THE VIRTUAL workplace is starting to look like our 13-year-old son’s bedroom: sloppy, unprofessional, and unorganized. The mass migration from a brick and mortar workplace to a virtual network of home-based offices was needed for social distancing, to keep our businesses open and our employees employed. Stress was high and few of us were familiar with working from home and collaborating with team members on Zoom, WebEx, or Microsoft Teams. Managers scrambled to do anything possible to keep morale high and people connected.
A relaxed, flexible, and undisciplined approach for those virtual workers who were also babysitting and teaching their kids was the right thing to do. Those without those added pressures also enjoyed those added freedoms. As a result, the bar for professionalism, productivity, and accountability has lowered. There is a new ethic in our culture. In some of the companies we are following:
- Personal Time Off (PTO) policies are being abused,
- People are joining video conference calls wearing the kind of clothing that would be against dress code policies for in-person work,
- Employees are skipping virtual meetings to do errands or let in contractors,
- Attendance to virtual meetings is multi-tasked with driving and other personal appointments.
Many predict a certain percentage of workers will continue to work from home indefinitely. We need to develop the appropriate set of policies that address all of the unique employee situations.
- Do we afford the same flexibility to employees that have no children as we do those acting as baby-sitter and teacher?
- Should we add a dress code for video conference meetings?
- How should we address multitasking during virtual meetings?
These and other questions should be addressed so our flexibility doesn’t further lower the bar for productivity, professionalism, and accountability.