Implementing hybrid work in family businesses
(Last of 4 parts)
Even in technology companies with tons of in-office perks, many employees prefer to work from home (WFH). In mid-2021, several Apple employees wrote a letter addressed to CEO Tim Cook, who asked them to return to the office in a hybrid setup. Several employees disagreed with his assumption that most workers wanted to go back to their company’s extremely comfortable workplace.
“It feels like there is a disconnect between how the executive team thinks about remote/location-flexible work and the lived experiences of many of Apple’s employees,” they said. “Messages like, ‘we know many of you are eager to reconnect in person with your colleagues back in the office,’ with no messaging acknowledging that there are directly contradictory feelings amongst us feels dismissive and invalidating. [This has] already forced some of our colleagues to quit.
“We have succeeded not despite working from home, but in large part because of being able to work outside the office. The last year has felt like we have truly been able to do the best work of our lives for the first time, unconstrained by the challenges that daily commutes to offices and in-person colocated offices themselves inevitably impose; all while still being able to take better care of ourselves and the people around us.”
The app Blind asked (anonymously) workers in 45 top companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Qualcomm whether they preferred permanent WFH or a $30,000 annual pay raise.
Sixty-four percent of the workers—and employees in 43 out of 45 companies—chose a permanent WFH setup. Only JPMorgan and Qualcomm had more of survey participants choose the pay raise.
“These corporations are held in high esteem and are exceedingly hard to get into,” Jack Kelly, head of a global recruitment firm, tells Forbes magazine. “People aspire to work at these organizations. You’d think that since they worked so hard in school and in the workforce to get into these good jobs with high-status companies and the potential to quickly advance, they’d happily go back to the office. From the survey, that’s not the case.”
But for many family businesses in our country, permanent WFH may be impractical, so hybrid is the way to go.
Assess honestly the roles and functions of each employee. Who are the front-line workers, and in what ways can they be supported in their work (such as hazard pay), while giving them peace of mind on health risks? Which workers can do WFH, and how can employees be assessed fairly?
“We did not take this lightly,” says M, who heads a retail family business in Pasay. “We did not want employees to envy each other, or complain why some are allowed WFH while others had to report to the office. “We met with division heads and told them to justify proposed work schedules. They met with each employee, and talked to them about their health, their comorbidities, the people they were living with at home, especially those with elderly relatives who would have the worst prognosis if they contracted the virus.
“Information is kept confidential, but we found out that affected employees willingly disclosed their health issues, especially those in their 50s, and some submitted medical findings. Employees who were already suffering from cancer, diabetes and other major diseases—we mandated that they do WFH as much as possible.
“For employees in WFH, they were assessed as to their performance, their internet connections at home, their willingness to invest in hardware and training if company gadgets were not enough.
“For employees going hybrid, we discussed transportation needs, whether they drove their own vehicles, participated in our ride-sharing or took public commute. The entire process took months, but everyone was engaged—and many thanked us for thinking of their welfare.”
“We also announced that if someone abuses WFH, then that department goes back fully onsite. We are three months into hybrid work, and so far, so good. Morale is up, absences are down.”
Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or the ebook at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected].