Let’s Raise the Bar
There is a lot of discussions these days around the ‘next normal’ and how the crisis will accelerate a new approach to work. No doubt we will witness increased remote working and health protocols, fewer business trips and face-to-face meetings, and more flexible arrangements regarding leave and part-time. And, hopefully, we will utilize more digital and agile methods to help us work smarter and better. But beyond that, even with innumerable research studies and pundits, the truth is that no one really knows.
What we do know is that there is no one solution. Even with the most well-intentioned company policies and tools, the efficacy of a flexible work arrangement rests heavily on the individual. Each of us lives a truly unique life and work. Depending on our roles, commute time, family dynamics (including those with young children or older parents), and technology, one’s productivity and engagement can widely vary. For some, working from home has been a newly discovered dream with freed up energy and better management of life and work. Some studies even cite a 29% productivity gain for remote workers. For others, the urge to get back to the office to interact with colleagues, have fewer personal distractions, just ‘get out of the apartment!’ dominates.
I am grateful to be in the former camp. With now over four months working from home, I am happy to share that I’m managing well (most of the time!). I have a home office, fast Internet, good tech tools, and older children who are (mainly) self-sufficient. I contribute to a better climate with fewer trips on planes, trains, automobiles. I do miss the human connections with colleagues, traveling to different countries to meet with employees and customers, and participating in external events, but I am also exercising, cooking, reading, and spending more time with my family than ever before. Still, I look forward to returning to my Boston office and reconnecting with colleagues.
New and Smarter Ways of Working
At Schneider Electric, we are preparing for this next chapter in how we work. Our New and Smarter Ways of Working program doesn’t assume we know all the answers, but we see it as an opportunity to innovate. One thing we do know: regardless of work arrangement – 100% remote, 100% on-site, or a mix of the two – we must ensure the well-being and inclusion of all our employees, and support them to ‘work smart’ and be engaged and productive. Simply put, our commitment is to support all employees to live and manage their ‘unique life and work’.
Our journey towards New and Smarter Ways of Working is not new, but the crisis has intensified our commitment and focus. Because our 130,000+ workforce is in over 100 countries, evenly balanced across Asia, Europe/Middle East/Africa, and the Americas, many are accustomed to working across cultures and time zones. Yet, we know that in a more virtual world, there are those who could be more at risk when it comes to well-being and belonging, including women. Even with Schneider’s global and country policies designed to ‘hardwire’ a culture of equity and inclusion and well-being, from Global Family Leave to Flexibility @ Work to Pay Equity to New and Smarter Ways of Working, we must take care.
I’m hopeful for a better way of doing ‘work’ that benefits companies and their people. My inspiration comes from the colleagues I work with every day as well as my 105-year-old Grandma Kao. With travel plans to California postponed, I have been in touch with her via video chat. She remains an exemplary pillar of high agility, optimism, and well-being. When I ask her about how the crisis affects her, she simply tells me that nothing is static and things will get better.
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