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A Mix of Remote and On-site Staff Can Work!

Meghan West
By Meghan West President, CNC Software Inc.

One of the major lessons we’ve learned now that the worst of the COVID-19 strains are (hopefully) behind us is that remote workers have a permanent place in corporate structures.

My company, CNC Software, is a good example of this. We have always nurtured a culture of work and play—the latter including fitness activities, picnics, parties, group outings, community volunteerism and the like. Before the pandemic we had many out-of-state remote workers for a variety of good reasons. They missed out on these social events and could feel like outsiders as we patched them in during on-site business meetings.

In the spring of 2020, when we suddenly all went remote, everyone was on the same level. Everyone was equally disengaged from social interactions.

To help counteract this, we instituted some fun things that we could all do online as a team. The employees who most benefited and enjoyed the extra virtual engagement efforts were those who had already been working remotely before the lockdown. That feedback told us we needed to get creative to keep up the morale.

Flexible, customized solutions for our staff have been central to how our company continues to operate as we move past the pandemic. A study published in late April by ADP Research Institute found that 64 percent of workers would rather quit their jobs than return to an office full time.

At CNC Software, where employees choose to work is highly personalized. Some opted to continue to work from home, some have returned to the office, and others have taken a hybrid approach. With this in mind, It was important for us to know how our customers viewed the suppliers who interacted with them remotely.

Industrial Channel Research conducted a survey for us earlier this year with these results: Half of the respondents hoped suppliers would go back to pre-pandemic levels of on-site visits; 45.5 percent said they like on-site visits but see the value in doing certain activities remotely; and the remainder had completely converted to interacting remotely with their suppliers. The data indicated that not only do we need to take a tailored approach with our employees, but we also need to take that same approach with our customers so that they can interact with us in the way they prefer.

Manufacturers are a social bunch by nature. We like to visit with customers and host visitors, enjoy entertaining with food and beverages, and relish meeting new and familiar faces. The pandemic upended all of that. We learned a lot about computer-based meeting platforms. So now there are questions. Do we really need to get on a plane, or can this be handled just as well in a video call? Do we really need to send 30 people to a trade show when maybe 15 will do? We are all figuring this out.

From a personal standpoint as a working mom, giving myself permission to ask and answer these questions surrounding my own schedule has made a positive difference in both my family and work life. People often talk about a work/life balance but really, it’s more of a flow. There are times when a work situation takes priority while at other times a family circumstance does. There always is a melding. I’ve discovered in myself and in our employees, too, that if people are comfortable, settled, and secure in where they do the actual work, they are fully engaged, highly productive, and feel like they have a purpose—and that the work is adding to their lives rather than taking from it.

From a company leader’s perspective, the benefits of our people being the best versions of themselves in this way are almost impossible to list. How can a company quantify joy, satisfaction, and contentment? That’s difficult to calculate, but I do know that it’s working for us and can for your company, too.

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