The Future of Work After COVID-19
Episode #1033: In this special episode of the Arete Coach Podcast, Severin Sorensen introduces a panelist discussion hosted by Norma Rosenberg and Cheryl Marks Young. The panelists include Severin Sorensen, Joel Greenwald, Robin Fisher, and Joan Westridge. These impactful business leaders have various areas of expertise and discuss a variety of topics surrounding the post-pandemic workplace. Join this discussion for an insightful conversation on the challenges and opportunities surrounding remote work including tax and legal regulations, real estate changes, and managing effective remote employees.
About the panel of guests
Severin Sorensen is the CEO of ePraxis LLC, a premier-level retained search firm that provides executive search (headhunting), talent selection, and executive coaching services. Severin is an expert Vistage speaker on the issues of future trends, hiring, innovation, management, and reimagining work. He is also the curator and host of the Arete Coach Podcast.
Norma Rosenberg is an executive coach and a Master Vistage Chair who has worked with CEOs and senior executives for 40+ years. Norma is highly intuitive and perceptive. She is curious-minded, an innovator in the executive coaching field, and is pushing the limits of what coaching can be, particularly in our stay-at-home world.
Cheryl Marks Young
Cheryl Marks Young is a Vistage Chair out of the New York area. She uses her experience as CEO and Founder of Creative Blueprints for Leaders—where she helps others define and design the life they want to live—in her coaching practice today. She motivates her group members to achieve their goals and live their best lives.
Joel Greenwald is a managing partner of Greenwald Dougherty LLP and an expert Vistage speaker on Employment Law and People Issues out of New York City. Greenwald has vast knowledge of employment law and uses this knowledge to help business leaders manage their employees both legally and effectively.
Robin Fisher is the Senior Managing Director at Newmark Grubb Mike Frank. She is also the Founder and CEO of Blace, a booking platform for events such as corporate receptions or product launches. Fisher is also a real estate leasing expert in the New York area.
Joan Westreich is a psychotherapist and expert consultant to businesses and organizations, based in New York City. She is also part of the faculty and a supervisor at the Psychoanalytic Training Institute of the New York Counseling and Guidance Service (NYCGS).
Watch the podcast
Click here to listen to the podcast, or click below to view the podcast outline and transcript:
The horse has left the barn
Severin shares that when it comes to remote work “the horse has left the barn.” Studies have shown that those who work from home are 8-13% more productive than those in the office. Employees are enjoying the flexibility that remote employment offers, and many are refusing to come back to the traditional face-to-face workplace for a variety of reasons.
Predictions for the New York real estate industry
In Robin’s area of expertise, she has started to see an increase in requests for offsite meetings. There has also been an increase in new office requirements. Robin predicts that the workplace will return to the traditional face-to-face employment model.
Tax and legal issues
Joel shares that he has concerns for the legal and tax issues surrounding remote employment. There are concerns about following the tax codes and employment regulations across state lines. However, there is an increasing need for corporations to be resilient and adaptable despite these challenges.
Joan shares that as the workplace evolves, it is important for business leaders and their employees to be resilient and adaptable. Businesses are not only facing the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, but are also facing the challenges brought by other pandemics in the economic, political, racial, loneliness, and mental health sectors. Joan shares that these challenges offer opportunities for new growth. Luckily, many organizations already have employees who display a great amount of resiliency, the ability to cope, and adaptability throughout these pandemics.
Challenges of the post pandemic workplace
Norma asks about the challenges we face in the post pandemic workforce. Severin shares insight into the remote workforce and how the monitoring of employees will need to evolve. Robin states that there is a risk for those trying to attract talent and those trying to retain talent. She explains that there is a “giant labor shortage” and that businesses will have to address how well they are capitalized. Joan adds to this discussion by introducing the idea of “strategic discomfort.” The transition to the post-pandemic workplace will not happen overnight and will take some time to adjust to for all businesses.
Changing managerial focus
Remotely working employees require different forms of management than those who are in-person. Joel Greenwald shares that managers need to be continually trained in performance management tactics. Joel asks, “how are we going to teach our managers to manage these new workers in this new environment?” With the changing workforce, there is also necessary changes for the managerial staff as well. Joel also states that it is important for ethics and values to be incorporated into management policies and practices.
Opportunities of the post pandemic workplace
Joel shares that having employees in different geographical areas gives corporations the opportunity to have different price points for wages—allowing for the ultimate flexibility. Severin relates to Joel’s statement and shares that while it is important for corporations to be flexible, it is vital that employees and their managers develop relationships through in-person events, such as retreats and planned functions, to establish connections and reinforce the group ethics policy. Joan continues this discussion by sharing that there are those employees who do desire to be back in the workplace and are craving interaction.
Challenges for remote workers
Joan and Joel establish the need for emotional intelligence or “soft skills” in leadership, and Severin follows with several insights about the challenges faced by remote employees such as distraction, Zoom fatigue, time management, and procrastination. All of these issues should be taken into account when planning how to manage remotely employed staff.
Furthermore, loneliness is an increasing problem for remote employees. Each employee has their own individual needs and addressing these needs can be helpful in establishing the post pandemic workplace.
The “A” players and the “B” players
Norma shares that “A” players in a corporation are results focused and resilient to challenges or changes. Robin relates to this idea and shares that to fully use these “A” players to their full potential, there will need to be in-person meetings. Joan agrees with Robin and shares the importance of corporate flexibility and the ability to build lasting professional business relations. Joel elaborates on the meaning of “A” players and “B” players by stating that the definition of these employee types needs to be reassessed.
A workforce that favors the employee
Severin shares a quote by Thucydides, “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer when they must.” Severin expects that those who are currently able to work from home will continue to be allowed to do so under employer fears that an employee may leave for another remote job if not. Severin shares that businesses will have to identify what it means to be a high performer and identify the difference makers from the individual contributors.
Emotional intelligence will also play a major role in the post pandemic workplace. Having difference-making employees understand the importance of their physical presence in an office at specific times can be vital to team moral and ethics. Severin also shares that companies need to be able to hire those with the ability to get things done, have the ability to manage their time well, and overcome procrastination.
When managing groups, Joel recommends that when leaders need to say something negative regarding performance or job demands, they should call the message’s recipient instead of sending an email. Emails and texts can be used in management. However, difficult conversations are best had over the phone or Zoom for clearer and more effective communication.
The adjusting real estate business
Robin shares her prediction that corporations will likely return to the traditional full-time workplace over a prolonged time period. She states that a “partial work week is going to start 3 days a week…” then it will slowly transition to 4 days, and lastly to the traditional 5-day work week. Robin is currently seeing a large amount of new office requirements and shifts in work dynamics. She has also noticed that large tech companies like Facebook and Amazon are taking up more rental space during the pandemic.
Making remote employment high quality
In response to a comment from the discussion panel’s audience, Severin introduces a research study that interviewed employees from multiple corporations on their remote employment perspective. The study revealed that women are enjoying the ability to work from home because it enables them to have a successful career whilst also being a successful mother. Whereas, the male’s perspective of working from home largely hinges on their personality (introvert versus extrovert).
Severin shares his perspective as a coach asking, “would you bring back people to work if you needed to?”
The declining workforce
Cheryl shares concerns over those in the manufacturing industry. Many of these corporations are experiencing labor shortages because the Covid Leave Act pays them more than the employer can pay them in the short-term. These corporations are struggling to reengage these employees in the in-person workforce. Severin responds to this question by sharing some research about why individuals are not returning to work. Many have reduced their living expenses—and compared to 48% in the Great Depression, 52% of 18 to 32-year-olds are living at home. These reduced living wages can also contribute to the declining rates of workforce participation.
Honesty and productivity monitoring
Joel brings attention to the potential use of data and artificial intelligence for productivity monitoring. Severin shares that while those tools are usable and effective, they invade on privacy. Instead of having these monitoring tools, Severin shares the importance of hiring honest employees. Severin states that “if you have an honest person with great integrity, they’ll be the productive person wherever they are.”
There is also research to show that not all employees in the traditional face-to-face workplace are actively engaged. Hiring employees who are highly engaged with their work is essential for remote employment to be effective. Severin shares a personal experience he has had with an employee who works in Croatia. This employee shared with Severin that many individuals in Croatia will be hired by companies, but the hired individual will hire others in the gig-economy to do their job for them. These “hired” individuals then move on to other jobs for additional income.
Joel relates to Severin’s statement about the privacy violations involved in productivity monitoring. He shares that it is important to have a “tight electronic media policy” and to speak with legal professionals before implementing any monitoring software. These privacy concerns extend directly into the in-person workplace as well. Joel mentions how it is important for employers to work with legal professionals before deciding how and if to monitor the vaccination of employees.
Navigating new territory
Regardless of the perspective on remote employment, all panelists agree that as the new post pandemic workplace is navigated, it is important to continue learning and listening. Robin defines this new season in the workplace as “a battlefield of gray” with “no right answer.” While navigating this new territory, Joan recommends that business leaders should “enhance coping and resilience among” employees. Severin adds to this discussion and states that “agility” is important for employers to develop as “the employee is getting much more emancipated.”
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