According to the most recent news reports, there is a very good chance that New Jersey Transit will strike as early as this weekend. This means that as many as 65,000 New Jersey residents who work in Manhattan will have to find alternative, time-consuming ways to get into the office.
If you are an employer, you have two choices:
- Do you demand that all New Jersey-based employees do whatever it takes–no matter how long, or how stressful–to get into Manhattan? OR
- Do you strategically encourage telework and allow employees to use the time and energy they’d waste commuting to do their jobs productively?
You have three days to answer that question. You have three days to coordinate a telework strategy that would allow your people to hit the ground running on Monday without missing a beat.
What would that look like in action?
A few years ago, I worked with a major pharmaceutical company widely recognized for their flexible work culture.
One day, as I facilitated a series of sessions for employees and managers, snow began to fall. On that particular day, I was scheduled to facilitate one session in the morning and another after lunch. Midway through the afternoon meeting, a few inches of snow had accumulated and you could tell people were anxious to get on the road. Then the most amazing thing happened…
A number of managers in the room stood up and asked their team members to meet them in a group. As the various teams gathered, you could hear everyone sharing how they planned to work the next day. Some would work remotely, others thought they’d wait until after rush hour and come in later, and a couple planned to take personal days if they couldn’t find child care for their very young children.
As the teams reached agreement and dispersed, the managers gathered together and opened their laptops in a circle and began to coordinate with each other. How would they conduct meetings that were scheduled? Some decided to cancel meetings while others converted theirs to webinars. One manager who oversaw a manufacturing facility sent emails to the plant foreman flexibly coordinating the staffing for the next day.
I watched in awe. Finally, the manufacturing manager saw my faced and asked me, ‘’Why are you smiling and shaking your head?” At this point, all of the managers in the room looked up. I responded, “Do you realize how much money you are saving by flexibly coordinating tomorrow’s work in anticipation of the snow?” You could tell they were a bit confused.
They didn’t see what they were doing as unusual. It’s how they got the job done. So I pointed out, “See your competitor down the street? Do they use flexibility as easily and strategically as you do to maintain operating continuity even if it snows?” Another manager said, “No they don’t.” I continued, “Okay, so who’s open for business tomorrow and who isn’t?” Now they were smiling and shaking their heads, “We are.”
This group of managers didn’t think twice about supporting flexible ways of working, but it was the first time they consciously realized how they were using it to meet a business need–staying open when nature strikes!
What about your organization? Will you be open for business at full, productive capacity should New Jersey Transit strike, or will your people waste precious time and energy sitting in cars and buses for three hours each way trying to make it into the office and then get home?
Are you having coordinated conversations today about how everyone plans to work most efficiently on Monday–whether that’s remotely or in Manhattan? Or will you just take your chances?