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Builders Conference / COVID-19 / HR / Philly Tech Week / Remote work

Workplaces will be permanently transformed, even after COVID-19 is gone

Here's how SAP, Entercom and Power Home Remodeling are supporting employees during a challenging year, and their leadership's thoughts on which shifts — like remote work and commitments to racial equity — will stick.

"Transforming the Workplace" panel at #INTRO20. (Screenshot via Hopin)

For Entercom VP of Social Impact Sarah Harris, COVID-19 gave her company the space to reevaluate how it works in a significant way, including in regard to remote work.

“We knew conceptually that we had some of that capability but we did not rely upon it 100% the way we did in March,” she said. “We’re excited now because it’s showing us this moment of great disruption on so many levels allows you to step back and look at how and why you do things.”

Harris and her colleagues at the media company are like many professionals who have pivoted to working from home from office spaces during the pandemic. Harris joined reporter Paige Gross and two other professionals for an Introduced by panel last month on how companies are transforming the workplace

Lloyd Adams, SAP’s managing director of the East region, said his company was well prepared for the shift to remote work. A third of SAP’s 30,000 North America-based employees already worked remotely before the beginning of the pandemic, something he credits to SAP’s affinity for allowing its employees to have flexible work schedules.

“When everything hit in that March and April timeframe and we became virtual, it went a lot more smoothly than any of us anticipated,” he said. “Many people were already working remotely.”

Adams said he believes that working in offices will be changed by the pandemic forever and that a combination of virtual and in-person work will be far more likely than it was before the pandemic. And with more people working remotely, he thinks the need for travel and professional workspaces will be limited in the future, too.

Michelle Bauer, Power Home Remodeling’s VP of public relations, agreed with Adams about firms shifting to less travel in the future.

“I don’t think anyone is jumping on plane for a four-hour work session now,” she said.

Unlike other firms that are considering downsizing because of the pandemic, Bauer said the exterior home remodeling company, with its developer-driven Business Technology division, is actually expanding its offices in order to build a tech hub that will be launched in March 2021.

In addition a public health crisis, social unrest that exploded after the killing of George Floyd by police has forced firms to address racial injustice and search for ways to support their employees of color. Adams mentioned SAP’s July pledge to support Black technologists and reaffirm its commitment to diversity and inclusion. SAP has a goal of doubling its representation of Black talent in U.S. within three years.

“On the racial equity front at SAP, the first thing we wanted to do was acknowledge the grief of our employees affected by this,” he said. “We really tried to make sure we sustained putting our money where the messaging is.”

Power Home Remodeling is one of many firms that is supporting another social cause in voter registration. Bauer said that Election Day will be a paid holiday for employees and that those who volunteer that day will be paid for their volunteer hours.

All three panelists agreed that productivity has been high at their respective companies for employees working from home. If these positive responses are any indication, many professionals may follow Facebook and Twitter’s leads and be permanently working from home after all.

Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Entercom / Power Home Remodeling / SAP
Series: Build Better Companies / How to Work Remotely / Coronavirus

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