ST. CHARLES – For many people, working from home has become a way of life because of the pandemic.
Cheryl Flood, a human resource generalist with Practical HR Support Services, believes that working from home is here to stay.
"I think we can all agree that there's going to be some level of remote work that is going to stay post COVID," Flood said.
Flood spoke as part of a Zoom webinar on Thursday hosted by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce's Business and Economic Revival Council on the topic of "Work from home is here to stay: How do you create and sustain a virtual company culture?"
She noted that while working from home does have its benefits, it also presents challenges.
"Yes, it's pretty attractive at first to a lot of employees," Flood said. "People can work in their sweatpants and they are with their children in case they need homeschooling. A lot of these things that sounded great before are now taking their toll as we hit November. A big part of it is that lack of communication, the water cooler bonding, if you will. So from the employee end, what's so, so important is still having that bond, that communication with the employer, with the co-workers."
She suggested that once a week, companies should have water cooler virtual meetings with their employees "so they feel that bond and continue the culture that the company had pre-COVID."
From an employer standpoint, Flood said the biggest challenge is "ensuring that your employees are productive."
"And how do you do that? By performance management, or measuring that productivity. If the productivity is not there in a virtual environment, we might have to have conversations that we don't typically have with employees. Because sometimes that conversation is going to be, 'Well, I'm trying to do the best that I can do, but I've got three kids here and my husband is out working.' ''
Rose Canfield is chief executive officer of Solutions Networking Corp., which provides technology solutions to businesses. Her company has been helping businesses fulfill their needs during the pandemic.
"It all starts with the connectivity," Canfield said. "If you don't have the proper connectivity at your home work environment, everyone gets frustrated. The employees get frustrated, the business gets frustrated and the clients get frustrated."
About two years ago, Dee Johnson became a franchise owner of Supporting Strategies, a home-based business that provides bookkeeping and controller services. The company had work-from-home culture even before the pandemic.
"There is no corporate headquarters," Johnson said. "They all work from home, from the company president on down. One of the things that makes it work is our hiring practices. We use a personality assessment tool to make sure that the people we hire are going to be comfortable in the role that they are hired for and in the work-from-home culture."