The COVID-19 pandemic, and the ensuing shift to remote work for many employees, has forced a lot of companies and managers out of their comfort zones. As offices have emptied across the country, many traditional business practices aimed at ensuring productivity by controlling every aspect of an employee’s workday have been rendered impossible.
Strict office hours, close observation, and in some cases, micro management, have given way to forced flexibility. While previously, it was easier to delineate between work life and home life, the current situation has forced us all to accept a much more complicated reality, including energetic kids in the background of Zoom calls.
While some companies have only begrudgingly loosened the white-knuckle grip they’ve had on every part of their employees’ workday, that wasn’t the case at C3. For us, the infrastructure and policies were already in place to ensure a smooth transition to a remote work environment. I can attest firsthand that because I was already used to a certain level of freedom, flexibility and empowerment at work, I didn’t experience the adjustment phase – and the accompanying anxiety – that I’ve heard about.
I’m nearing my three-year anniversary at C3, and I have never had so much freedom in a job. I feel empowered and confident in my work because our leaders have given us the trust and the flexibility to do our jobs in the way that suits us best and will allow us to be the most effective. They recognize that people are productive in different ways, at different times and from different locations, so it’s important to trust them to manage their own day and workload.
Even prior to the pandemic, because we all had laptops, I have never felt tied to my desk like I did at other companies. Because I wasn’t expected to clock in and clock out at a strict time every day, I had the flexibility to work from home when I needed to, and manage my family responsibilities without stressing about being in the office. That stress was removed because of the independence I had been granted. Before March of this year, when given the option to come into the office or work from home, I typically chose to be in the office, not because I had to but because I liked being there. The fact that it was my choice made me look forward to it even more.
Before I started at C3, I had worked at many agencies in the seven years I had been in insurance. I moved around because I was always looking for something that felt like home. One of the things that I found almost across the board was a separation between upper management and the workforce. There was a hierarchy in place that made it nearly impossible to find a common ground or feel a personal connection. At C3, I noticed immediately how personable, accessible and inviting Gabe and Jamie were. They would walk through the office every morning, making the rounds, checking in and catching up. They share things about their families and they know my family; they were some of my biggest supporters when my husband and I adopted our son two years ago. They don’t just accept that their employees have lives outside of work; they embrace and support it. They go out of their way to connect and really get to know us. The care and compassion they show their employees is genuine. At C3, family doesn’t just mean the work family; it includes my own family.
The most surprising part about working for a company with these values is how much it has improved my professional focus and confidence to feel so valued by my employer. Because of the confidence management inspires in me, I have been inspired to focus on what I’m good at and grow and nurture those aspects. I want to do my very best because I want the company to be successful. Gabe and Jamie deserve to be successful and we all want to perform for them. It really feels like we are all in this together and we are all counting on each other.
Even when the pandemic is over, companies that want to go back to business-as-usual may face an uphill battle in justifying the return to restrictive office policies. I would encourage business leaders to strongly consider a more flexible model and more trusting values. When you increase the flexibility you offer, you will find that your people will reach higher and stretch further for you. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, loosening the reigns may be the key to increasing employee satisfaction, dedication and, yes, productivity.