HOW MUCH REMOTE WORK IS RIGHT?

December 17, 2021

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As many companies officially return-to-work, organizations are finally rethinking stale conventional wisdom about how things get done.

Should everybody return to the office? Should employees be able to work from anywhere they want? What is the best way to efficiently produce high quality work? These questions are front and center for business leaders.

Most people still see a lot of value to in-person working. Physical presence creates opportunities to communicate, collaborate, and build relationships. For younger employees who are early in their careers, face-to-face interaction can be crucial for their development.

Alliance has had a relatively informal system for years. We see a lot of upside to giving people the freedom to make their own choices about how to get their work done. This has worked well for us, but I’m watching with interest as different companies try different approaches.

Should we set up more formal systems that ensure people are in the office on certain days? Or would that rigidity cost us more productivity than we would gain? Rules make things simple for management, but that’s not necessarily better for the employees, or the company.

What leaders need to understand is that output is what matters. Inputs like days in the office, total hours worked, etc, are a poor substitute for clarity about desired outcomes. It’s a managerial shortcut that holds companies back.

More flexible work arrangements require leaders to be really clear about the organizational, team, and individual goals that matter. Once you know what quality looks like, then more flexible work arrangements lead to happier and more productive employees.

After so many years in the commercial real estate industry, I have a clear understanding of how long things typically take, what kinds of obstacles tend to crop up, and how to help my team overcome those challenges. Our comfort with flexible arrangements made our pandemic year relatively smooth operationally.

Our organic and flexible approach requires high levels of trust and great communication. In addition, we’ve become even more deliberate on how face to face time translates to maintaining our strong culture, and helping to develop our younger team members.

My team and I are discussing these trade-offs regularly, and I’m watching other companies with great interest to see how things develop.

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