by Jim Brown

August 17, 2021

Has your company been progressing towards a more flexible work environment?  Has the ongoing pandemic forced your organization to look at your process differently?

To say the least, many of us were in uncharted territory when it came to working remotely during the start of the pandemic, but many figured out how to balance  to be productive, deliver for clients and customers while also leading businesses through a very challenging period.

As the vaccine became widely available and states started to loosen their shutdown orders, questions started surfacing regarding the future of work. Would moving to 100% virtual be the way to go? Would companies go back to being in the office 5 days a week?  Would they move to a hybrid model?

As we worked through our own process at Dix & Eaton, there were four key questions we asked ourselves and wanted to share with you:

1. 100% Remote, 100% In-office or Hybrid Environment? One of the early questions faced was how our team would perform in a remote environment. Fortunately, we were able to answer that question early in the pandemic and found that our teams were able to deliver for our clients and remain productive in this setting. We also realized that we had significant gaps when it came to mentoring our young professionals and providing developmental opportunities. With those as the basis for our decision, we determined that a hybrid model would provide us with the best of both worlds.  It provides our professionals with the flexibility to balance their personal lives while working remotely while also providing the firm with the ability to develop and mentor professionals while in the office.

2. How will we develop young professionals and leaders in a hybrid setting? We know in this setting there will be fewer “creative” collisions which will limit experiences and connections that lead to professional development .While last minute meetings or lunches will be fewer and farther between, it also forced us to focus on strengthening our mentoring and support programs for young professionals. In addition, we are also focused on establishing more robust leadership development programs to ensure future leaders are gaining the right experiences and deepening their understanding of the in-and-outs of the business. Ultimately, there is more of an intentional focus in these areas to ensure that we continue to develop our staff.

3. Will the functionality of the office change? The days of going into work, to work, will change for many going forward. We are amid planning the design of our future office space and it is more likely to become a space where we focus on connecting, collaborating, building relationships and mentoring our young professionals and future leaders. We are focused on designing a space that fits the differing needs of our professional working environment that optimizes collaboration, whether we are in the office or working remotely. For us, this will be a transformational step when compared to our current office environment, but important that we adjust to meet the needs of the hybrid work environment.

4. How important will technology be in a hybrid environment? Obviously, technology needs have always been important to the success of our business. Most of the focus was on the ensuring our IT environment was working in the office and having backup plans in place. When we shifted to working remotely the focus quickly changed to making sure our technology worked in a remote setting. Lucky for us, our systems were strong enough to handle this need, but we also realized that more attention was needed to develop an IT strategy that makes sure we meet the requirements of having two work environments, remote and in the office. Considerations are being made in the areas of cloud-based file storage, meeting spaces that are more inclusive for remote workers and providing multiple spaces to work and collaborate while in the office.   All will be important to providing a flexible office experience for our professionals and clients and technology will be a key factor in making those experiences successful.

I hope these questions get you started off on the right foot when starting your process.  It’s likely that moving forward companies will be constantly evaluating their work environment policies to ensure they remain flexible.  Nobody knows when the next pandemic will occur so it will be important that businesses are more prepared to work in different settings as situations arise in the future.