Aitch Are Gives You...
I've been following Chris Herd, CEO of Firstbase HQ, on Twitter for some time now. Not in a creepy, stalker-ish kind of way, I hasten to add, but more as a result of the challenge he has thrown out to employers around the remote-first response they should be adopting at this time. And beyond.
Chris is in the business of helping companies set up, scale and support remote workforces and has been one of the more vocal proponents of tapping into the shift away from office-based workforces, a shift that has been accelerated by Covid.
So it was great to have him along at our last weekly International HR Forum meeting to discuss his thoughts in this area. As an "HRD collective" much of our time these past few months has been comparing notes about how to support businesses and employees with the future world of work as we learn to live with Covid, and hopefully steer a course out of the pandemic.
What does Chris view as the benefits of a "remote-first" approach?
- It's a bridge to a higher quality of life. Less commuting, more time with family, etc.
- It is increasingly being seen as additional leverage to attract talent, given access to talent no longer needs to be constrained by location.
- Companies can save on real estate costs. Chris highlighted a recent survey that showed most orgs are looking to cut between 50 and 70% of their office footprint over the coming years.
- It promotes choice, and empowers people to have flexibility of where to work from e.g. home, office, coffee shop, on the go, or from a co-working space.
Chris did acknowledge that a remote-first approach does come with its challenges. Planned remote working in "normal" times would be very different from forced remote working during a pandemic, so to truly succeed in being a remote employer, companies will need to review their approach to:
- Thinking in terms of community as well as culture.
- Fully embracing remote working.
- Managing a distributed workforce.
- Addressing potential issues around burnout.
- Planning work such that it can be done from anywhere.
- Maximising the quality of any in-person time together.
- Ensuring equality of opportunity and participation (e.g. dialing in from where you're sitting rather than having some in a meeting room and others virtual).
- Async working.
- Knowledge sharing.
- Recalibrating what productivity means e.g. project work and stuff that requires deep thinking at home, in-person collaboration and relationship building at the office. It's all about what you do, not where you do it.
- Managing health and safety obligations in remote locations as well as offices.
- Leading through any "them and us" issues e.g. where head-office based staff can be remote, whilst others have no choice where they can work (e.g. in a factory, shop, hospital, etc).
Any transition will not be easy, as we haven't been here before. But plan, test, and try. See what works. Chris highlighted Spotify as a great case-study:
- We know what we think we should do.
- But we are going to ask our people.
- And we are going to listen to our people.
- And then we will give everyone want they feel they need to succeed.
- But give us time to get there.
- And be patient whilst we review how it's going.
Chris's parting comments were compelling:
- Ignoring remote working ignores the reality of what has happened to "office life" over the past 10 years - longer commutes, longer office hours, superficial relationships.
- Survey data is suggesting anything between 70-90% of people never want to work full-time from an office again, with the preference for being 1 or 2 days a week.
- Embrace remote. Or get left behind to those companies that do.
A huge thanks to Chris for a lively session! If you are grappling with issues in this area, or just want to see what's going on, then:
- Follow Chris on Twitter (@chris_herd)
- Connect with Chris on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisherd/)
- Read Chris's summary following discussions he had had with over 1,000 companies (https://twitter.com/chris_herd/status/1402621502902738944)
Thanks for reading! Comments welcome. In the meantime, stay safe, and be good.