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The Future of the Workplace: Lessons Learned in the Time of Coronavirus

I've learned that many people, perhaps to their surprise, prefer working remotely and may opt to continue to do so long after the virus is a daily disruptor.
Wendy Glavin is Founder and CEO of Wendy Glavin Agency, a NYC full-service public relations, marketing and social media agency. Wendy is a 30-year veteran of corporate, agency and consulting. She specializes in B2B2C marketing communications, PR, social and digital media. Contact her at: [email protected].
Wendy Glavin is Founder and CEO of Wendy Glavin Agency, a NYC full-service public relations, marketing and social media agency. Wendy is a 30-year veteran of corporate, agency and consulting. She specializes in B2B2C marketing communications, PR, social and digital media. Contact her at: [email protected].

Image source: Andy Orin / Unsplash

After sharing an article about the agonizing decision to move out of New York City, I became part of deep discussions about the pros and cons of living and working here. One reaction was, it’s not just about this specific city. People are thinking seriously about leaving urban jungles behind for the quiet environs of country living, and even considering leaving the country altogether. A realtor commented that one good outcome of this pandemic has been that many are accelerating their long-contemplated decision of whether they should stay or go.

Are You Planning to Move Out of New York City?

Another point made was that Manhattan isn’t worth staying in because of the cost and, even if you have the money, there’s the quality of life to consider. There’s no right answer obviously, since it depends on the work you do, your family, friends and colleagues, how and if you can work remotely and many other factors.

Whether you live in NYC, in other cities or abroad, it’s important to reflect on your background, experience, job, industry in which you work, your interests and hobbies. Throughout the last several months, I’ve spoken to many different people via Zoom and Hangouts and have had one-on-one meetings with young adults, those in middle management, industry leaders and more.

Since people have been working from home because of COVID-19, Gallup’s data illustrates that many are warming up to the experience. Since mid-March, Gallup shows that the percentage of workers who say that employers have offered flex-time or remote options has grown to 57 percent; and 62 percent of employed Americans have worked from home for at least part of the time.

How is Big Tech Managing Its Employees Returning to Work?

Tech giants like, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon have outlined how employees might return to their offices this year, setting tentative dates for reopening now, or continue to work from home through Q4.

Most of Google’s employees will work from home “potentially” until next year, said CEO Sundar Pichai.

Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, told employees they never have to return to the office if they prefer to work remotely. Dorsey’s mobile payment company, Square, announced that it would also allow most of it 3,000 employees to work remotely on a permanent basis.

New York is starting to ease restrictions on businesses, and the world’s biggest financial firms are preparing to bring thousands of employees back to their offices starting this month.

But even with sophisticated face-mask sensors in the lobby, temperature checks and touch-free elevator rides, it will be well into next year before most workers are back at their desks and the center of global finance begins to feel like its old self again.

The New York Times, June 8 2020

How Do You Feel About Working Remotely?

Going beyond the news, stats and business trends, I wanted to learn more about how people think. To do so, I conducted brief polls on social media and through In general, respondents said they prefer to work from home because they feel more productive and efficient.

Other positive responses included that COVID-19 has made it possible to re-imagine the workplace using a more hybrid approach to bring people together virtually or in-person when it’s absolutely necessary. (As an aside, what does the future hold for airlines and business travel? How many formerly frequent flyers will still be frequent? Do you have any interest in even behind close to an airport? I think Warren Buffett was right to bail when he did.)

Another comment from a friend at Roche in Switzerland said, “I’ve adapted surprisingly well. My role is to provide workshops to leadership teams to shift to a more dynamic work environment, using agile methodology.”

One might think this is difficult, but video conferencing services like Zoom are great levelers. I’m hoping we continue this way. I’m a member of the Future of Work at the London Business School. We speak about employees’ health, resilience and the importance of time off. We’ve also introduced mindfulness as a way of helping.

A PR executive said, “I believe the strongest retention practices are to accommodate the personal need of employees whenever possible, which makes it difficult for competitors to hire them away. My goal was to minimize employee turnover, which was much lower than the industry average, and our client longevity was longer.”

Of the people who said they prefer remote work, their companies will offer part-time schedules, adopt hybrid working models and will change their hiring practices.

Interestingly, there are still many companies that say they won’t offer flex hours or remote options. I wonder if these companies will be competitive in attracting and retaining motivated employees.

Another important point is the concern about loneliness and the need for people to socialize beyond the confines of Zoom to keep their mental health on even keel.

More than 80 percent of Americans report the nation’s future is a significant source of stress. We are experiencing the collision of three national crises—the COVID-19 pandemic, economic turmoil and recent, traumatic events related to systemic racism.

As a result, the collective mental health of the American public has endured one devastating blow after another, the long-term effects of which many people will struggle for years to come. We don’t have to be passive players in mitigating the rapidly increasing stress Americans are facing and its consequences on our health.

American Psychological Association, June 18 2020

Digital Work Has Accelerated the Adoption of New Ways of Working

One positive outcome of the pandemic for professionals is that working from home is widely accepted as a viable job option. It’s important to stress here that many people have worked from home or remotely for years, and businesses that were created with a digitally-focused mentality may have a competitive advantage over traditional, legacy companies confined to their steel and concrete.

Companies have been speaking about digital transformation for years. Instead of talking the talk, they need to walk the walk, as the saying goes, or be left behind.

A discovery-driven approach gets leaders past the common barriers to digital transformation. By starting small, spending a little on an ongoing portfolio of experiments, and learning a lot, you can win early supporters and early adopters.

By then moving quickly and demonstrating clear impact on financial performance indicators, you can build a case for and learn your way into a digital strategy. You can also use your digitization projects to begin an organizational transformation. As people become more comfortable with the horizontal communications and activities that digital technologies enable, they will also embrace new ways of working.

Incumbent companies have some great advantages over new competitors: paying customers, financial resources, customer and market data, and larger talent pools. But CEOs will have to integrate agility and innovation into their broader organizations and communicate the new ways of digital thinking while minimizing disruption to their existing businesses. A discovery-driven approach provides a way to address those challenges.

Harvard Business Review, June 2020.


Wendy Glavin is the founder and CEO of Wendy Glavin Agency, a strategic marketing, public relations and social media consultancy. Find out more at


Equities Contributor: Wendy Glavin

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