As the CEO and founder of DATABASICS, Alan Tyson has helped hundreds of companies adapt to the nuances of today’s “leave management” requirements.
Since founding DATABASICS in 1997, Alan has seen his fair share of change and disruption, but nothing compares to the rapid workplace shift accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alan was generous with his time as we discussed his insights on the unprecedented nuances of workforce management post-pandemic. He also provides expertise on the complicated nature of leave management as organizations transition into a new model that will include a coalesce around a hybrid, distributed, and, in-office work arrangements.
M.R. Rangaswami: Why have work-from-home arrangements changed from being a perk for certain employees to normative — especially in the tech space?
Alan Tyson: The tech industry has a long history requiring employees to work on-site. Some of the biggest companies in the world – including Apple, Google, and Facebook – were trendsetters in this regard. Of course, COVID-19 forced them to change their practices overnight, and the results have been incredibly positive. Now, Twitter has announced an indefinite remote work policy and other companies are quickly shifting their approach.
While the Coronavirus is one factor in that decision-making process, it’s not the only one. Perhaps most notably, employees really like having flexibility in their workspace. Several significant surveys have found that many employees want to continue working remotely even after we settle into a new normal.
For businesses, flexible work arrangements have many practical benefits as well. It gives them access to a broader talent base, essentially allowing them to find qualified candidates anywhere in the world. As many companies struggle with harsh financial realities post-COVID-19, flexible work arrangements also create opportunities to decrease operations and facilities overhead, which could be a critical factor in helping them navigate the months and years ahead. For many companies the benefits are numerous. The key is creating and implementing the right policies and procedures to make sure that employees can flourish in the long run.
M.R.: What type of long-term remote work plans do companies need to implement? How will organizations address a remote-office expense policy as part of this plan?
Alan: Implementing long-term remote work policies needs to be an intentional and dynamic process. Too often, companies rush to create policies that don’t address the most pressing needs for that particular company. Instead, we recommend that companies assemble comprehensive teams for this purpose. These teams can create company-specific policies regarding on-call expectations, data security standards, and oversight norms. Most importantly, don’t etch your standards in stone. This new work arrangement is dynamic, and our policies need to evolve along with the practice.
At the same time, companies need to account for their employees’ workspaces. At the height of the pandemic, many employees were working from couches, kitchen tables, and hastily concocted workspaces. That’s not a sustainable long-term solution. Part of the cost-savings from offering remote work needs to be invested in equipping employees with a remote office arrangement that can allow them to remain comfortable, productive, and empowered while working outside the office.
M.R.: What are some of the best practices for managing a team that is no longer in the same shared space?
Alan: Research shows that many of the things that employees love about work and that make them great at their jobs actually have nothing to do with work. There is incredible value in the unplanned conversations and connections that happen in the office. That’s hard to replicate when people are distributed around the world, but it’s not impossible.
To some extent, digital tools offer some of this, but, as millions of employees with video conference fatigue can attest, connectivity isn’t the same as real connection. Right now, too many companies are exhausting employees trying to mimic the in-person experience online through Zoom happy hours and other efforts that are well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective.
Instead, it’s important to focus on establishing clear norms and guidelines so that employees know what to expect, prioritizing personal communication as much as possible, and ensuring that team members are recognized for their successes. Often, the medium for accomplishing these goals is irrelevant. Instead, it’s the demonstrable commitment to people that actually makes the difference.
M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of SandHill.com