The unusual events and stark images of the pandemic will forever be in our national consciousness. While undoubtedly unique, these experiences are collective: masks, empty grocery shelves, school closings, and a remote-work reality. Daily life felt messy, uncertain, and sometimes, downright strange, but for most employees, work simply had to go on . . . from home. And if pivoting to a virtual business model was universally challenging at both organizational and individual levels, then how much harder would it have been to enforce workers to return to the office? A more flexible arrangement, once borne out of necessity, continues to have many benefits for employees and their families.
Like countless others across the nation, we didn’t know what to expect during the COVID-19 lockdown in spring 2020. Fortunately, we already had a flexible culture in place with a national network, cultivated communities of practice, a robust IT system, and virtual resources not isolated to any one office. Our preemptive strategies toward unanticipated disruptions (like, perhaps, a global pandemic) has helped us attract and retain talent and adapt to market changes.
Weston Senior VP of Human Resources, Joe Hockenberry says, “As 2020 progressed, it became clear our employee-owners were truly figuring it out. Our productivity measures remained solid. Projects moved forward on time and budget. Safety metrics indicated we could work safely in a challenging environment. All positive, but this was being accomplished in survival mode. We considered our approach to work flexibility should be once the smoke clears.”
Joe says, “Our team, and the broader labor market, has generally proven that a predominately work-from-home model can work. By combining talented leaders, modern technology, and an outcome-driven workforce, companies across industries can make the fundamental shift necessary for business success during COVID-19.”
A Different Approach
These past 2 years have fortified our adaption and teamwork, enabling us to build on the strength of our systems, people, and client relationships. By implementing this adaptive, team-oriented approach toward work arrangements, our prioritization of employee wellness has largely driven our success. In addition, Weston’s approach to flexibility is defined by a few key factors:
As Joe explains, “How a person works effectively varies from person to person. We are embracing that concept. Essentially, each employee and his or her manager work out a schedule and approach that is tailored to that employee’s desires and the work ahead.”
“Give people goals to achieve that are unique to their role. We’re looking for the progress and the results and not when and where they achieve those goals. For both employees and leaders, schedules can adapt to changing circumstances, and individualized work arrangements can lead to success, as long as we stay committed to the outcomes.”
Positive client outcomes will beget more of the same. Joe explains these “meta-outcomes” through implementation of our approach: “Weston believes meta-outcomes will continue to be advantageous for the client, as we will be able to retain incumbent project teams with a better work-life balance, increase the diversity of talent and resources by expanding recruiting strategies to all geographies, and incentivize productivity by reducing our office footprint by 50%. By putting our employee-owners first, we have successfully improved the overall work experience of our staff while saving the client time and money.”
The Productivity Proofs
In 2020, Weston created an internal cross-functional team to evaluate the office of the future. That team, sponsored by executive leadership, surveyed our national workforce to receive feedback on a post-COVID workplace design. We learned that our existing structure was well-equipped to work remotely. Most claimed they felt equally or more productive working from home, and our data supported this claim. Our employee-owners expected they could continue working effectively in a more flexible environment, post-pandemic.
These results aligned with our company vision. We could leverage this established approach as a competitive advantage in the war for talent. We could also optimize our use of office space and decrease our environmental impact by reducing the need to commute.
We continue to monitor the stress levels of our teams. We’ve trained all managers to identify signs of burnout (especially when remote) and to take actionable steps to help an individual if concerned. We’ve encouraged employees to take time off and recharge and have adjusted project schedules for high-intensity assignments to accommodate that need.
Employee wellness, growth, and productivity are intrinsically tied to work-life balance and a personalized work schedule. What’s best for our workforce is ultimately best for our clients and business. By adopting the cultural imperative of flexibility, we’re more seamlessly fulfilling our goals, which in turn better positions us to help our clients meet theirs.
Weston has a multitude of open positions. Apply to join our national team of employee-owners today!