Ty Beasley is North Texas Managing Partner for RSM, a global tax, auditing, and advisory firm. In this Q&A, he discusses how COVID-19 has changed the future of the workplace from a business-efficiency perspective.
Q: How has COVID-19 changed the way people see their offices?
A: Prior to COVID-19, it seemed like more of a sales job for the junior staff to convince the senior staff that they could work from home. Oftentimes, junior staff would have to prove that the office was a place to work, rather than THE place to work; the more experienced work force is accustomed to and prefers an in-person environment. But COVID forced our hand. It provided an opportunity for the junior staff to showcase their effectiveness away from the office. The veil has been removed and the senior workforce is seeing, yes, we can be effective outside of the office.
I think the right conversation is not, “I just want to keep working from home.” I think the future is, “I want my home office to be a place to work, and I want my corporate office to be a place to work.” I’ll take it a step further. If we can have employees work from home effectively, why does it have to be at home? Why can’t it be from anywhere? Here’s a good example. I’m on a video call with an employee, and I look at the screen and she’s at some beautiful cabin in New Mexico. To me, until we had the call, I thought she was working from home. Why do I care? She’s working effectively, and we’re getting everything we need from her. She joins the meetings and is engaged. She has already converted her home as a place to work, and she’s found another place to work. Either way, she’s effective working from where she is. I think that’s the future.
Allowing the office to be a place to work provides the senior and the junior workforce the opportunity to converge on what they both desire; you can be in person when needed, and you can be virtual when it makes sense. I think the flexibility of your workforce will come into play as we work in this “both/and” versus “either/or” environment.
Q: Will employers who adapt to the post-COVID work culture have an advantage?
A: Companies that can reach the realization that the workplace situation is not an either/or answer will have a competitive advantage in the war for talent. The workforce will apply that to their work-life balance. At the same time, there’s an understanding that when the company really needs you in person, you will be there. Those employees, I think, will appreciate the flexibility and trust. One of the things that’s keeping us busy right now is helping our clients reach a higher level of technological functionality, enabling them to have a more effective work-from-home workforce.
Q: Is it possible to establish an office culture virtually?
A: In our office, the culture that’s been developed comes from our people literally being around each other, such as visiting clients together, and attending in-office and after-hours events. The office culture is embedded in our people. Now, they bring the culture with them when they jump on a video meeting. They’re looking at their coworkers – the virtual environment includes the culture they developed in an in-person setting. It looks different, but the RSM Dallas culture is alive and well.