The Morning Call takes a good look into the burning question “should we keep the office or go remote”. Liberty Mutual in South Whitehall Township decided to do what we were all thinking and exit its lease in early 2020. “Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, ongoing changes in our work environment had resulted in an increase in excess office space,” Liberty Mutual spokesperson Glenn Greenberg said. “To help decrease costs and improve competitiveness, we identified opportunities to reduce unused space, while maintaining what we need.” More companies are now evaluating what they need in office space, an assessment forced upon them by a pandemic that could accelerate the work-from-home trend. Work environments are changing, trending toward more flexible options in many cases, including the Lehigh Valley area.

Companies have gone remote before, only to revert to the office. Every company is different and has different needs. “While some businesses and some jobs will likely thrive in this new remote work environment, you really need to dig deep and think about whether that’s the right solution for your organization,” said Tina Hamilton, president and CEO of myHR Partner Inc., a Lehigh Valley human resources outsourcing firm with clients in 26 states. Hamilton, thinking about her company’s office space in Upper Macungie, decided to survey her 26 employees. Except for two workers who wanted to stay remote, the remaining staff all voted for a flexible option, a mix of office and remote working, she said. Having a remote work option can help companies reach a larger pool of job candidates, but Hamilton said many workers still crave collaboration with colleagues. “There’s things in person that are not going to happen in a Zoom call,” she said. “Without connection, what do you have? Just a job, and that’s not going to maintain people in the long run.”

That’s why companies need to use the pandemic as an opportunity to evaluate internal processes, examining software that enables collaboration, checking in on employee well-being and revisiting job descriptions to ensure the organization is effective across remote work, office work and a mix of the two, said Ozias Moore, a Lehigh University management professor. If companies force employees to return to the office without giving them the option to work remotely, Moore said it could hurt their ability to recruit and retain talent. It’s looking like people will be able to return to the office when it is determined safe to do so, whenever that may be.

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