Welcome to the Ask Chloé column on Security Boulevard! Each week, Chloé provides answers to readers’ questions to help guide them as they navigate the technology industry. This week, Chloé discusses cybersecurity companies’ push to return workers to physical offices.
The leadership at my company are considering reopening the office and having staff return to the office for work soon. I was wondering what your thoughts are? Is it a wise decision, or a decision that may hurt the company?
A Curious Remote CISO
Dear A Curious Remote CISO,
I believe we have to approach this delicate situation by understanding that what works for one individual may not work for another. For the longest time, many employers believed that remote work wasn’t productive and didn’t work under any circumstances. This was due to the perception that seeing is believing. In other words, if I see you in the office during work hours, it equates to you working.
But—brutal honesty time—this has been proven not to be true. In fact, for many, working in the office reduced their productivity. Also, the pandemic has shown us that we can be fully remote and still be productive. Overall, we need to ask our employees what works best for them and provide options that empower them. Additionally, we also need to come to terms with the fact that not everyone works best in the morning, for instance, and that there are many who work better in the later hours or at night. In other words, flexibility is incredibly important to enhance performance levels and increase trust across the company.
I want to point out that not all employees want to go back to the office. Thus, they would prefer to—and may actually work better—remotely. It allows them to have a more balanced life. It also reduces the hours of commuting daily that could be used for other needs. It’s also important to note that the pandemic also provided calming moments for those who fear commuting or that struggle to commute to the office, such as those who are disabled or those who are concerned about walking at night. Their concerns matter.
Now, there are folks that actually do better working in an office. They need to have a space that separates their work from home. This makes complete sense, too, and they deserve to have their concerns considered. When opening the office, it’s important that all the right safety and health protocols are followed and that the recommendations provided by the CDC are being put in place. After all, we are still in a pandemic and we don’t know when it will end.
If you have shared with your employees that all work can be completed remotely and that all roles can be remote, then keep it that way. Changing your mind to mandate that the positions suddenly must be done at a physical location is one of the worst practices I’ve seen when it comes to changing workplace policies. In other words, keep your word.
Overall, I believe the best approach is having a hybrid; an open-door policy for those who want to work in the office or at home without any pressure or enforcement. Let’s be real with one another—the majority of jobs nowadays don’t require someone to be present in the office. Let’s drop the act and stop pretending that having employees work in the office is a best practice for the company and its employees when it is most likely about control and could lead to micromanagement. So once again, ask your employees and let them decide.
Ask them: how can we do better? What helps you perform best and feel welcomed? And as a manager, how can I do better to assist you and your career?
Learn more about the award-winning tech changemaker, Chloé Messdaghi, at https://www.chloemessdaghi.com.
Have a question? Want advice? Submit your anonymous question to Chloé: [email protected].