Remote Work, Culture, and CEO Power-No Power

Remote Work, Culture, and CEO Power-No Power

As work life moves to the next normal and more work options evolve for white collar workers, some CEO’s weighed in on what they want for their workforce or in society in general.  WeWork, the commercial rental space share company is hoping to capitalize on a return that will benefit their revenue most.  It should not be a surprise that its current CEO, Sandeep Mathroni, would say that people working from home are the “least engaged.”  In turn Jamie Dimon, is asking employees to get over the fact that they hate a long commute. I understand both of these perspectives. Other CEO’s have gone fully remote and hybrid as their preference.  It has become clear to me that there is no one size fits all practice for work. This is a new world, with new realities; but there are a few principles leaders should keep at the forefront as they noodle through what is best for their organization:

  1.  Have a plan and treat it as something that is generated with input but not by consensus. This is a leadership decision that balances multiple interests and is as much about culture as business. Most companies have still not developed a plan on how to treat work over the next months or years.  That is a decision of its own and employees will look around at companies that HAVE decided.
  2. Survey and involve employees in the decision including managing the change.  For example, a return to full time in the office is not a “return;” it is a new change and needs to be supported by a change strategy.  Equally, whether hybrid or remote, take a lesson from the Automattic’s of the world that have worked distributed or hybrid for some time. I operated in this world globally for 15 years with fully distributed teams.  It takes a different type of leadership and execution framework to support hybrid work. It also requires a commitment to the resources and practices to make it effective and fair in order to drive sustainable performance.
  3. Understand that your decision, what you have control over, is culture defining and you have influence wielded through communicating well as to “why” you are deciding.  Enough companies will now offer hybrid or remote work that the principle of “CEO Power-No Power” comes into play.  While a CEO can technically “compel” employees to a work framework, there are other options readily available that employees with mobile and solid talent will weigh.

The most important steps for a CEO and leadership team are to consider the activities of roles, their customers needs, its culture, and its business rhythm, and make an explicit decision about work and how the company will support whatever that structure is.  Beyond that, you will attract and keep colleagues that believe they work well within that culture and framework.

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