The genie has escaped his bottle. And he isn’t about to be forced back into it anytime soon.
Nearly three years ago, the pandemic sent us retreating to the confines of our homes. We found out that working from home had advantages and drawbacks: flexibility vs. face-to-face engagement.
Now most companies are grappling with decisions about how much time in the office is really necessary to get the job done. They have to offer options if they want to keep and attract workers.
Regardless of how it balances out, it’s pretty certain that the days of the rigid workweek are gone for good. And that’s just fine by the leaders of our 2022 Top 100 Places to Work, who say that productivity and job satisfaction are on the rise despite the turbulent times. I emailed all the top leaders of this year’s winning companies to ask them where they stand on returning to the office.
“I do not foresee a required 40-hour workweek in office again in our future,” said Hessam Hosseini, CEO of Match.com.
“The office used to be where you came to work,” Improving president David O’Hara said. “Now it’s where you come to collaborate and socialize. There are significant benefits to both focused work and shoulder-to-shoulder learning that I believe we will need to continue being successful into the future.”
About half of TimelyMD’s team lives in the D-FW area, and many of them work remotely. The other half lives across the country. “People need to feel connected now more than ever,” said Luke Hejl, CEO and co-founder. “Some of that is formal, and some is informal or even over Slack. We try to meet people where they are.”
The number of people returning to their desks at Systemware has been on the rise. “I expect that trend to continue,” said Frankie Basso, president and chief operating officer. But the company intends to make time in the office more deliberate and meaningful. “Interactions are a huge part of who we are as a company culturally.”
Access Global Group was a fully virtual company before COVID. But after the pandemic, it realized that social connections were more important than ever. So it increased the frequency of its virtual meetings so that employees have more opportunities to share noteworthy events happening in their lives, play virtual games or just hold space for others to chat among themselves.
Esther Donald, partner-in-charge of the Dallas office of Goranson Bain Ausley, said going hybrid has led to better performance, stronger engagement, increased innovation, more attentive client service and reduced turnover.
But she warns that there is a danger of burnout with too much connectivity.
“Our people are encouraged to draw a line between ‘time on’ and ‘time off’ and unplug with the confidence that their team members are backing them,” she said.
Employees of Beaird Harris are asked to come to the office at least two days a week, and Tuesdays are designated for team meetings and to simply schmooze. Paula Allgood, managing partner of the Dallas accounting and wealth management firm, says nose-to-the-grindstone work takes a breather on those in-person days.
She thinks that’s super.
“Productivity is important but not an end-all,” Allgood said. “There is no substitute for hearing laughter coming from the bullpen or hallway when a group of folks are hanging out.”
Wednesdays are a big deal at Camelot Strategic Marketing & Media.
Alex Richter, partner and chief marketing officer, noticed that in-person attendance peaked on Hump Day and began treating staffers to breakfast and lunch.
“Wednesdays have become an awesome day for our growing team to connect in person with some regularity to share a meal together and grab an ice cold Topo Chico while continuing to do exceptional work for our clients,” he said.
The Loomis Agency staffers work from home on Mondays and Fridays and come into the office Tuesday through Thursday.
“We don’t worry so much about who’s working from where and when,” Mike Sullivan, president and CEO, said. “We give our staff the latitude to make good decisions for themselves and our clients. We’ve also gone to unlimited PTO, and each person works with their direct report on scheduling their time off.”
Just ask for it
Charles Schwab gives most employees 90 flex days a year (about two days a week) to work outside the office.
Need more? Ask for it, said president Rick Wurster. About half of Schwab employees have gone to their bosses and gotten approval for more flexibility.
Jack Henry & Associates recently reopened its offices, but it won’t be like it was before.
CEO David Foss expects more than half of his employees — including the 700 in D-FW — to work entirely remotely, about 35% to 40% to work in a hybrid mode and a small number to come to the office every day.
Allied Electronics & Automation has gone hybrid permanently and redesigned its offices with that in mind, said Ken Bradley, president Americas.
“Employees can book a desk via a cloud-based reservation system according to their preferences at any time, and all conference and collaboration rooms are outfitted with top-of-the-line conference equipment to accommodate in-person, virtual and hybrid meetings.”
Community Hospital Corp. moved into new, contemporary offices where every employee has a private office or private space, CEO Jim Kendrick said. The building also features a community lounge with a pingpong table. Its employees get free access to an onsite fitness center.
Training remotely is tricky but not impossible.
Accenture, which has 2,825 employees here, recently onboarded more than 150,000 new employees around the world using Oculus headsets connected to its digital environment in the metaverse.
For training sessions and meetings, Slalom offers multiple time options to accommodate ever-changing schedules across time zones and varying personal responsibilities. With clients, it shadows their policy on remote vs in-person to reduce any friction conflicting policies may cause.
Assuras initiated a cross-functional team-building voting system that lets core consultants vote on who they believe would be the best choice for a specific team, CEO Tyler King said. “This has allowed us to better collaborate and provide more transparency into our overall operation.”
Enhabit Home Health & Hospice used to bring employees from all over the country for orientation and training.
“We’re now offering the majority of this training virtually, which has alleviated the need for travel and gives the opportunity for more employees to attend,” CEO Barb Jacobsmeyer said.
Pariveda created a program called Finvestment that brings employees back to the office every six weeks for in-house training focusing on building skills that can’t be developed in a remote work setting, said Brian Erickson, Dallas managing vice president.
Benchmark Mortgage uses Microsoft Teams for video conferencing, CEO Brian McKinney said. “Since the pandemic, I’ve been welcoming new employees through video conferencing, and I’ve had several people tell me that they feel more of a sense of family and belonging than they did at their previous company where they worked in person.”
Talent is global
Some winners have been remote from the get-go.
“As an international organization with employees across the U.S., Australia, India and the Philippines, we’ve gotten pretty good at operating across locations and time zones,” said Naveen Gupta, CEO and co-founder of Birdeye, an enterprise software company with 150 local workers.
“Talent is available globally — not just the big tech hubs like Silicon Valley — so offering a remote environment gives us access to a broader pool of talent.”
Axxess employees can set up shop anywhere in the world where there is a secured or trusted internet connection, said Tom Codd, chief people officer. “We’ve seen employees work from their own home, another home while visiting family and even an Airbnb ahead of their PTO.”
Most Texas team members at HealthEquity are now fully remote.
“That’s opened a virtual door for people who live in remote areas or who find it difficult to commute to an office location,’’ said Nicky Brown, vice president for advocacy and government affairs. “We want to level the playing field to allow talented folks no matter where they are to have opportunities to contribute from where they feel best suits them.”
Anthony Diesch, partner of Nova Landscape Group, said his team is operating totally in the flesh. “Our team prefers to collaborate by bouncing ideas and solutions off of each other. We’ve got a positive buzz in the office, and the synergy is contagious.”
Matt Baade, executive vice president-partner at Consilium Staffing, agrees. He thinks the novelty of working from home is wearing off. His company is all in-person.
While other companies are downsizing their space requirements, Consilium Staffing relocated to accommodate its growth.
“We believe in the power of teamwork, the energy, the excitement, the collaboration and all of the other intangibles that come from working alongside your team members,” Baade said. “There will continue to be more work-from-home and hybrid options than before the pandemic, but more and more folks are going to be back in the office.”