It is January 17th, 2023, and more than 21,000 workers in US-based tech companies have already been laid off this year. This is in addition to the over 107,000 jobs slashed in 2022 amid inflation and a rocky stock market. We know that in times of recession or economic contraction, companies need to focus on what they consider to be their competitive advantage. Companies focusing on the essential product areas can emerge from the storm stronger than their competitors.
At the same time, the tumultuous financial picture can cause stress and uncertainty for companies and their leaders. Stress can lead to some of our less attractive leadership traits rearing their ugly heads. One of those traits I see often applied out of balance is the need to assert control during times of uncertainty. Some of these control maneuvers counter the practices that should be considered during economic unrest. Specifically, remote work.
As Gleb Tsipursky discusses in his article, “Disney can imagine a magic kingdom but can’t figure our innovative hybrid and remote work” companies like Disney, Apple, Google, and others are now mandating that most of their work time be spent in the office. Elon Musk recently sent an email to Twitter employees demanding their return to the office for at least 40 hours a week.
Don’t believe the experts that assert that the recession will lead to a rejection of remote work in the US, and abroad. As I discussed at the HR Tech conference in early 2019, before the rise of the pandemic, remote work is good for a company’s financial health. If your company needs to focus on what is most important to the health of your business, is that your facilities or your people? How much are you spending on rent, facilities, and office services?
Embracing remote work as a competitive advantage rather than a dreaded necessity during a pandemic will not displace all those facilities’ costs. Still, it will allow you to focus those dollars on innovative collaboration solutions and quality talent. While I agree with Tim Cook, that they make hardware products that people hold, they also make products that are used across the world by people not in the same room or even in the same timezone.
We have seen a rise in innovative technology solutions to enable collaboration across the workforce. It is time to test these solutions. Certainly, we can do better than rely on hallway conversations, which may or may not have the right people in the hallway, to drive our innovation and productivity.
Even our business leaders are beginning to see the value of remote work helping weather the storm of recession. Elon Musk, once a vocal critic of remote work is included.
The NY Post recently reported that Twitter CEO Elon Musk is shutting down the Seattle Twitter office and instructing employees to work remotely.
I’m grateful to the companies that continued to innovate, even after setbacks. Think of all the technologies and products we would be missing out on if entrepreneurs didn’t take a leap of faith. Let’s not go backward in workplace innovation. Let us continue the evolution to find the best workplace solutions for the product, the people, and the planet.