adequate technical infrastructure.
For example, working from home with children who are out of school can be a challenging situation. Thankfully, some organisations have already figured out a solution.
When HubSpot set out to create an effective WFH culture before the pandemic even hit, they quickly realised that they needed to offer online educational activities and entertainment for employees’ children via videoconferencing. “We have programming for kids ages zero to four, and four to eight,” remote work and inclusion manager Meaghan Williams told The Boston Globe. “There are singalongs, art classes, tons of different programming,” all taught by a mix of outside contractors and company volunteers.
Other initiatives HubSpot has implemented to help their remote workforce thrive include weekly AMAs (ask me anything sessions) with company executives like the CFO, online yoga and meditation classes, remote 5K challenges, remote office visits, digital interviewing and hiring processes, Zoom onboarding, a Slack “question of the day”, virtual happy hours, online concerts, and more.
Start making ‘work from home’ work for your organisation today by implementing some of these practices, as well as kicking off a remote mentoring program. Your team members will be connected to other interesting and engaging employees, learn from one another, and support each other during and after this trying time.