Corporate America is about to be tested.
There is a revolution that is underway that will challenge even the most financially secure companies in a way that has never before been seen.
The fundamentals of how and where work gets done is changing.
For the first time since office buildings, foosball and free snacks emerged, the fight is on to leave all that behind and work from home.
This may be a new normal for some but for most of us it is something we’ve embraced for many years already. What is new is having to be patient at the learning curve of others that haven’t done this before. It has been comical. It has been frustrating. It has been rewarding and eye opening to see how quickly humans adapt. It has also been all of those things to everyone who was opposed to it prior to the pandemic who now think a work from home balance can exist.
We discovered that humans aren’t the problem here. We can change and adapt and we have over the last 100 days. Work has been done. Governments have been run.
There is, however, a clash between how humans operate and the rigid “rules” of business that have evolved over the last 150 years.
THAT’S the problem.
We’ve built an infrastructure in business that follows the same path with very few deviations. A company fights for survival, finds an office, hires employees to work in that office, competes for new employees by adding perks and incentives (loosely called “culture”), and then adds more office space, a slide, a stacked beer fridge, comfy chairs, hidden rooms, a wood burning oven for personal pizzas, themed boardrooms, more employees, more floors, scooters to get around, spaceship campuses, dorms, massages, and the list goes on. The cycle is what happens to companies. All based on a physical address.
Then the pandemic and the only food around is whatever is in your refrigerator. No more lattes, no more prepared lunches — only the coffee and stale Cheerios in your cupboard. Yet we’ve survived.
This is the new corporate America. One that shuns the ridiculously high burden that office space has put on a company’s bottom line. One that focuses on the value of the work and attracts employees who are willing to fight for the cause — even without unlimited bagels. One that trusts its employees to get the work done regardless of their location. One that builds a culture based on the values of the company and what it is trying to achieve because when you strip away all the perks that’s what is left.
Many organizations will be faced with this new reality and thrive. Others will need to take a hard look in the mirror and determine how they can rethink what they do to inspire and attract the right people that share the same vision. They will need to break years of doing things the way “they’ve always been done” and embrace new methods that are more inline with the way businesses should be run.
Perhaps we’ve swung too far to one side and the “work from home movement first” movement decisions were knee-jerk reactions to a weird moment in time. It’s possible that we end up somewhere a little towards the middle on this but it certainly won’t settle back to where we were. What took 150 years to build up has been stripped away in 100 days and it would be corporately irresponsible to go back to the way it was.
The upheaval is here. The only way to make it work is to embrace it and instead of focusing on the perks of the office, focus on building a values-based company that people will want to contribute to. The showroom shouldn’t be the reason employees are there, the mission must be. Build that and the rest will come.
*photo is my office