The last year and a half has changed the way we work, but how will the pandemic shift how we work moving forward? June Schmidt, VP Client Relations, Gordon Christiansen, COO, and Bob O’Gara, CEO, weigh in on the duration of remote working, business travel, and productivity over function.
June: The pandemic taught us that remote and hybrid office workplace models are the future of our workforce. And the future is now. From a positive perspective, the lack of a commute and fewer distractions have led Highlands to overall increased productivity. We found that customers quickly embraced virtual meetings and some even went back to the “old days” of connecting via phone calls. On the flip side of increased productivity, some employees have difficulty adapting to a much more flexible schedule and require more structure to fulfill their responsibilities and perform well. It can be easy for some employees to feel isolated and with a perceived decrease in relationships among coworkers, employees may feel like they are less a part of the company’s bigger picture. Recognizing these obstacles quickly and managing through them effectively are critical for companies as they continue to strive for success in retaining talent and recruiting for the future.
The outlook for business travel is it will never return to what it was prior to the pandemic. Companies are analyzing with a critical eye the return on investment for travel and have found that much of their past travel expenses were not sound investments. While the abrupt halt in travel was a difficult mentally for some veteran travelers, our Highlands team adapted quickly to the new world of virtual communication. We developed Highlands’ virtual call best practices, and some team members made necessary changes to their virtual routine. Clearly defining standards has allowed us to represent our company in a professional and consistent manner during all virtual interactions. While business travel will return to some degree, only time will tell how profound this change will be in the coming years. In the meantime, we will continue to hear “you’re on mute” many times a day.
Gordon: I love being in an office. Chatting, collaborating, creating, laughing… it’s the commute that sucks. If I could have the office experience without the commute, I’d do it every day. Until teleporting moves from Star Trek to the real world, I’m going to have to mix a bit of work from home with the occasional (or regular) trip to the office.
Webinars are great, mostly very productive (not so great when people are trying to look at social media or check their texts at the same time) and, are here to stay. Nothing beats a face-to-face interaction, however. We will want to do this again and again. Not quite as much traveling as we used to, but we’ll certainly want that handshake, that glass of wine at the bar, that eyeball to eyeball negotiation.
As a business owner, I’m really liking the savings we’ve enjoyed during the pandemic on travel and entertaining. And I’ll never let it get back to those same levels. The pandemic has proven that we can be smarter about how we interact and we will be choosy about how we spend our budgets in the future.
Mostly, I’m getting kind of sick talking about COVID. I know it’s still here, it’s real and it causes pain and angst, but I hanker for a day when we stop talking about COVID and just get on with our lives. What I don’t know is when that will be!
Bob: As a recovering Delta Diamond/3-million-mile flier, I have something to say about the future of business travel. No matter what the airlines tell you, business travel will never be the same. The genie is out of the bottle. You can close deals, win new business and make new friends over a Teams call. We’ve spent the past 18 months doing just that. And we saved several hundred thousand dollars and maybe even a few marriages.
Will we travel for business in the future? Of course, we will, but we will think carefully about what we will gain from the trip before packing and heading to the airport.