More and more companies are waking up to a new reality and realizing that many of their employees are not only interested in having a long term discussion about working from home but, in some cases, demanding it. These businesses should think seriously about getting ahead of this conversation and, rather than making it a confrontation, have a constructive discussion about their Distributed Business Solutions. Let’s call ’em DiBS for simplicities sake.
Last year Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that his social media empire would be doing what a lot of companies are considering and allow at least half of their employees to work from home. Clearly a Covid-19 timed move but probably one that Facebook had been considering for a while. It seems many working from home have embraced the new normal and businesses are not only paying attention to the needs of their workforce but also their bottom line. The potential cost savings from moving teams out of high rent office space and into “whatever the rent might be is their problem” home offices are certainly enticing for any business focused on the bottom line.
With that in mind Zuckerberg took his proclamation one unfortunately click bait-y step further and removed any thought that empathy or optics were factors in the announcement and said that pay would be adjusted based on where these homes they work from might be located. It was an unnecessary add on to a headline that should have marked a progressives step towards becoming the company that listens to its workforce and makes sweeping adjustments to promote their happiness. If you can do your job from anywhere (maybe even do a better job!) and you want to move home to help your aging mother in Des Moines then that’s what you should do…for half the pay.
The idea that an employee’s pay is based, in part, on where they live is not new to the corporate world. Most large companies factor in cost of living when they consider offers to new hires but this new rush to turn homes into home offices has shined a light on this step in the negotiation. Employees should expect some back and forth when they tell their boss they kinda like this new way of working and would like to make it permanent…at the same level of pay.
That said, businesses should be prepared to have this conversation more and more often and instead of feeling confronted they can get ahead of it by putting their plan together and look at this as an opportunity to improve the happiness of their people (and save some money on rent). This is why many businesses, like Facebook, are coming up with their own DiBS. As meetings and conference calls are replaced with Zooms, employers are literally face to face with a growing number of employees that are clearly capable of performing their duties from the comfort of their own home. The quiet murmurs from the hint dropping staff are starting to doppler as stay at home orders start to lift and the hesitation to climb back into the car for an hour long commute to a potentially virus filled cubicle races toward them.
For companies that have already embraced the distributed model the “s” in DiBS doesn’t stand for services because they consider this kind of proactive planning a way to develop Solutions. That’s an important factor that underlines the empathy businesses like Automatic, which has over 1,500 employees spread across the globe, have when they approach this dialog. The models they use to help employees manage work from home aren’t the pre-determined, plug and play mandates that some might prefer. Instead, they are solutions meant to embrace the human factor in creating their approach to negotiating, assisting and implementing their work from home (or wherever) strategy. Even the tools they use for communicating are meant to, first and foremost, maintain a personal connection between team members and the business itself.
Most importantly, DiBS are also meant to empower employees and help them meet and exceed their potential while working outside of the classic corporate structure. Allowing the work from home employee a level of autonomy not easily achieved it the classic corporate environment. A successful result means they’ve met the expectation to work within the team structure but have also been empowered to leave the video chat and develop their own ideas, approaches and plans without the pressure of collaborative, group dynamics.
As the push to get “back to normal” mounts, from state to state, businesses are faced with their own challenges when it comes to not only doing the work they do to drive revenue but also how and where they interact with the workforce that makes that happen. The forward thinking company isn’t using this as an opportunity to unnecessarily announce location based lines in the sand but is actually having internal discussions about how this sea change can be one that benefits the bottom line and everyone hired to improve it. So when an employee tells them they like spending less time in the car and more time with their family they don’t reply as if confronted but instead offer a mutually beneficial, well thought out plan to make that their new normal.
So, Corporate America…Whose got DiBS?