Remote work culture booms amid COVID-19 pandemic
Hendrik Sybrandy

For many folks in the U.S. workforce, their jobs require them to be out in public, being hands-on, meeting people face to face.

"We're a touching community and we thrive off making people feel good about themselves," said Mallory Richers, a Colorado beauty salon owner.

But many have discovered they're able to do their jobs right where they live. According to a Stanford University study, 42 percent of Americans have worked from home full-time during the pandemic. Generally white-collar workers who rely on phones and computers.

"I'd say 75 percent continue to work from home," said Mike Venturini, Campos EPC Principal, referring to his employees.

Venturini said his engineering firm largely emptied its offices when the pandemic began.

"Those businesses that can run remotely are, there is absolutely no question about it," said Dan Meitus, Denver Metro Building Owners and Managers Association president. "It's just not worth taking the risk."

Many employees have enjoyed the flexible schedules that come with working from home and a better work-life balance.

"I think COVID has opened up opportunities that weren't previously considered to really think about how do we get outside of our walls more readily and more effectively," said Kim Boyd, Lolina Health Consultancy president.

Therein lies the challenge.

"The biggest downside that we're seeing is that managers are not equipped to manage effectively in a remote environment," said Tara Powers, Powers Resource Center president.

Powers helps companies build cohesive teams and create a culture of connection. She says today's leaders must be emotionally aware when managing employees who aren't in the office with them.

"What is going on for you, what can I do to support you more effectively, is the communication we have working for you, do you need something different from me," Powers said.

Home can present distractions. Virtual meetings can also be tricky.

"You've got to be creative and they have so many online tools right now that are incredible," said Dot Miller, whose The Solution company manages trade and other associations. "Jam boards, idea boards, things where you can work together collaboratively online."

What many wonder is will this shift to remote work become permanent? Or will offices regain their traditional role once the pandemic ends?

"It's hard to build a culture in a remote environment," Venturini said. He envisions a hybrid model in the future.

"We had a number of employees asking us can I return to the office and we said absolutely," he said.

"I think people like working together, and I think a lot of companies do better when they have your team there and you see each other and you meet and you communicate and you brainstorm," said Dana Lerman, The COVID Consultants co-founder.

Until that time, adaptation and innovation are the buzzwords of the day.

"All of those things are being asked and required of every company and every industry," Powers said.

One online survey found 29 percent of those working from home vow to quit if they're forced to return to the office. At least in some form, this trend may be here to stay. 

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