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Episode 55:

Love as a Remote Work Strategy

In today's episode, we come together to take an honest look at the state of the workplace in a somewhat post-pandemic world. With job resignations at an all-time high, we wanted to break it down and share our different perspectives on how businesses and business leaders should be adapting. You won't want to miss it.

Speakers

Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

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Jeff Ma
Host

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MohProfile

Mohammad Anwar
President

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ChrisProfile

Chris Pitre
Vice President

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Frank Danna
Director

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Transcript

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Jeff Ma
In today's episode, we come together to take an honest look at the current state of the workplace in a somewhat post pandemic world, with job resignations at an all time high, we wanted to break it down and share our different perspectives on what we think is really going on, and how businesses and business leaders should be adapting. Mohammad also gets pretty worked up, so definitely check it out. I hope you enjoy the show.

Hello, and welcome to love as a business strategy, a podcast that brings humanity to the workplace. As always, we're here to talk about business. But we want to tackle topics that most business leaders shy away from, we believe that humanity and love should be at the center of every successful business. I'm your host, Jeff Ma. I'm a director at Softway a business to employee solutions company that creates products and offer services that help build resilience in high performance company cultures. I'm joined today by Mohammad Anwar, CEO and President of Softway. Hello, Mo. Hey, Jeff. Chris Pitre Vice President. Hello, Chris.

Chris Pitre
Hi.

Jeff Ma
And Frank Danna Director. Hey, Frank. What's up? Jeff,

Frank Danna
what's going on my man? Hey, good to see you.

Jeff Ma
Frank's in a mood. So we're gonna talk about remote work today. But I want to start in a different way. I want to talk Mo, actually, last week or earlier this week, I have a friend time is weird now. But earlier, you said something that really piqued my interest. We're in the middle of 2021. Now and use you use the term I hadn't heard before. You said, We're currently experiencing the great resignation. Can you tell me again and tell us all what is the great resignation? What's going on right now from your perspective?

Mohammad Anwar
Sure. So I mean, this is what I've been reading up on, on the news. And I'm sure people have come across this term called the Great resignation. So they're calling 2021 period of the great resignation. Because there are a lot of people who are currently quitting their jobs to look for other alternate opportunities. And there are quite a few reasons that I think are attributed to why this is happening. But the pandemic is one of the major reasons why this is come down to the great resignation 2021. Because people through the pandemic, were put into situations where they had to work from home, or have a change in their work continuity, where some people were laid off for load. And there was a lot of disruption to the business place as a result of COVID crisis. And it created a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace, but also for employment. And as a result, now that we're coming off of the heels of a pandemic, and probably most likely in the post pandemic, and the economies are recovering an opening back up. Many, you know, the workforce, the employees have recognized that, through this last year and a half, that they now have the opportunity to work in a different reality that was not available to them pre Covid. So there are a lot of employees who liked working remotely and want to continue working remotely and don't want to go back to the office. Some of them did not like working remote. And because businesses have now become remote, they don't want to continue working because they want to go back to the office. Some employees have had the opportunity to spend a lot more time with their family in the lock down period and recognize that that's far more valuable for them. So they want a change in their workplace that gives them more of that freedom and opportunity to be with their family. Some of them had the opportunity to travel and move to different parts of the country as a result of the pandemic, and they now want to pursue jobs as a result of that move or want the opportunity to move. So a lot of these things have culminated to what we call now the great resignation, where there is data by the Boston Consulting Group, where they are predicting 25 to 40% of the workforce is going to resign and or take other jobs. That's huge. That's a big, big, big, that's a lot that's like your workforce, even 25. Even if you go with the lower end of 25%. That's 25% of the workforce population is going to quit this year. Others other opportunities

Jeff Ma
in 2021

Mohammad Anwar
in 2021, they are seeing where we're entering the period of great resignation. We haven't passed through it, we're in it. And so this is a lot for to consider in terms of business and the dynamics of workplace, the corporate environments, are now facing the, you know, unprecedented crisis of resignations that we're going to face as an industry, right. And as a workforce. So that's what the great resignation is. And that's what they're referring to it, it's, it's kind of trying to play on the analogy of the Great Recession, they call the great present.

Frank Danna
Yeah, it's interesting, I just saw this, this survey that came out from Digital.com , they surveyed 1500 small business owners. And what they found was that 39% said, these small business owners said that they would fire workers who refuse to return to the office full time. So what it feels like to me is that there's also a heavy disconnect between what an employee is has experienced and what an employer thinks is the right way forward. Right? I mean, 30 39% of them said, well, either you resign or you're fired. But the way it used to be is the way it has to be, what do you think that's going to do in terms of where people are going? I mean, what's, what is the what is the the next phase of this end up looking like, when so many employers are unflexible. At this point in time,

Chris Pitre
I think there'll be losing out on talent is what it looks like, they'll have a limited talent pool to select from, especially if they go through a great firing. When it comes to enforcing those sort of arcane policies, you know, I think it's, to me, it's it's definitely something where COVID-19, or the pandemic has left a irreversible mark on the way we work. I don't think that there is a return to what normal used to be, I think it's defining a new normal. And I think the employers and the leaders that are already acknowledging and accepting that and are actually updating and changing mindsets, behaviors, and attitudes around sort of a new normal, are the ones that will likely went out in the end. And I think, you know, you'd be surprised, but I think some of the employees want to have some ability to go to an office, I just don't think they wanted it to be a full time requirement to be there. I think, you know, we are now realizing one that life is short, two families, everything three, the lies that we built, during the pandemic, we we have grown accustomed to, some people have gotten new pets. Hey, right. And

Frank Danna
true, that's true. Half of the people on this podcast have gotten new pet. Yeah.

Chris Pitre
And so you don't, their lifestyle changes have happened, that can't just return back to the way they were before the pandemic. And to me employers and leaders that are embracing that. And then creating and establishing policies and processes and procedures and systems that will support that are likely going to see a lot more access to greater talent, and talent that could be willing to take, you know, pay cuts, even to be at a company that will support their lifestyle that they are looking for. And we're seeing that over and over again. I think I read an article yesterday, a small tiny town in Idaho is experiencing a housing shortage because every move and either local it go, yeah, it's crazy. Like it's, it's like nestled in between mountains and a lake. And the housing market boom, so fast, that, you know, all of the sort of the bars and the restaurants and the businesses around that community can actually get their employees housing, because it is that sort of short on on it. And so when you have these types of situations happening across the country, where, you know, small town, America and country, rural, you know, places are becoming more accessible, if not populous. It's it allows for that flexibility to be able to live your life, do your work, and and sort of have that integration where you're not trying to sort of carve out or compartmentalize everything into these neat spaces anymore.

Mohammad Anwar
Yeah, I think I think something that I'd like to believe is that people wanted this even before COVID it's not that people all of a sudden realize that this is what they want in the COVID times, people, even pre COVID desired this type of lifestyle desired these opportunities, but they were handcuffed to the way corporate america worked. And, and I think all COVID did was show them that it's possible and accelerated what was bound to happen. Whenever there was Yes, the inevitable I think it was there was a revolution that was knocking on our door. Even pre COVID people wanted a change at the workplace, they wanted to feel valued, respected, treated with dignity, and all of the above even pre COVID. And while COVID did was just accelerate the timeline for that revolution, so a lot of the organizations who enter leadership that are struggling, today are going to be those that have not faced this reckoning, that the revolution has arrived. People are now they have the power to say no to the corporate world and say, No, I'm gonna move, I am leaving, I cannot tolerate this anymore. And we can sit as leaders of corporate america and blame COVID. But really, the truth is, you got to blame yourself, because even before COVID This is how people felt this is what people wanted. COVID just expose the possibility. But you were always in the path of this revolution that was going to come. So that's my that's my thought process and opinion on this people desired as well before COVID and so many organizations today that are resisting this are seeing unintended consequences. I also know of organizations which are publicly traded that did layoffs, and did layoffs and disguise them as performance terminations did not want to call it layoffs. But you know, all of the high performers that observed that and went through COVID are like you, you got to be kidding me. You weren't honest. You didn't tell the truth that you're going through layoffs. And you disguised layoffs as performance terminations. Well, guess what? See you later. And they're all quitting, all the high performers are quitting. So corporations are now struggling with, okay, we made this business rational decision to terminate employment didn't call it as layoffs because our share values would go down. So we disguise it as performance terminations. But now, the high performers are all quitting and resigning. So they're in this pickle right now. They're like, holy crap. Now we're short of staff and let alone short of the high performance staff. And that's the unintended consequences of operating, you know, on this fear based culture environment and operating from a place of business rationality, and not taking consideration of the human conditions that exists around us, is now it's going to it's going to catch up, it's coming, it's already here. And so unless corporations are going to find a way to really understand how humanizing their workplaces is so important, that you know, they're going to jeopardize their profits, which is what they were all set up for. This is this is a time of reckoning. And I think it's happening if we are witnessing it in our lifetime. And there's a lot to be done. In the corporate workplace, there's a lot of work that has to be done to bring back humanity to the workplace.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, I think last year, we had like the giant bomb dropped on the world of COVID-19. And now that, you know, it's not over. But as we deal with kind of the the aftermath, the aftershocks of the bomb kind of are having their effects now, right. And so, here we are, in a world where companies have more options, we organizations have opportunities to make some decisions, bring people back to the office change, policies change, things like that they've had time to adjust. And people have had time to, to learn and change what they understand what they feel. So I think just it's this is a very critical time, like you said, Mohammad, like it's the time for if your organization. And you know, there are a whole set that we just talked about that need to see the light and see that this is important. I think it's also interesting that there's probably a group, a group of organizations and leaders that really want to do the right thing in this time, but are unsure of what the right thing might be. When it comes to making sure they have a culture, maintaining their their team morale and kind of doing the right thing by people but also for their business, like Chris mentioned before, like how much do you do bring you back to the office? Do you let everyone be remote? Is it a hybrid and all those things not to dig in those details? But what what what would be kind of our approach towards what is the future might what might the future look like in this from this point?

Chris Pitre
It's I think, and I'll go ahead, Frank. No, you're good. And I'm having in conversations with other companies and executives and leaders that are going through this same conversation internally, I think many people are really looking for that hybrid approach where, you know, there is a requirement or expectation to be in the office at some point. Now, that might look different, depending on the role, the team, the work that you are doing. But I think that what a lot of leaders are learning in their language around sort of this approach is that they're calling it the return to the office, instead of, you know, and updated telecommuting policy, right. Like the language can send people into a tizzy as we all we all know, is off. Because we're change management people, right? So the way you word things does give a different feeling. Yeah, and matters. And so you know, everyone using the language around returns to the office and return to work and these returns, it's, it's giving people the little bit making them squeamish, because that's not what they want. That's not what the new normal is, it's not a return to anything, we're establishing something new, or we're continuing what we've already been doing. And so, you know, those that's one thing that I would encourage listeners who are probably talking about this, within their own offices is how do you language this, you know, initiative, and not use things that could be triggering, or that could make people feel like, you're going to force them back into what was old? Because that is, again, what leads to the resignations, because in many cultures, you can you don't speak up, right? People are quiet, especially if they feel like they're further away from power making roles or, or leaders. And so they will make sort of their own stories and their own beliefs and act on those. And if you are, if you're thinking about change management, you know, really considering how you name things, and how you language, your communication around expectations is going to be critical.

Mohammad Anwar
But can I challenge you there a little bit, Chris? Because I feel like I feel like change management. All it does is disguise the true intent of the leaders and their mindsets. So done my

Chris Pitre
way. Yeah, I've done the wrong way.

Mohammad Anwar
But I'm saying like if they're calling it a return to the office, it reflects a lot on how they're thinking. But they can they can turn around and not call it the return to the office. But it is what they're thinking it is because they don't trust their employees to work in a remote environment. So they're calling it a return to the office. And they also make it look like in their minds. We haven't been working in a remote environment. So returned to work is like now you're finally getting to work. you're on vacation during the pandemic. That's what they're all the same message. Yeah.

Chris Pitre
Yeah.

Frank Danna
Have you grown? How have you grown during your time at home? And

Chris Pitre
all that is true. And I'm talking about the companies that are looking for a hybrid or truly trying to, you know, create a new normal, fearful about creating that language that could send that message, even though that might not be in your heart or in your mind when you're creating those flexible policies going forward. But yes, the companies that are saying are demanding for five days in the office 40 hours a week, like that really is a return to work. And that is something that is

Mohammad Anwar
Yeah. But I think to answer like Jeff's original question, I'd say so what are we looking at, like, we need to make sure these leaders have a fricking moment of really realization that we've just gone through a frickin global pandemic, practice some empathy, try to understand that just because just because you like to work in the office doesn't mean you got to force everyone to the office, like, we need to freaking bring that realization to them. Because this is a problem. Change Management cannot fix poor leadership. Okay, again, always getting worked out is only try to suppress what is really the root cause and try to treat the symptoms a little bit and disguise what's really going on. But to be honest, Jeff, it's time leaders start to bring about self awareness. And recognize times have changed, the way you got to your leadership positions isn't going to work anymore. Not everybody's gonna like jump in, do whatever you want them to do, because that's what you think should be done. You got to consider others, you got to for one moment, stop thinking about yourself, and the money you got to make and start thinking about the people because they're ultimately the ones who are going to drive your business among that moment has to come now if they're still not, if they're still in denial, even with the great resignation. And I can only predict those companies will either get rid of that leadership pretty soon or that company will not survive.

Frank Danna
It. That's it honestly, I was gonna talk about the Platinum rule over here like leaders need to start listening. Like we need to start listening and and and hearing what other people are experiencing and create an environment that is inclusive of where we are today. Not trying to fit what we know now back into what had been done previously. Because ultimately people are just going to leave like and we've seen that folks are willing to leave to forego huge career opportunities in these companies, as a result of saying that doesn't fit in my lifestyle, that doesn't work for me. So instead of assuming that you know what's best for others, the golden rule, right treat others the way you want to be treated, we need to use the Platinum rule. And the Platinum rule is treat others the way they want to be treated, which means understanding what people have gone through and are going through and create something that is inclusive, create something that allows for people to flourish, instead of trying to force them back into a box, the box is open, it can never be closed, again, like Pandora's box is open in this situation, the way work has been changed, has never will never be put back in the tiny little box of having to commute for two hours every single day, having to make sure that you live in the same place that your office is that like that is changing. And the sooner that people realize that and to get a little creative, the better will be for everyone.

Mohammad Anwar
Okay. And I also think like solution isn't just policies and changing policies. The first solution is like, we got to change the mindset. So for leadership, change the culture and policies will reflect that culture and mindset. But also, the other thing is like, we I have spoken personally to some leaders, who have clearly told me, they're having resignation issues, not because of their culture and their environment, but because of the unemployment benefits. But because people are getting paid more through unemployment benefits. I'm like, Are you kidding me? Then you shouldn't be asking yourself, what your compensator II policies and I'm not going to debate you. I'm not trying to make this a political debate. But if you are still in denial, and you're blaming everything else around you for why people are quitting, then you need to start picking up a mirror, looking at yourself looking inward and trying to understand what have you done to contribute to this? And yes, I understand attrition is natural, and there are certain life situations that warrant it. But if you're seeing a high number of attrition, and lots of resignations, then yeah, it could be because of how you are leading the company, you're gonna have to face that now or never, because you're gonna be not have the option to do it if you don't do it soon enough.

Chris Pitre
I mean, there are situations where like, having been around leaders and in various organizations where sometimes a high degree resignations that are not regrettable attrition can be a good thing, because you can start getting new blood in right. So it doesn't have to be all bad. But it's if it's only your high performers that are quitting, that's when it's a problem, because that is regrettable attrition. And that is something that should be completely on the radar of leaders. And that's something that you should take very clear stock of internally, you the rest of your leadership, etc. But yes, I think I think the there's, there's a bronycon right, like your resignations can also mean new blood coming in, especially if it's not that regrettable attrition over high performers. But also, if you have taken stock and you are aware of one the current cultural issues and the journey that your culture is taking to improve those issues, you might see that resignation as a result of positive change. And some of those folks who don't are no longer a a value add to the organization. But that said, That's not majority of the cases. So please don't take what I'm saying, as you know, the counter, this is just the exception, that could be true for some companies that are listening, or some leaders who are listening. But this is not an excuse to say like, Oh, I think I'm keeping the people that I like, it's not about who you like, it's about this before me.

Mohammad Anwar
I think I see your culture is the foundation to what you're seeing if your culture is good, or you're on the path of building a culture to adapt to this environment. And that's when you're getting new blood and you're maintaining your high performers, then I can see that that that could actually work in your advantage. But if you're not recognizing where your culture is, and just blaming all of that, then yes, it's a problem.

Jeff Ma
But it's also a factor of like you have organizations who are trying to cling on to what they know in the past and they're getting attrition because their culture sucks. Then you have then you have companies who are going through intentional transformation, right? Did digital transformation, agile transformations, cultural transformations that inherently are meant to adapt to the new environment and make them stronger and better. And that type of attrition is expected that's that's the difference is that when you when you transform your entire culture and your for the better for the most part, hopefully, not everyone's going to come along with that right? statistically shown a some you know, even agile transformation, you're going to lose a third of your people just from that change so that that's the difference. between those two types of job not all attrition is created equal for sure. So I wanted to quickly talk about bring the conversation over to the culture itself. So culture within working remote has changed quite a bit over the last year we've had a lot of learnings, a seeing if any of you had any insights or stories to share around our experiences around what it's like building culture, creating and maintaining culture in this now remote environment, what are the challenges and and what, what are the victories.

Frank Danna
But I think now it's a little bit harder to interact with people that you'd normally bump into in the hallways, right. And we're talking about how our US team would have typically worked because we do have a team in India and a team in the US. So technically, we've been working remotely with team members for years for since the beginning of Softway. But when it comes to people walking through a hallway and bumping into each other, that collaboration that happens naturally, isn't a reality anymore, which means that we have to be a lot more intentional with building and maintaining relationships. And I know that's one of the one of the elements that we've been able to kind of do as a team and as a company is more frequent check ins as an organization, and creating an environment for people to come together to ask questions to link up. And we've done a few things from a cultural perspective, like mystery coffee dates, where we'd have different opportunities for folks to get together that typically don't interact and spend time with each other. But that's all that to say is it takes more time and effort to put the intentionality behind getting to know people and continuing to build relationships.

Mohammad Anwar
I I'd like to say that, I think if people or organizations have thought that, oh, we can work in this remote environment, with the culture we had. It's short lived, because I'll tell you why we were all forced to go remote. We already had our personal relationships. So we were able to sustain our our love for one another, our relationship and maintain that culture for as long as we have. But think about organizations that are now going to turn over and you're going to bring in new people, you're going to onboard new employees and new members of your team who don't have that personal relationship and the history of working in person and bumping into each other is called are they going to fit in? Are they going to be able to add on? Are they going to feel what, you know, people who were there in the legacy work environment feel even in a remote environment? I predict not. I think that organizations have to really start thinking about how culture needs to pivot and change for this remote environment. You can live off the legacy of your culture, as long as people are still with you in a remote environment. But once they move on, and you get new people, that isn't going to work, my relationship with Frank, Jeff, Chris was built through lots of traveling together interactions together in person meetings together to where we can meet remotely and still maintain that relationship and communicate openly, you bring any new person to this equation, who has never met us in person, it's going to change the dynamic of this whole group. So I think that organizations have to start thinking about cultural change and cultural transformation for the new normal. And if companies think they have great culture, and have had great culture, pre COVID, I'm going to ask you to think again, because I don't think you can hang on to the threads of your legacy culture, because the environments have changed. The, you know, the way we operate has changed. And the culture needs to adapt and upgrade itself according to the new environment. And so there's two ways to looking at it. How do you sustain the culture you have? And then how do you build a new culture for the new work environment. And so I think there's a big, big challenge that's going to come by way of this new new work normal, where organizations are going to have to think strategically about their culture. And I think those organizations that will naturally succeed are those where leadership are more self aware, are more empathetic, are able to prioritize their people before themselves and their, you know, business, rational things. those organizations are going to get it right. And those organizations who still prioritize profits, or people are probably going to struggle in this new normal. So culture is going to become a competitive advantage for even recruiting the new talent. Because now the talent knows they have options, they have alternates and they're willing to take the risk to move on. So now you're gonna have to work harder to be able to define your culture and make that your competitive advantage to recruit the talent that you need for your business. And many times the leaders unfortunately do not understand the correlation between culture and business outcomes and those leaders We'll probably learn it the hard way. So yeah, that's what I'm predicting in this remote work environment, it's a need for cultural change, even legacy cultures are going to have to change. And organizations are going to have to prepare for new journeys and new employees and new talent and even how to attract them by our culture, because perks and benefits. Nobody's going to have a ping pong table in a remote work environment, guys, that ain't gonna work anymore. You can offer Yeah, I think maybe virtually,

Jeff Ma
virtual reality is coming, you know, but if that's

Mohammad Anwar
what you think is gonna make your culture work in a remote work environment, that's really not going to work or cut it, you can't attract people that way anymore. So it's, it's, it's something it's a challenge. And, you know, at the forefront of trying, yeah, we're at the forefront of trying to figure it out for ourselves, but also for our customers. So I think I think it's going to be interesting, what comes out of all of this. Great. So

Chris Pitre
I think that the other thing in addition to like, once you have that Cultural Foundation inside of a role model, I think what being hybrid or fully remote gives you the benefit of doing is doing the creative things I know, on the last podcast or previous podcasts, we sort of talked about destination travel, like for a full team to come together and a unique way and do things. So you still can get that in person experience. But you can make it a travel experience on top of it. So you're experiencing a new city altogether, right, you're doing something different than just going to the office and meeting, especially for those critical, like, you know, for sprint planning, or if you're doing some major planning sessions as a team, it opens up the budget to do it, but also just the uniqueness because now it does become a really cool perk for those who are looking for sort of a mini vacation while they work type thing, you know, but it's not a constant going into the office every single day. So I think that there's also that creativity that you can bring in and those opportunities that are not there. If you're committed to a five day a week, you know, office environment.

Jeff Ma
Yep. Very great insights. Yeah. So, lots more to discuss on this. But we will continue that another time. You know, remote work is the new normal, as we said, for one way or another is not going back anytime soon. So that we got a lot to figure out at Softway and out in the world. And hopefully we'll figure that out together. Really glad to be able to do with you guys. Here love as a business strategy, the podcast, we're posting new episodes every Wednesday. And if you want to hear more about our story, our mission to bring humanity back to the workplace. The four of us here actually wrote a book it's called love as a business strategy. And it's the Wall Street Journal USA Today, USA today and Amazon bestseller so check it out. You can visit love as a business strategy calm for more information. And if you like what you heard today, please do check us out. Give us a review. Subscribe five star reviews, all that good stuff and tell a friend. So with that. Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Frank, Mohammad, for the chat and we will see everybody next week.

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