Remote Work Leveled The Playing Field: How Companies Can Continue To Adapt

Co-Founder of One WiFi. Author of the new book Remote Work Technology: Keeping Your Small Business Thriving From Anywhere

For my new book, Remote Work Technology: Keeping Your Small Business Thriving From Anywhere, I interviewed business leaders across the U.S. who had to take their entire companies remote during the shutdowns.

Many already had some people who worked from home, but most had not taken the whole organization remote. The shift revealed quite a bit about how work was being done as well as who some of the top performers were. It also revealed a number of the inequities of the traditional way of working in the office. Leaders discovered that some of the employees they thought were high performers were people who rode on the work of others when they were in the office environment.

The shift caused many leaders to re-evaluate how they were measuring performance. In the end, it turns out that the sudden shift to remote work was a blessing in disguise for many organizations.

Below are some additional insights based on what I learned during my interviews, as well as my advice on succeeding in the continuing remote work journey.

Changes In Management Methods

Although remote work has a long history, a Gallup poll in early March 2020 showed that only 31% of workers had ever worked remotely. That means that when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, management of large teams of remote workers wasn’t commonplace. A massive spike in remote work occurred soon after. By the end of the month, more than 60% of those polled reported working remotely.

It’s one thing to manage an occasional work-from-home employee, but suddenly switching operations to be fully remote took serious management adaptation. Part of the challenge was changing how they gauged productivity and the performance of remote team members.

Collaborating over distances had to be worked out. Staying engaged with teams was a must. This forced both policies and management styles to step up and change to meet the demand of the day.

Digital Footprints

As many managers switched to goal-based and results-based methods of gauging productivity, it became clear that being in an in-person collaborative environment allowed many underperformers to fly under the radar. As their teams completed projects, they reaped the rewards of work largely done by others while contributing little of their own.

Once working from home became commonplace, remote work technologies forced company leaders to see work being done from a different point of view. The applications being used left a trail to follow. The digital footprints highlighted who the work came from and when. This allowed managers to better see who uploaded new documents and who added changes to those documents. With Slack channels and chat rooms, it became easy to see who was actively engaged with their peers, who was contributing new ideas and who was stepping up to take on additional tasks.

Rising Stars And Hidden Gems

At the same time, many leaders found that those who before had seemed less engaged with the company because they were more introverted became much more outspoken in video meetings. During their work-from-home periods, it appears that many introverts didn’t feel as intimidated by energetic extroverts, who in the traditional office environment tended to drown them out.

Many introverts felt more comfortable speaking up and became more verbally engaged. They felt less pressure to be “on” and charismatic when surrounded by a group of people. For introverts, feeling forced to interact and socialize can be draining. The extra personal space allowed by remote work allowed introverts to better maintain their energy levels and feel more comfortable adding to conversations.

Deeper Work

The added personal space also had positive effects on productivity. It not only allowed remote workers to increase the amount of time they had for creative thinking, but it also created opportunities for them to do deeper work.

Deep work periods are when employees can do more focused work, free from the distractions of peers and others around them. It allows them to harness more of their mental resources and use them to do higher-quality work on whatever task they’re concentrating on.

The Virtual Workplace Is A Continuing Journey

When the shutdowns happened, there were some bumps in the road, but companies figured things out and found ways not only to only survive but also to thrive while they were working remotely. Employers found new ways to stay engaged with their teams, keep up productivity and enhance the employee experience. 

The work-from-home journey is far from over, though. Remote work is something that’s ever-evolving. As we move to hybrid work models, it’s vital that companies are willing to lean into the flexibility that they will need to cultivate success. Adjusting policies, work hours and management styles to meet the changing needs of hybrid and fully remote employees will ensure that company goals are also met. 

Maintaining high levels of authentic engagement with remote workers is key to the success of your teams. Offering regular feedback followed by recognition and appreciation helps team members feel valued and helps them understand that they’re vital parts of the company. Team leaders must be proactive in their engagement. You can’t wait for feedback to come to you. Instead, you must actively solicit feedback from your teams and then act on that feedback. 

As I learned during my interviews, effective company leaders call on their soft leadership skills to guide their management of the virtual workplace. Actively listening with empathy, being willing to learn more about the goals of individuals on your teams and emphasizing interpersonal skills are huge motivators for remote workers. 

With a distributed workforce, the goals of the company and the goals of the employees must be aligned. Leadership that focuses on valuing people and being empathetic to their needs will ensure that the whole company thrives both now and in the long term.

Webex & Google Meet: Inclusive experiences through embedded interop

Inclusive experiences through embedded interop

Over the past year, we’ve focused on our goal at Webex to empower inclusive collaboration. This is more important than ever in today’s hybrid world. Inclusivity means many things to many people, but at its core, it is to simply provide equal access to opportunities and resources. To me, this includes providing collaboration with an open platform – with open arms, if you will – to interoperate with multiple meeting platforms and productivity tools that our global village uses. Today, I’m excited to announce another step with inclusivity: Webex has partnered with Google Workspace to provide embedded video interoperability to enable user choice and drive boundless collaboration.

The reality is that people need workflows they can control; not ones that control them. This is more important than ever as we have extended our workplace well beyond the conference room and into our homes or hot-desks leading to less in-person interaction and an increase in remote meetings from different platforms any given day.

In a recent customer meeting, the CIO told us while 80% of meetings conducted happen on their preferred platform, 20% take place on other meeting platforms. And what about the customers that want or need to use a meeting provider that’s different from their video hardware provider? For example, in the past, there were extra steps involved to join your Webex Desk Pro to Google Meet. Our announcement today takes out those extra steps and makes it that much easier to focus on your work and not how you work.

Collaboration tools must enable productivity; not deter it with the friction of silos. This is precisely why today we’re unveiling interoperability between Google Workspace and Webex. Together we’re easing this burden for our joint customers. People can now natively join Google Meet video calls from Webex Devices and in reverse, Webex meetings from Google Meet video hardware.

Join Google Meet video calls from Webex Rooms devices

Picture a customer using the Google Workspace suite simply scheduling a meeting in Google Calendar or any supported calendar client. If using Google Meet, the meeting can be joined from a Webex Device with the click of a button. It’s that simple – maintaining the experience that customers of Webex Devices have come to expect. 

When the meeting is approaching, the Webex Device displays the green One Button To Push (OBTP) prompt together with the Google Meet logo. This bypasses the need to enter meeting details, like a password or meeting ID. Devices registered to Webex (directly or through Webex Edge) can connect to Google Meet with media and signaling going directly from Google’s cloud to the Webex device and leveraging WebRTC technology.

By Cisco

Join Webex Meeting from Google Meet devices

The same works with Webex meetings on Google Meet devices as well. Google’s commitment to advancing WebRTC is key in enabling this easy and rich experience with Webex from Google Meet devices, bringing customers greater choice and flexibility in video communications.

To join a scheduled Webex meeting from any Google Meet hardware device, a user would simply add the room or device to the meeting invite. When the meeting approaches, it will automatically appear on the device’s agenda with the words “via Webex by Cisco.” The user would simply tap that meeting on their device and immediately join the Webex call. To join an ad-hoc Webex call, the user would tap ‘Find a meeting’ on their device, select Webex, and enter the desired meeting code.

When joining a Webex meeting from a Google Meet hardware device — either scheduled or ad-hoc — users will enjoy the seamless join experience and familiar Google Meet UI and call controls. Embedded interoperability with Webex is supported on the Google Meet Series One Desk 27 and Board 65 as well as the rest of the Google Meet hardware portfolio.

At Webex we’re laser-focused on providing the best possible customer experience to our customers — regardless of device or meeting platform. Thanks Google Workspace, for the collaboration that offers customers yet another positive experience. Together, we’re committed to empowering an inclusive future for all.

Author: Snorre Kjesbu

Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Working From Home

A six-minute meeting drove Portia Twidt to quit her job.

She’d taken the position as a research compliance specialist in February, enticed by promises of remote work. Then came the prodding to go into the office. Meeting invites piled up.

The final straw came a few weeks ago: the request for an in-person gathering, scheduled for all of 360 seconds. Twidt got dressed, dropped her two kids at daycare, drove to the office, had the brief chat and decided she was done.

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With the coronavirus pandemic receding for every vaccine that reaches an arm, the push by some employers to get people back into offices is clashing with workers who’ve embraced remote work as the new normal.

While companies from Google to Ford Motor Co. and Citigroup Inc. have promised greater flexibility, many chief executives have publicly extolled the importance of being in offices. Some have lamented the perils of remote work, saying it diminishes collaboration and company culture. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said at a recent conference that it doesn’t work “for those who want to hustle.”

But legions of employees aren’t so sure. If anything, the past year has proved that lots of work can be done from anywhere, sans lengthy commutes on crowded trains or highways. Some people have moved. Others have lingering worries about the virus and vaccine-hesitant colleagues.

And for Twidt, there’s also the notion that some bosses, particularly those of a generation less familiar to remote work, are eager to regain tight control of their minions.

“They feel like we’re not working if they can’t see us,” she said. “It’s a boomer power-play.”

It’s still early to say how the post-pandemic work environment will look. Only about 28% of U.S. office workers are back at their buildings, according to an index of 10 metro areas compiled by security company Kastle Systems. Many employers are still being lenient with policies as the virus lingers, vaccinations continue to roll out and childcare situations remain erratic.

But as office returns accelerate, some employees may want different options. A May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. The generational difference is clear: Among millennials and Gen Z, that figure was 49%, according to the poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.

“High-five to them,” said Sara Sutton, the CEO of FlexJobs, a job-service platform focused on flexible employment. “Remote work and hybrid are here to stay.”

The lack of commutes and cost savings are the top benefits of remote work, according to a FlexJobs survey of 2,100 people released in April. More than a third of the respondents said they save at least $5,000 per year by working remotely.


Perks of Flexibility

Not having to commute is the top benefit for remote workers.

Source: FlexJobs

Survey of 2,181 total respondents ran from March 17, 2021 through April 5, 2021.

Jimme Hendrix, a 30-year-old software developer in the Netherlands, quit his job in December as the web-application company he worked for was gearing up to bring employees back to the office in February.

“During Covid I really started to see how much I enjoyed working from home,” Hendrix said.

Now he does freelance work and helps his girlfriend grow her art business. He used to spend two hours each day commuting; now the couple is considering selling their car and instead relying on bikes.

One of the main benefits, he says, is more control over his own time: “I can just do whatever I want around the house, like a quick chore didn’t have to wait until like 8 p.m. anymore, or I can go for a quick walk.”

Of course, not everyone has the flexibility to choose. For the millions of frontline workers who stock the shelves of grocery stores, care for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, or drop off packages at people’s doors, there are scant alternative options to showing up in person.

But among those who can, many are weighing their alternatives, said Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, who’s researched why people quit jobs. Bosses taking a hard stance should beware, particularly given labor shortages in the economy, he said.

“If you’re a company that thinks everything’s going back to normal, you may be right but it’s pretty risky to hope that’s the case,” he said.

At least some atop the corporate ladder seem to be paying attention. In a Jan. 12 PwC survey of 133 executives, fewer than one in five said they want to go back to pre-pandemic routines. But only 13% were prepared to let go of the office for good.


Senior Management’s View

Days in the office that executives think is needed to maintain company culture.

Source: PwC

PwC surveyed 133 US executives between Nov. 24 and Dec, 5, 2020,from public and private companies in financial services, technology, media and telecommunications and retail products.

Alison Green, founder of workplace-advice website Ask a Manager, said she’s been contacted by many people with qualms about going back, citing concerns about unvaccinated colleagues and Covid precautions. Some have said they’re looking for jobs at companies they feel take the virus seriously, or will let them work from anywhere.

Some things are indeed lost with remote work, Green said, like opportunities for collaboration or learning for junior employees. But, she added: “I think we need to have a more nuanced discussion than: hustlers only do well in the office.”

For Sarah-Marie Martin, who lived in Manhattan and worked as a partner at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. when the pandemic struck, the months at home gave her time to redraw the blueprint of her life.

“When you have this existential experience, you have time to step back and think,” Martin said. “In my previous life, I didn’t have time to get super deep and philosophical.”

The mother of five moved her family to the New Jersey shore. And once the push to get back to offices picked up, the idea of commuting hardly seemed alluring. This spring, Martin accepted a fully remote position as chief financial officer of Yumi, a Los Angeles-based maker of baby food.

Gene Garland, 24, unknowingly opened the floodgates to people’s frustrations about office returns. After his employer, an IT company, in April told people they needed to start coming in, two of his close colleagues handed in their resignation letters. Garland, who lives in Hampton, Virginia, tapped out a tweet:

Hundreds of people responded, with many outlining plans, or at least hopes, to leave their own jobs. Garland says he himself has no plans to quit, but empathizes with those who do.

“Working inside of a building really does restrict time a lot more than you think,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid of the cycle where you work and work and work — and then you die.”

Twidt, the compliance specialist in Georgia, had already lined up a new job by the time she handed in her resignation letter: a role at a Washington-based company.

The recruiter that approached her, Twidt said, asked what it would take to get her on board. She replied that she would prefer something 100% remote.

“They said, ‘we can do that for you immediately.’”

— With assistance by Sridhar Natarajan

Author: Anders Melin
By Bloomberg

New hybrid work innovations in Microsoft Teams Rooms, Fluid, and Microsoft Viva

As workplaces open in many regions around the world, I hear from customers every day that they can’t wait to get back to in-person collaboration. I feel it myself—and look forward to seeing many of my coworkers in person one day soon. But even more than that, I look forward to finding new ways to help people connect and engage regardless of location and time zone. 

At Microsoft, we believe that hybrid work is the future of work and that to empower their people to succeed in hybrid work, business leaders will need to reimagine their organizations with a new operating model for people, places, and processes.

We’re also committed to building experiences that put everyone on equal footing—whether they’re together in a conference room in Atlanta, presenting remotely from a home office, or catching up with a meeting recording once the workday begins in Sydney.  

Microsoft Teams is mission-critical to this vision for a more flexible world of work. Teams is unique in that it brings together meetings, chat, calls, collaboration, and business process automation in a single app. Since COVID-19 spurred office workers around the world to work from home, we’ve been innovating in Teams to do things like create more natural and engaging meeting experiences—enable people to connect seamlessly with those inside and outside of their organizations and provide ways to make remote presentations richer and more impactful. 

And as we emerge into this new hybrid reality, we are focused on building experiences in Teams that are designed to ensure all voices are heard including the people not in the room—empowering everyone to connect and engage, from anywhere and at any time. And to make it easier to collaborate synchronously and asynchronously, we’re also announcing new Microsoft Fluid canvas innovations—in Teams and beyond. 

But COVID-19 also taught us that meeting fatigue and digital overload is real, and remote work has challenged our wellbeing. To help, Microsoft has built Microsoft Viva—our integrated employee experience platform—into Teams, so that employees can find ways to protect time and preserve their wellbeing right in the flow of their work.

Today we are announcing new innovations—in Microsoft Teams Rooms, Fluid, and Microsoft Viva—all designed to empower your people for hybrid work. Let’s have a look.  


Participate on equal footing—at home, onsite, or on the go

Unlocking better hybrid meeting experiences for everyone begins with designing for the people who aren’t in the room, so that everyone feels like they have a seat at the table, whether they’re joining in the room, at home, or on the go. Today, we’re announcing enhancements to Teams meetings and Microsoft Teams Rooms built to create engaging experiences for every participant.

Over the course of this year, we will roll out front row in Teams Rooms, an immersive room layout that makes interactions feel more natural and gives in-room participants a greater sense of connection to remote participants. 

We’ve moved the video gallery to the bottom of the screen so remote participants are face-to-face with those in the room. And to help everyone stay engaged, meeting content is surrounded by contextual meeting information like the agenda, tasks, and notes. Meeting chat will also be clearly visible to those in the room, so they can see and respond to comments shared through chat.

To help remote participants establish their presence in the room and maximize inclusion, Teams Rooms will expand screen real estate using new video layouts that disperse the video gallery across multiple displays when content isn’t shared. 

The increased space means remote participants show up larger and more true to life. We’re also bringing more features from desktop to Teams Rooms this summer, to help bring attention to the remote participants engaging in the meeting. 

These features include live reactionsspotlight, and the ability to pin multiple video streams (coming this fall) and chat bubbles when using the classic video grid layout.

Remote participants should also be able to see who is in the meeting room, and what’s happening. JabraLogitechPoly, and our newest Teams device partner Neat are using advanced AI-powered camera technologies to provide new video views optimized for hybrid meetings, allowing every person in the room to be seen more clearly.

We’re also making sure those who speak in meetings are clearly identified. The Teams intelligent speakers from EPOS and Yealink are now generally available and are built for Teams Rooms and use Microsoft’s voice recognition technology in Teams to attribute remarks to the meeting room speaker in the transcript. With speaker attributed—meeting transcription, people can focus on contributing to the conversation instead of taking notes, and those who missed the meeting can see a record of the conversation after the meeting.

And we’re thrilled to announce the new Teams Rooms on Surface Hub experience. Surface Hub is purpose-built for teams to meet and co-create, wherever they work, and the next generation of Teams on Surface Hub brings more of your favorite meetings features and controls from the desktop to the meeting room—including a modernized meeting stage, Together Mode scenes, and PowerPoint Live. Coming this fall, the new Microsoft Whiteboard experience will also be available on Surface Hub, so everyone can draw and ink on the same digital canvas.   

You can find more information on these Teams Rooms and partner announcements on our Teams Tech Community Blog.

To empower remote participants to initiate and facilitate whiteboard sessions, we’ve created a completely new, hybrid work-focused Whiteboard experience where all attendees can visually collaborate across the same digital canvas. 

Available in summer 2021, new features will enable anyone to bring existing content to Whiteboard to co-author; and new templates will help groups start ideating faster, improving their ability to follow along with contributors, and more.

Effective hybrid meetings require every participant to be able to present, and experience a presentation in a way that’s engaging and inclusive. New PowerPoint Live features help create a shared space for collaboration and contributions from everyone in the meeting. 

Slide translate allows attendees to see the presentation in their chosen language, for instance. 

And with our new inking experience, you can annotate your PowerPoint as you present—or use a laser pointer to call attention to key points. 

And look for these latest features in the Teams mobile app as well. You can now access PowerPoint Live and Dynamic view on your mobile devices. Custom background is also now on iOS and coming soon to Android.



Collaborate in the flow of work

To work effectively in hybrid and asynchronous models, people need a super-rich canvas that both creates and maintains context before, during, and after the meeting. Fluid components are atomic units of productivity that help you get your work done in the context of chat, emails, meetings, and more. 

Recently, we announced new Fluid components in chat to create live, collaborative experiences that can be edited in real-time and shared across Teams and Office apps. And today, we’re announcing the expansion of Fluid components for Teams meetings, OneNote, Outlook, and Whiteboard that make it easier to collaborate synchronously and asynchronously across Teams and Office apps. We’re also announcing new chat features that further support asynchronous collaboration, so you can keep the work moving forward in between meetings. 

Pin a message, providing your chat members with quick access to critical content anytime, and reply to a specific chat message maintaining context within the ongoing conversation.

Meetings have increased significantly over the past year, along with unstructured communications. Research from our Work Trend Index shows the average Teams user is sending 45 percent more chats per person per, week than they did one year ago. 

And ad-hoc, unstructured meetings are on the rise as well. To help manage this digital overload, new Fluid components in Teams meetings make it easy to co-create an agenda, take notes, and assign tasks, right within the Teams meeting, and access persistent recap content whenever you need it. And the note, agenda, and tasks from meetings will be automatically “placed” in the new meeting notes home of OneNote. 

While the meeting is underway, take the discussion a step further by ideating and brainstorming together by creating and editing live Fluid components in Whiteboard. Fluid components can also be leveraged across Outlook—in email or the calendar—making it easier to manage your time, agenda, notes, and tasks across apps.


Protect time and prioritize wellbeing



Weekly meeting time for Teams users has more than doubled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Back-to-back meetings increase stress and make it harder to stay engaged and focused. 

In just a few minutes a day, meditation and mindfulness with Headspace can help you reduce stress and improve focus. Starting later this month, we’re bringing a curated set of guided meditations and mindfulness exercises from Headspace to the Viva Insights app in Teams to help you start your day grounded, relax your mind before a big presentation, or disconnect from work in the evening.

Building upon the Viva Insights ability to schedule daily focus time to work uninterrupted with Teams notifications silenced, we are introducing a new focus mode in the Viva Insights app later this year. This will feature Focus music from Headspace and implement timers to help you make progress on important tasks in regular intervals with breaks planned in between.

Remote work has eliminated physical boundaries between work and life leading to an increase in after-hours chats, and a feeling of being always-on. We want to help your people find balance and protect personal time. 

Later this year, Viva Insights will offer the ability to configure quiet time to silence mobile notifications from Outlook and Teams outside your working hours as well as provide personalized insights on how well you are disconnecting. 

Quiet time settings will also be available for users in Teams and Outlook mobile and accompanied by IT administrator controls in Microsoft Endpoint Manager to support the creation of organization-wide policies to mute after-hours notifications.

As we all navigate this new world of work together, we will discover new ways to help people work both flexibly and effectively. At Microsoft, we’re committed to bringing you experiences that empower people to work from anywhere, at any time. 

By studying the research and the usage patterns in our apps—and talking to customers every day—we are continuing to hone our understanding of what people need, to bring their best selves to work every day. This understanding guides our innovation as we work to bring you and your people experiences that help them achieve more.

Author: Jared Spataro
By Microsoft

Survey finds majority of parents want to continue remote work post-pandemic

(WHTM) — As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and employees return to in-person work, parents may be reluctant to get back to pre-pandemic normal. According to a survey by FlexJobs, 61% of parents surveyed want to continue working remotely full-time after the pandemic, while 37% would prefer a hybrid work environment, and just 2% want to go back to the office full-time.

“Even though the pandemic for a lot of parents was really difficult and probably some of the harder parenting times that they’ve had…there still was this sense of having more control over their days,” Brie Reynolds, career development manager at FlexJobs, said.

Control and flexibility seem to be two of the biggest benefits of working from home for parents. Katrina Blaydon works for the Penn State College of Medicine and has a 6-year-old daughter.

Blaydon writes, “If my daughter is sick and needs a day of rest on the couch, I can work there too. If I don’t have child care, I can work from home to supervise her and still get my work done.”

Blaydon works remotely four days a week and in-person one day a week, although that could change in the future. “I hope that schedule is allowed to continue for the long term,” Blaydon writes.

In conducting the survey, Reynolds heard from parents who appreciated the flexibility to shift their work hours around to accommodate family needs while working from home. Better work-life balance was a benefit of remote work mentioned by 62% of surveyed parents, and 70% of respondents said they appreciated having more time with their families.

Blaydon also cites the importance of work-life balance, writing, “I love working from home [because] it allows me a little more work/home life balance. I don’t always need to choose work or home.”

Parents also noted other benefits of working from home, including no commute, improved work efficiency, more time for self-care (eating healthier, exercising, etc.), fewer office distractions, easier pet care, and of course avoiding exposure to COVID-19.

Among the cost and time savings benefits of working from home, parents — and especially women, notes Reynolds — also indicated that they spent less time and effort getting ready to go to work.

According to the FlexJobs survey, 62% of parents say they would quit their current job if they cannot continue remote work. Their concerns about returning to the office include challenges with childcare as well as reduced flexibility and work-life balance.

While parents experienced several benefits of working from home, they also faced challenges caring for children while working.

“You’re really trying to manage two very important tasks at once: you’re trying to keep your kids active and engaged in whatever they need to be doing and also keep yourself active and engaged in what you’re doing,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds has two kids who are 8 and 2, and she says that she and her husband were able to work from home and have flexible schedules, which made taking care of their kids during the pandemic much easier. At the same time, though, “Physically it kind of felt like my brain was trying to split into two pieces and do two separate things,” she said.

COVID-19 reduced working parents’ options for childcare. Schools went remote and childcare facilities closed. On top of that, individuals were encouraged to limit their contact with people outside their households, so friends and family who might normally be able to help supervise children were often unable to help during the pandemic.

The end of the pandemic will mean the return of these childcare options and other daytime activities for kids, and Reynolds says that having some kind of childcare support is very important for working parents.

Other remote work challenges parents noted in the FlexJobs survey include difficulty “unplugging” outside of the workday, technology problems, video meeting fatigue, and struggling to collaborate and manage relationships with colleagues.

Many people lost or quit their jobs during the pandemic. According to FlexJobs, “the majority [of parents] were impacted in some way due to childcare responsibilities.”

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Now parents may be getting ready to head back to the office or rejoin the workforce, which can feel daunting.

“Parents can always think back to what they overcame in the last year and how big a challenge that was, and really understand that whatever happens, those challenges they can handle because they handled the most unexpected challenge,” Reynolds reminded them.

Reynolds says that in addition to remote work, flexible scheduling is another popular option for parents. Flexible scheduling means that employees may have the option to shift their hours to avoid rush hour traffic or to bank overtime hours and then work shorter days when needed.

“One of the biggest things that employers can do to help parents is think about flexible scheduling,” Reynolds said. “Having more control over your days in that way can be really helpful.”

For parents returning to the workforce or looking to land a permanently remote position, Reynolds encourages a resume update. First, they should add any skills they developed during the pandemic, such as time management or proficiency with communication and collaboration technology (Zoom, Google Drive, Microsoft Teams, etc.).

Additionally, individuals who were not working during COVID-19 should note the reason for their career gap on their resumes, Reynolds says. For example, they might write, “Due to the pandemic, I had to leave my position to do full-time caregiving,” she said. This lets employers know that there was a specific reason for any gap in work experience.

Reynolds encourages job seekers to be confident in their applications because employers went through the COVID-19 pandemic, too.

“Everybody experienced this in the last year…truly everyone has some experience going through the pandemic, and so if people are worried about coming back into the workforce, finding a job after having a gap on their resume, it’s kind of like the old rules don’t necessarily apply to this situation,” Reynolds said.

The FlexJobs survey had 1,184 respondents, all of whom have children 18 years old or younger living with them.

Author: Avery Van Etten
By ABC27

As offices open back up, not all tech companies are sold on a remote future

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter doesn’t want its executives to come back to the office, at least not full time.

Neither does Slack, which makes workplace-collaboration tools. Both companies are letting employees work partially or fully remotely after the pandemic and want to make sure everyone adheres to the new policies to create equality.

Amazon, on the other hand, believes the best way to keep its foothold as a leading tech giant is by bringing everyone back to an “office-centric culture,” as soon as it’s safely possible. In between are companies such as Google and Apple, which are allowing two work-from-home days every week.

Big tech companies were some of the earliest to shut down and lead the way for remote work at the start of the pandemic. Now many are evaluating the future, some choosing at least limited returns to expensive tech campuses, in which the largest companies have invested billions.

As they announce their plans, it’s becoming clear: Many of the same companies behind the technology that has made remote work possible for the past 15 months are not willing to buy into a fully remote workplace for themselves.

That has created tension among some white-collar tech workers, as the companies try to balance retaining control with the demands of employees who have grown used to managing their own locations and schedules. They’ve commiserated on internal forums and pushed back on early offerings from employers.

Now, many tech companies are inviting (or requiring) their employees to come back to the office a few days a week, most commonly three. Some including Google and Apple are adding on stretches of remote-work time, so people can take two or more weeks of working vacation from wherever they choose. A few like Facebook are letting some people apply to be fully remote, with plans of hiring more people to do so in the future.

As a whole, however, the companies’ plans acknowledge that 2020 changed how people work, and there’s no going back, at least not entirely.

“What bosses need to understand is that this experience we’ve all lived through has had as big an impact on how we think about life as any other world event in history,” said Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s executive overseeing modern work technology. “If you then go try to run a company like it’s 2019, workers might say, ‘I’ve changed, but you haven’t? Then I think I have to go make a change.’”

Microsoft announced most of its workers will be able to work remotely up to 50 percent of the time after offices are fully open, if their jobs allow and the workers choose to. The company, like many others including Slack and Twitter, conducted a survey of its employees to see what they wanted their work life to look like after the pandemic. Across the companies, many people want to come back to offices at least part time, and a smaller slice wants to go back full time.


The battle for talent

Companies have slowly been releasing and adjusting their back-to-work plans.

Facebook has not committed to any new work-from-home policies yet. After some offices start opening to a portion of workers July 2, people who are back will be able to work from home one day a week, which was Facebook’s policy before the pandemic.

“As we get closer to re-opening our offices at scale, we’re considering our approach to in-office time, and expect this will likely evolve,” said Facebook spokesperson Katelyn Brehony in a statement.

Some employees at Facebook are unhappy with the system for choosing who can work fully remotely. The company is letting only workers at certain levels of seniority apply, though it varies between departments. According to Facebook, of the people who have applied to go fully remote so far, nearly 90 percent have been approved.

Google’s plans include most workers showing up in the office three days a week, though 20 percent of staff may end up working from home permanently, and another 20 percent might switch offices. Inside the company, it’s still unclear what exactly expectations will be and how they will differ between work locations and teams, one engineering employee said on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

“The return-to-office plans announced so far for desk workers like me have so far been quite vague, so folks are generally waiting to see what we learn as more details are announced,” said Andrew Gainer-Dewar, a software engineer in Google’s Cambridge, Mass., office and member of the Alphabet Workers Union, in an email. “However, workers in Google’s child-care centers in the Bay Area have been called back to work without any provision for transportation, which was previously provided by Google’s network of shuttles.”

Google is helping those affected workers find short-term transportation, including carpools, spokesperson Katie Hutchison said. In a May memo, Google said leaders would be sharing remote-work details with specific teams by mid-June.

The exact terms of work could vary widely across the large companies, depending on specific teams and managers. While Amazon plans to return to “office-centric” life, the e-commerce giant also noted that employees had some flexibility to manage their work life before the pandemic, and that will continue. The company says it isn’t concerned about the potential impact on recruiting talent.

“We know people come, and stay, at Amazon because of the high levels of ownership they have over their work and the innovation happening around every corner,” Amazon spokesperson Jose Negrete said in a statement.

Apple announced its remote-work policy on Wednesday. In a memo sent out to employees, Apple said that workers would be back in the office in September and that they had to come to the office three days a week. Working from home will be available only Wednesdays and Fridays.

Still, companies may be forced to compete with one another to win the best talent and may offer more remote options as they recruit.

“This is what is required in order to stay at the top of our game,” said Slack chief people officer Nadia Rawlinson. She pointed out that tech recruiting has long been competitive and that flexibility in work life is now a must. Allowing remote work is especially important for companies hoping to have more racial diversity and inclusion on th

Slack will allow most of its employees to apply to stay remote, with adjusted salaries based on location. Even chief executive Stewart Butterfield has moved away from the San Francisco Bay area to Colorado and plans to work from there.

In May 2020, at the height of San Francisco’s coronavirus shutdown, Slack employee Kendall Fallon packed up and moved to Dallas. The analyst relations senior manager had already planned to relocate before the pandemic to be closer to family and to accommodate her husband’s new job, and then the whole company went remote, too.

Now her three-person team is spread across different time zones, staying in touch over phone calls and — of course — Slack, where Fallon mixes work conversations with photos of her new puppy, Frank. She was originally hesitant about being fully remote, but having everyone else at home has helped make it seem less isolating.

“When we do shift to this flexible working environment, there’s just going to be this empathy of knowing what it’s like to work remote full time,” she said. 

Filling seats at billion-dollar campuses

One major factor in the tech giants’ decisions is the billions they have spent on their campuses.

Before March 2020, many of the big technology companies in Silicon Valley were pouring money into elaborate new headquarters — from fancy downtown office towers to sprawling all-inclusive suburban campuses with parks and public spaces. The campuses are designed in part as a recruiting tool, with companies such as Google and Facebook offering perks such as free meals and napping pods.

Apple spent $5 billion on its four-year-old spaceship campus in Cupertino, Calif. Google is working on a planned 595,000-square-foot building in Mountain View and an 80-acre campus in San Jose. Facebook expanded its campus recently with new Frank Gehry buildings in Menlo Park.

Amazon never fully closed its 11 million-square-foot urban Seattle campus dotted with office towers, where some workers have kept going in during the pandemic. The company is building a second headquarters in Northern Virginia, where it says it will invest $2.5 billion. It plans to bring back the rest of its office workers as early as this summer and into the fall.

“Our plan is to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline,” Amazon said in a blog post in late March. “We believe it enables us to invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively.”

(Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Uber’s new campus in the Mission Bay area of San Francisco was completed during the pandemic. The office, which was built to hold 5,000 workers, sat empty for months but was one of the first to welcome back a small number of employees at the end of March, though employees can work remotely until Sept. 13. Uber said it was returning to its pre-pandemic remote-work policies: Any employees had to come into the office they were hired to work in at least three days a week

The location of tech giants in hubs along the West Coast has been a big part of their success, experts said.

“There’s a reason all these companies are situated here, and the biggest reason of all is talent and knowledge-sharing,” said Patrick Kallerman, vice president of research at the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, a public-policy advocacy group. He predicts fully remote workforces will be the exception, not the rule.

Office life has changed forever

Already, some early volunteers who are going back are discovering a shortage of the usual perks and, in the case of Google’s child-care workers, necessities.

In Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., office, hot catering has been momentarily replaced by more sanitary boxed lunches. And regular shuttles between the dozens of buildings on its sprawling campus have been halted. Microsoft said the services will return as more employees come back to the office.

For the companies launching a hybrid work model, there are likely to be growing pains. Work experts point to problems with potential inequality when some workers get face time and others are remote. Others might change their minds about going back when they see co-workers doing it.

“I wonder how much FOMO we will see as people watch some of their colleagues or competitors go back to the office,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at jobs listing site Indeed. “They might feel behind or left out if they work remotely.”

At Slack, if one person has to dial in to a meeting, everyone else does, too — even if that means people in the office will take the call from their desks.

At Microsoft, in-office workers can still go into conference rooms but are asked to face their chairs toward huge screens and dial in on their own devices on mute. That way, remote workers can still see their colleagues’ (virtual) faces up close and feel connected.

Microsoft’s Spataro said one thing the company’s early return to headquarters has revealed is just how isolating it can be for the few remote people on a conference call, staring at a group sitting near one another in real life. It’s a big shift from the past year, when nearly everyone was remote, to now have a split.

“We totally underestimated how bad it would feel to be the one looking in,” he said.

Google, which defined the Silicon Valley office of the mid-2000s and 2010s with its colorful slides between floors, outdoor volleyball courts and round-the-clock free food, has had a team working on ways to redesign how its workspaces look throughout the pandemic, the company said. Ideas include “balloon walls” that can inflate to provide extra privacy and separation, or circular conference rooms with a camera in the middle and large TV screens around the sides so people calling in aren’t limited by not being able to see their in-person colleagues, and vice versa.

Twitter, which announced a permanent remote-work policy already underway during the pandemic, has transformed its San Francisco headquarters, chief human resources officer Jennifer Christie said in an interview. When it partially reopens July 12, there will be no more assigned desks and team locations. Instead, certain areas will be designated as “quiet” and others as “social.”

It will continue to host its all-company meetings, which once were in the San Francisco headquarters’ auditorium, via video conference, she said. And it’s requiring employees who are a certain level, even executives, to work partially from home so employees who don’t come into an office aren’t left behind.

“We’re making sure there’s no advantage for coming into the office, that it’s not a center of gravity,” Christie said.

Still, people are excited for the office to reopen, she said. They miss their colleagues and they miss socializing, the company hears from regular employee surveys.

“We think we’re going to have a mad rush of people wanting to come in, and it’s probably going to stay that way for a while,” Christie said. But she expects it will quickly settle down as people figure out how often they want to work from home or be up close and personal with other people.

Gerrit De Vynck and Elizabeth Dwoskin contributed to this report.

Author: Rachel Lerman
By The Washington Post

Facebook remote working plan extended to all staff for long term

Facebook will let all employees who can work away from the office do so after the Covid pandemic is over.

The company has told employees “anyone whose role can be done remotely can request remote work”.

Rival big tech firms Apple and Google have recently reversed pandemic working conditions, telling staff to return to the office in the coming months.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told staff he plans to spend up to half of 2022 working remotely.

He had previously said that half of the company’s 60,000 employees could be working from home within a decade.

Facebook’s offices are expected to open to full capacity in October, but employees without permission to work remotely will have to come in at least half the time.

Facebook executive, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, declined to say how many employees currently had permission to work from home, but said the company had approved about 90% of requests.

Contracted out

The company told the BBC that its new remote work policies apply to Facebook employees only, and not subcontractors, who are widely used to carry out content moderation and other tasks.

In November 2020, content moderators openly accused Facebook of forcing them back into the office.

At the time, the company said that the majority of its 15,000 global content reviewers had been working remotely, and would be able to do so for the duration of the pandemic.

Mr Zuckerberg set out his own experience of remote working in a separate memo to staff.

He said being out of the office had made him “happier and more productive at work”, adding it had given him “more space for long-term thinking” and enabled him to “spend more time with my family”.

Mr Zuckerberg spends some of his time on his private estate in Hawaii.

Home days

Other tech giants have also set out their future plans for the return to the office.

On Thursday, Amazon told employees they’re expected to work in-office at least three days per week, with the specific days to be decided on by leadership teams.

Employees in the UK, US and a handful of other countries are expected to begin their return to the office in early September.

In an all-staff memo last week Apple boss Tim Cook said he missed the “hum of activity” and workers should be in the office at least three days a week by September, specifying Wednesdays and Fridays as when employees may work remotely.

But that plan proved controversial among some employees, who circulated a letter that said Apple’s policy had “already forced some of our colleagues to quit”.

In a message to “Googlers” in May, chief executive Sundar Pichai wrote that the company would move to a hybrid work week, where most staff would “spend approximately three days in the office, and two days wherever they work best”.

The changes, he wrote, should eventually result in the majority of employees being in the office a few days a week, and about a fifth working remotely full-time.

Mr Pichai added: “The future of work is flexibility.”

Author: Zoe Kleinman