How Well Have Companies Done With Mass Work-From-Home?

July 23, 2020
How Well Have Companies Done With Mass Work-From-Home?

As work-from-home (WFH) stretches on for many businesses, measuring its success — and determining what is working and what isn't — has been top-of-mind for business leaders and CIOs.

Boomi convened a group of experts on the digital workspace and digital transformation to discuss how their teams have been performing while working remotely. Our panelists included:

  • Melissa Swift, Global Leader, Digital Transformation Advisory, Korn Ferry
  • Mark Bradley, Principal, EY People Advisory Services
  • Karen Caveney, Chief HR Technologist, Dell Technologies
  • Joanna Young, Former CIO Michigan State University and Digital Advisor

The discussion certainly got me thinking. In this post, I'll share the panel’s insights regarding how well their organizations have done in this environment.  I'll also provide access to the full webinar recording, which includes the panel's thoughts on whether this moment represents an inflection point for where and how work is performed.

Melissa Swift

I would say on the whole, [work from home has] worked surprisingly well for companies. I think it's received a really positive response. You know that this is saying something given that for some companies this was something that they thought they would never, ever do — and they did it. That being said, I think we're now at a stage where there's definitely some attention needed, because we might be doing this for a while and it isn't an emergency situation anymore.

Now is the period when the really interesting questions are coming up:

  • How do we get leaders to lead differently and not instinctively micromanage when they don't have people right in front of them?
  • What is the right model of collaboration?
  • Do people need to collaborate in real time, or on video calls?
  • Can they collaborate synchronously on documents?

Lots of really interesting questions are being tossed around now as we start to talk about remote work as maybe a semi-permanent state of play for a lot of organizations.

Mark Bradley

I agree with what Melissa said relative to the context pivot and a lot of success taking place.

I tend to think of this from a macro perspective — this pandemic has put a magnifying glass onto organizations. Things that were good about company culture and the way you work came out stronger, and things that were a struggle only became worse. So, for example, if you were a naturally collaborative organization, then a lot organizations succeed at finding the virtual replica via grit and determination.

On the other side of that, what I think has worked out poorly is organizations have to fight the urges to play big brother and equate that physical presence to productivity. So that's a piece of advice I would give to any organization — do not fall into that trap.

Focus on the outcome. If the issue is business performance, focus on the way you're managing performance at the individual level. Focus on goal-setting as opposed to trying to find ways to track the number of hours people are at their desks. We have seen this show people at their best. When you do the opposite, we've seen folks slaving away at their desks at home, and it has caused lot of problems.

Karen Caveney

Dell Technologies has had what we call the connected workplace program for over 10 years, which allows a huge chunk of our workforce to work anywhere that they can get the best work done and thrive. We already had about 65 percent of our workforce remote prior to the pandemic, so we had this great workplace culture of connected workplace and network.

What we had to do very quickly was ramp from 65 percent to a significantly higher percentage of our workforce working from home, and so a bit of a shift there to very rapidly evolve. Fortunately, we had a lot of the infrastructure in place, leveraging things like Zoom and Microsoft Teams for collaboration.

Large global organizations already don't go into the office to connect with their teammates. We already had a great remote cultural connection virtually, so we had a lot going for us, but it was still an adjustment for the slice of our workforce that was accustomed to going into the office every day.

Joanna Young

Technology challenges have really varied from company to company, or even within particular organizations. It ranged from things like not having a VPN capacity all the way to people not having the right sort of [work]space in their homes and needing help getting office furniture. Everybody had a mad scramble.

Initially, things either went well, or they didn't. I have been focusing on "why did things go well?"

If people had a reasonably current business continuity plan and had practiced it recently, they in general did pretty well. Obviously, existence of baseline mattered too. But I'm finding the most important thing was the culture and the leadership of the company's cultures who were employee-centric and customer-centric. Almost regardless of where their technology was, they tended to have things go well and have their employees feel as best as they possibly could.

Companies that were, frankly, maybe a little more financially-centric or lacked employee or customer-centric attributes, struggled. So, I think this has really brought the focus back around to people — people as customers, people as employees, people as partners.

Some Parting Thoughts

I hope that this post has proved valuable to you and extended your thinking about mass work from home. If you'd like to hear more of what our panelists had to share, you can listen to the webinar recording on-demand.

To learn more about the future of work, please read our brief, "Transforming the Nature of Work for the New Normal: The Case for Digital-First Workforce Transformation."

About the Author

Myles Suer is Boomi's global enterprise marketing manager.