There are jobs that are natural candidates for remote work, and there are those that aren’t. It’s worth noting that only 22% of the US workforce works remotely at this time, according to Jack Flynn of Zippia. It can be assumed that most of these remote-friendly are office or professional workers.
At ground level, there are many jobs that simply cannot be performed remotely. “More than half the workforce has little or no opportunity for remote work, relates a report out of McKinsey Global Institute. “For example, jobs that require on-site work or specialized machinery, such as conducting CT scans, need to be done in person. Of these jobs, many are low wage and are at risk from broader trends toward automation and digitization.”
Then, at or near the top of the organization, there are jobs that simply wouldn’t be productive if in full remote situations. “Not all work that can be done remotely should be; for example, negotiations, brainstorming, and providing sensitive feedback are activities that may be less effective when done remotely,” the McKinsey report relates. “The outlook for remote work, then, depends on the work environment, job, and the tasks at hand.”
For many organizations, the move to remote or hybrid demands a mix of approaches, depending on the suitability of the job, as well as employee requirements. At Pitney Bowes, for instance, there is a need for many employees to be onsite. “Because of the nature of their jobs, about two-thirds of our workforce, including associates in our ecommerce and presort warehouses, as well as our field service teams, have to do their work in their respective centers or at client sites,” says Marc Lautenbach, CEO and president of Pitney Bowes. “How do we drive a high-performance inclusive culture in this new world? If having an office that people want to come to is part of the plan, then your work strategy needs to fit that. How do we make the office a place people want to come to for the right reasons and the right things?”
Still, concerns about productivity in remote situations have turned to out to be unfounded, Lautenbach says. “There are orthodoxies out there that you can’t drive culture in a remote way, or, that you can’t onboard people, expect productivity or drive innovation remotely. We’re not finding that to be true. Our 2021 engagement results were the highest ever. Our call center associates are as productive as ever. Others may be experiencing degradation in innovation productivity. We’ve not seen that.”
Zoro, an industrial e-commerce company, finds that some of its positions need to be on-site. “Our workforce is primarily hybrid coupled with some fully remote and fully on-site team members,” says Kevin Weadick, president of Zoro. “Team members supporting some parts of our business , like customer service, excel at working remotely while others need to be physically present to do their roles.”
Likewise, it’s turning out to be difficult for upper-level executives to be fully remote. Uprise Health, operating 100% remotely, found it needed to still have on-site engagements between executives. “While remote work is allowing more flexibility and the ability to recruit nationally, there are situations where we find we need face time,” says Melissa Dexter, chief people officer at Uprise Health. “We are now starting to spend more time in person at the leadership levels and cross functionally across the organization to work on strategic initiatives and projects. We are meeting physically monthly, for a day or two, as a leadership team to build relationships that cannot be built over zoom, especially where new members of the team have never met each other in person. As with everything in life, it is a balance, and we are all working through it to find our new normal.”
So how to bring these all together? Some business leaders see hybrid arrangements, in which employees and managers get the best of both worlds, as the way forward. Zoro, for instance, hosts monthly “Collaboration Days” in which team members are encouraged to voluntarily come into the office “and enjoy the energy a coordinated day of in-office activities can bring,” says Weadick. “On Collaboration Days, Zoro provides lunch and often hosts special events and team builders to best leverage our team members’ time together. We find value in hybrid and remote team members coming together to collaborate and build team cohesion, particularly for areas with significant change underway.”