Originally posted on Blogrige by Harry Hertz

In a recent blog, entitled The New Normal Will Require RE2ST3, I asserted one of the components of the new normal will be long-term work from home (telework). I believe this shift will require all organizations to examine key factors associated with employee engagement. That is the topic of this blog post.

Let me share some data and information relevant to our collective experiences over the last few months, as massive rapid shifts to telework occurred.

Bloomberg Business reported on a study of 3.1 million people at more than 21,000 companies in 16 cities around the globe, comparing workforce behaviors over two eight-week periods one before and one after pandemic shifts to telework:

  • With telework the average workday lasted 48.5 minutes longer
  • The number of meetings increased by 13%
  • The number of meeting attendees increased by 14% (The average length of meeting decreased by 20%.)
  • Internal e-mails increased by 5%
  • The number of e-mails sent “after hours” increased by 8%

A Bloomberg report on U.S. workers concluded:

  • People were working three additional hours in the U.S. and logging in at odd hours according to VPN data; there was a spike in usage from midnight to 3 a.m.
  • Boundaries between work and life have virtually disappeared
  • Burnt-out employees feel they have less free time than they had when they “wasted” hours commuting and they feel pressure from bosses to prove they are working
  • A survey of 1,001 U.S. employees conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting showed that almost half attributed their mental toll to an increased workload, the challenges of juggling personal and professional lives, and a lack of communication and support from their employer

Recognizing the shift to remote work as a permanent change, the sports outfitter REI, has recently put its almost completed eight-acre new corporate headquarters on the market. Designed for the outdoor lifestyle the campus included such amenities as a fire pit, a blueberry bog, courtyards with native plants, and al fresco conference rooms. According to REI’s chief customer officer, Ben Steele, “We’re a national organization, and life outdoors looks different in, say, Atlanta than it does in Seattle than it does in Minneapolis or L.A.” REI’s stores are dispersed why shouldn’t the same be true for HQ personnel.

Recognizing the stress and burn-out of employees, a large tax auditing firm, Withum, decided to give every employee Friday, August 28th off with instructions to disconnect and use the day to reset and recharge.

Work from Home Pledge
In late May 2020, cognizant of the strain on employees, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna, working with a group of IBMer’s issued an eight-point work from home pledge to and for employees:

  1. I pledge to be family first.
  2. I pledge to support flexibility for personal needs.
  3. I pledge to support “not camera ready” (on video calls) times.
  4. I pledge to be kind.
  5. I pledge to set boundaries and prevent video fatigue.
  6. I pledge to take care of myself.
  7. I pledge to frequently check in on people.
  8. I pledge to be socially connected with my coworkers.

Your Call to Action
Your organization and its leaders probably have to address the new reality of some permanent work from home. A workforce pledge may be an option to consider. It may also be appropriate to acknowledge the added stress by having a periodic day to reset and recharge. Whatever you do, the Baldrige Excellence Framework offers some criteria questions that take on new meaning in the “new normal.” Even if you have addressed all the criteria questions in the last year, it may be time to reconsider your answers. Here are some examples of topics to readdress (also proving the benefit of using the Baldrige framework in all situations):

  • From the Organizational Profile, defining your organization’s key characteristics, P.1a(3) on workforce profile
    • Do you have to reconsider employee segmentation?
    • What are new key drivers of employee engagement?
    • What are new health and safety requirements?
  • From the Leadership category
    • How do your senior leaders create an environment for success, including setting culture, two-way communication, and development of future leaders?
    • How do senior leaders create a focus on action, including setting expectations and demonstrating personal accountability?
  • From the Workforce category
    • How do you prepare your workforce for the changing capability and capacity needs?
    • How do you organize and manage at home and on site employees (and volunteers)?
    • How do you support your at home and on site employees with services and appropriate policies?
    • How do you assess workforce engagement?
    • How do you support the personal development of workforce members, manage their career development, and carry out succession planning?

Some Concluding Reflections
If a work from home pledge is right for your organization, how will you involve the workforce in its development? If it is not a good fit for your culture, why not? And, the big question, how will you maintain the all-important engagement of your workforce (without burnout)?

Please let me know how your organization is addressing these questions.

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