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Laying the Foundation for Hybrid-Workplace Success
As Covid-19 vaccination rates plateau in the United States and the Delta variant tears through communities across the globe, many corporations are rethinking their return-to-office plans. Some, like financial firms BlackRock and Jefferies, have simply postponed their in-person start dates. Others, like JPMorgan Chase, will require masks in common areas, while businesses such as Citigroup will require proof of vaccination to enter their buildings. Meanwhile, the CDC continues to recommend companies encourage social distancing by, among other things, allowing for teleworking, limiting the number of employees in the workplace at any one time by implementing flexible work hours, and modifying workspaces to reduce crowding.
It’s clear that the longer we deal with the effects of this deadly disease, the likelier it is that the workplace will be forever—and universally—changed into a hybrid model: one in which employees connect both in person and online, at various times, in an office that has been reimagined and retooled to facilitate this new reality.
As business leaders, we would all do well to get ahead of this curve. By laying the foundation now for a hybrid return-to-office model, we can set ourselves up for post-Covid success. But where should we start?
Here are a few suggestions to ensure your company is well positioned for the future:
1.    First things first: Plan and communicate. Before delving into the nitty-gritty, you’ll want to draft a work plan and communicate it with your entire company. The plan should include specifics on who is expected to work in the office (whether that’s full or part time), who will be working remotely (full or part time), and when. Then you’ll want to discuss this with your teams. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, though, notes Edie Goldberg, Ph.D., founder and president of consulting company E.L. Goldberg & Associates. “Companies should develop general policies or guidelines, but then allow departments or teams to determine which jobs can be remote or when or how often teams need to come together,” she told Trello.
2.    Invest in a good remote “hub.” With employees both in and out of the office at any given time, companies should ensure all work materials are easily accessible anywhere, anytime. That means investing in an asynchronous storage and calendar system that works for your business. Cloud collaboration service Airtable recommends any hub you use include a team directory, organizational chart, project dashboard, Gantt charts, notes archive, and team input forms, as well as offer features such as flexible views and tool integrations.
3.    Train your people. You could have the best tools in the world, but they’re meaningless if your team doesn’t—or can’t—use them. Be sure to train your staff members on how to use each of the tools you’re investing in (consider recording an introduction and initial demo), and be regularly available to answer questions and engage in ad-hoc walk-throughs whenever necessary.
By taking these proactive steps, we can ensure our businesses sidestep any pitfalls and reap the many benefits of the flexible, hybrid workplaces of our post-Covid future.
Sharon Emek, PhD, CIC
CEO and President, Work At Home Vintage Experts
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Wahves of Success: One Woman’s Inspiring Story
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Out of adversity comes opportunity.” A five-year-old girl in Boise, Idaho, took that to heart.
It was the early 1950s, and polio was a major threat across the country. More than 15,000 people were becoming paralyzed each year due to the virus, which in its most severe forms can cause nerve injury, difficulty breathing, and death. That five-year-old girl—named Judy Pendergrass, who lived with her father and siblings in Boise and dreamed of one day becoming a dancer—came down with the disease. Her legs began to weaken and her muscle tone began to fade. To help her recover, her father signed her up for roller skating lessons.
“It’s like ballroom dancing on roller skates: You skate to music like waltzes, blues, tango, the foxtrot,” explains Pendergrass. “I always wanted to be a dancer as a little girl. I would get in front of the mirror in the living room and dance. I could never get on the stage dancing, but I could dance on roller skates.”
Fast forward nearly 70 years, and Pendergrass is a now professional skater, having snapped up multiple local and regional titles while holding down a career as an insurance industry professional. However, it wasn’t until she joined WAHVE four years ago as a full-time CSR that she was able to kick her skating success up a notch. Thanks to WAHVE’s remote-work capability, and under the tutelage of a new, elite coach, Pendergrass took home her first national medal: the bronze in the Bronze III division, which is for skaters age 65 and older.
It wasn’t a straight shot to stardom, however. After spending the 1950s and ’60s as a “rink rat,” hanging out at the local skating rink and following all the professionals, trying to learn their routines, Pendergrass took a break from the sport to join the insurance industry and raise her four daughters. “I had a family, and didn’t go [to the rink] as often as I did as a teenager and young adult,” says Pendergrass, who started her career in 1976 as a producer payroll clerk at Mutual of Omaha in Idaho. “But I still had the love for skating.”
“When I moved to Arizona, there was a big skating rink near where I lived. When I went to the rink, I saw all these ladies and gentlemen in a dance contest. I was so infatuated with it that I talked to the coaches afterwards and said, ‘I can do those dances.’”
For the next 20 years, Pendergrass trained with her coach, learning how to perfect dances including waltzes, the cha-cha and the foxtrot. In competitions, skaters are judged on their steps, timing, and ability (a.k.a. technique)—“Are your cross-in-fronts tighter than the other skaters’? Or are they wide?” Pendergrass explains. “The tighter you’re skating, the higher your score.”
Pendergrass is no stranger to hard work. A typical day for her starts bright and early at 5:30 a.m., when she clocks in to work on her latest WAHVE assignment. She’ll be logged in until 1:30 p.m., when she heads to the rink to practice from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Rink time on Mondays starts in the morning, however, so she swaps her hours on that day, beginning her day as a wahve closer to 11 a.m. She rounds it all out with three to four hours of additional skate time on Sunday mornings and Zumba classes four evenings a week. It’s all thanks to WAHVE and the extra hours she gained working from home that enables the quality time for her extracurriculars.
“WAHVE gives me purpose,” she says. “I’m just one of these people who has to be busy. WAHVE gives me the ability to do that.”
So what’s next for Pendergrass? The upcoming skating season begins September 5, at which point “it’s back to practice,” she says.
“I'm going to just keep trying to do as much as I can for as long as I can,” Pendergrass says of skating, which she clearly enjoys just as much at the age of 74 as she did when she was a five-year-old girl in Boise. “It’s kind of a dream.”
WAHVE is an innovative contract talent solution that matches retiring, experienced career professionals with a company's talent needs. WAHVE bridges the gap between an employer's need for highly skilled professional talent and seasoned professionals desiring to extend their career working from home. From screening to placement, WAHVE is a comprehensive solution to qualifying, hiring, and managing experienced remote talent.
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