Author: Jordan Berman

“She’s coming on boys. She’s coming on real strong.” Those foreboding words were delivered by George Clooney in the 2000 biographical disaster film, The Perfect Storm . The Hollywood heartthrob and Casamigos tequila pitchman could very well have been talking about the convergence of 3 workplace trends propelling the popularity of remote work years before the current spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Dive in for more detail on the benefits of remote work that have transformed it from an employee perk to a business imperative. WORKPLACE TRENDS Trend #1: Open Floor Plans The first workplace trend is anchored by the proliferation of open office plans. Approximately 70% of offices now feature some sort of open floor plan. These workspaces have parted ways with high cubicle walls in favor of communal tables, open workstations, and “hoteling,” where employees can work at any available desk. Studies have shown such arrangements often lead to increases in employee sick days, along with questionable benefits to collaboration, productivity and morale, especially when office architects fail to provide noise cancelling solutions and activity-based spaces. This shouldn’t be a surprise, given cubicle partitions - the physical barriers shielding healthy employees from sick employees - have fallen like a beige fabric-covered Berlin Wall. Add in contagions clinging to keyboards, cabinets, coffee makers, and copy machines, and you’ve got a workplace petri dish. Don’t even get me started on the state of workplace bathrooms! Trend #2: Hustle Culture This leads to the second workplace trend of “hustle culture” promoted by evangelists like Gary Vaynerchuck, who preach their “rise & grind” ethos to millennials striving for career success. This single-minded focus on outworking others often results in increased stress and sleep deprivation, leading Reddit Co-Founder, Alexis Ohanian, to brand it as “hustle porn.” As an entrepreneur for 10-years, I’ve lived the hustle lifestyle and can attest it’s the fastest path to burnout and bad health. Trend #3: Freelancers The third trend deals with the rise of freelance workers and contractors, who receive limited or no paid sick days from their employers. More than 35% of Americans freelanced in 2018, which is an increase of 7% since 2013. By comparison, the percentage of non-freelancers only grew by 2%. As expected, the majority of freelancers (47%) are millennials, and these gig economy employees are often reticent to take sick days, knowing they’ll have to forego income. In fact, more than 25% of the American workforce doesn’t get any sick leave, which accounts for more than 50% of part-time workers and roughly 40% of service workers. Approximately 30% of private U.S. employees get no medical benefits via their employers, according to government data. The result is a flock of full-time and freelance workers grinding away in open offices where a hacking cough travels faster than word of free donuts in the conference room. REMOTE WORK ON THE RISE It’s no wonder remote work is starting to look “wicked good,” as Clooney’s fellow fisherman, Mark Wahlberg, might’ve said. A 2018 study from Upwork found 63% of companies now have remote workers, with a majority of surveyed hiring managers stating they believe offices will become temporary anchor points rather than daily travel destinations. Much to Marissa Mayer’s chagrin (the ex-Yahoo CEO banned remote work), a recent State of Remote Work Report showed 90% of remote workers plan to keep working remotely for the rest of their career. BENEFITS OF REMOTE WORK A Microsoft whitepaper, Work without Walls, ranked the top 10 benefits from an employee perspective: (1) Work/life balance: increased time at home improves overall quality of life. (2) Save gas: reduced mileage is associated with fewer commute days. (3) Avoid traffic: reduced driving during rush hour to urban and suburban offices. (4) More productivity: increased ability to deliver on work objectives. (5) Less distractions: reduced interruptions from co-workers and office chatter. (6) Eliminate long commutes: reduced trips from home to office where the average American commute is 27-minutes one way. (7) Quieter atmosphere: reduced noise in home vs. the clamor of open floor plans. (8) Less stressful environment: increased comfort of home surroundings vs. office. (9) More time with family: increased family time during mornings and evenings. (10) Environmentally friendly: decreased pollution from commute, dry cleaning, etc. It’s hard for management to argue with these benefits, especially when Gallup research cites employees are 43% less likely to experience burnout when provided a choice with regards to how, when and where they complete work tasks. It should also be noted that many employees increase their overall work hours when remote, in appreciation of their employer’s flexibility and in acknowledgement of the time they’ve saved without a commute. In addition, employers with remote or telework programs often find they can recruit from a larger talent pool and increase employee diversity while lowering overhead costs and improving productivity. What’s not to like?! OFFICE VS. HOME OFFICE As with nearly all things, the question of office vs remote work can best be answered by “and” instead of “or.” During the past 8-years, I’ve found my OFC team functions best in terms of creativity and productivity by splitting the week between office and home. Our in-office time is concentrated at the beginning of the week when we kick-off new projects, set strategy, and bond as a team over lunch, coffee breaks, ping pong, and walks with our office mascot (my dog, Kayla : ) Our remote time begins mid-week where the balance of work often shifts in favor of production activity requiring intense levels of concentration and independence. Through it all, we stay connected with a variety of communication and collaboration apps like Basecamp, Google’s G-Suite, and Zoom. Stay tuned for the second part of this remote work voyage next week, when I focus on the changes in culture, technology and communication required to mobilize a disbursed workforce. Until then, batten down the hatches as things are about to get very interesting.About the Author Jordan Berman is the Founder & CEO of OFC (ofc.tv), a creative agency and video production studio that injects storytelling into employee communications and training to earn attention and inspire action. OFC lives by the words, TYPICAL IS INVISIBLE™, and resides at the intersection of pop culture and office culture to build multimedia campaigns that create buzz, drive engagement and maximize results one cubicle at a time. Clients include PepsiCo, AT&T, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Motorola Solutions. Jordan previously held senior marketing positions at MTV, Showtime, AT&T, Black & Decker, and the DDB agency. He has a BS in Industrial & Labor Relations from Cornell and an MBA from NYU....

I awoke to a jolt on the redeye flight from Phoenix as our wheels touched down on the frozen tarmac in Newark, NJ. I felt surprisingly energized for having logged only 2.5 hours of sleep. That’s because I had returned from the desert clutching my “Ten Commandments of Internal Communications.”The past two days were part of a pilgrimage to the 9th Annual Marcus Evans “Internal Communications & Situational Messaging” conference Feb 19-20, 2020. The event brought together 60 senior communication and HR executives working to elevate employee engagement at a who’s who of Fortune 500 companies: Bristol-Myers Squibb, IBM, Marriott, PetSmart, TD Bank, Uber, Banner Health, and beyond. Watch OFC's conference highlight video here. These are the faithful charged with informing and inspiring colleagues from cubicles to cash registers and everywhere in between. The folks I met in Phoenix are dedicated disciples of Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell Soup Company, who said, “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” Sure, eighteen presentations over 2-days might seem to be the very definition of “Death by PowerPoint”, but to the internal communicators gathered inside the Marriott, the event was equal parts knowledge sharing and group therapy. Like Moses in the Sinai, or Jim Morrison in the Mojave, we searched the desert for internal communications inspiration….and found it! While this list is more likely to live on a digital tablet than one chiseled in stone, here are The 10 Commandments of Internal Communications:#1. DIVERSITY & INCLUSION (D&I) Sharon Dilling of BMS and I shared how diversity (traits and characteristics that make people unique) and inclusion (behaviors & norms that make people feel welcome) are no longer “nice-to-haves.” Communicators must thread the DNA of D&I within core business processes and across all company narratives. D&I can only supercharge collaboration and innovation if it evolves beyond the silo of ERG: Employee Resource Group heritage month celebrations, towards accountable business impact. #2. LEADERSHIP Jennifer Russo of Banner Health cited James Humes, author and Presidential speechwriter, who wrote, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” If leadership is about mobilizing teams to get things done, effective communication is the active ingredient. Executives must be able to effectively articulate the why, what and how of the agenda they wish to move through the organization.#3. AUTHENTICITY Heather Hummelsheim of Marriott International hit on the importance of being real, especially with Marriott’s “Checking In” podcast. Teleprompter talks and pretentious press releases are as relevant to employees in 2020 as carbon paper and typewriter ribbon. Employees crave communication from their leaders that is real, relevant, and human. Show some vulnerability and personality. Don’t worry, you’ll retain authority while bolstering your credibility and creativity. #4. QUIET THE NOISE Jill Stracko of Uber talked about “quieting the noise” and simplifying the storytelling process, which was echoed by numerous speakers extolling the virtue of less clutter, especially in email. Jill added that you need to communicate as if writing to a friend, even if you’ve got 24k employee “friends.” And don’t be afraid to elevate internal communications to a place where employees get exclusive insider access to special content. You’ve simply got to avoid employees finding out something after your consumers/customers alert them.    #5. MULTI-GENERATION = MULTI-MEDIA While your email and Intranet are still the PB&J of employee messaging, the media consumption diet of Millennials, which now make-up 75% of the global workforce, is trending towards short videoclips, podcasts, messaging apps, and social media. Ignore these media platforms at your peril. Those were points reinforced by Becky Graebe of Dynamic Signal and Erwin Van Der Vlist of Speakap. With that said, not everyone is gorging on avocado toast in the company café. There are now 5 generations of employees in the workplace: Traditionalists (born 1900-1945), Boomers (born 1946-1964), Gen X (born 1965-1980), Millennial (born 1981-1996), and Gen Z (born after 1996). “And” is the operative word when it comes to publishing content across platforms, especially when non-desk bound frontline staff and remote employees are in the equation. BTW, Joel-Michael Martin of PoliteMail shared that the best day and time to send employee email is Tuesday between 7:30-9am. The guy wore a “Straight Outta Comms” t-shirt, so better take his advice or risk a not-so-PoliteMail from Joel-Michael. #6. EXTERNAL BRAND & INTERNAL BRAND Cynara Charles-Pierre of TD Bank shared a great point on shaping an organization’s EVP: Employer Value Proposition. In essence, the EVP defines your company on its best day. So, be aspirational, but keep it in reach. Otherwise, you’re risking a bait-and-switch. The veteran of MTV, HBO and jetBlue also drove home how critical it is for brand marketers and internal communicators to collaborate on creating a holistic and consistent brand story across all channels. And if you’re not having fun producing the content, your colleagues will likely not enjoy consuming it.#7. MEASUREMENT & IMPACT Wendy Sherwood of CBRE reinforced how critical it is to bring scientific rigor when testing hypotheses and moving beyond the measurement of activity to the measurement of outcomes. Want to influence your leadership team? Use data-driven decisions and connect internal communications programs with positive business changes to show impact. This is a message Tarek “Daughtry” Kamil from Cerkl evangelized as well.  #8. DIFFERENT INDUSTRY = SAME PROBLEMS Internal communicators tend to network within their organizations while external communicators are obviously more outwardly focused. This can result in internal folks feeling isolated, especially when compared to the larger departments of their marketing siblings. Stepping out of one’s company to interact with functional equivalents across other industries is the best way to see how universal our challenges and potential solutions are. While norms and culture may vary, the dynamics within different organizations are often remarkably similar. So, bankers and bakers unite. You likely have more in common than simply counting that bread!#9. ULTIMATE INCENTIVE Forget Krispy Kreme, Jessica Taylor of PetSmart revealed the most powerful way for encouraging employees to participate in an initiative is by rewarding them with a half-work day. Sign me up! She also demonstrated the power of a hashtag with #LifeAtPetSmart. In essence, employees post favorite moments/pics/stories on their personal LinkedIn accounts and tag it with #LifeAtPetSmart. These posts then form a wonderful mosaic of company life that can be re-shared by the company. Of course, puppy and kitten pics don’t hurt for virality : ) And hats off on a really solid acronym summarizing the PetSmart culture with AWE: Awesome Work Experience.#10. BE WHERE YOUR FEET ARE It may seem impossible to completely break away from the siren’s call of your iPhone, be it for email or conversations with colleagues back at the office. However, attendees that get the most out of their event experiences seem to be the ones that are present in the moment to make meaningful human connections. And isn’t that what internal communications is all about?  About the AuthorJordan Berman is the Founder & CEO of OFC (ofc.tv), a creative agency and video production studio that injects storytelling into employee communications and training to earn attention and inspire action. OFC lives at the intersection of pop culture and office culture to build multimedia campaigns that create buzz, drive engagement and maximize results one cubicle at a time. Clients include PepsiCo, AT&T, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Motorola Solutions. Jordan previously held senior marketing positions at MTV, Showtime, AT&T, Black & Decker, and the DDB agency. He has a BS in Industrial & Labor Relations from Cornell and an MBA from NYU....

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