Connor Buckland, Senior Robotics Engineer, works on a robot device at the Chef Robotics new headquarters.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
The toll of extended work-from-home arrangements is likely to affect career development, particularly for younger workers, several executives said. At Stifel Financial Corp., which employs more than 8,000 people around the world, junior employees learn how to underwrite deals or develop pitch books by sitting beside more experienced colleagues and watching them work, said Chief Executive Ronald J. Kruszewski. That’s hard to do remotely.
“I am concerned that we would somehow believe that we can basically take kids from college, put them in front of Zoom, and think that three years from now, they’ll be every bit as productive as they would have had they had the personal interaction,” said Mr. Kruszewski.
In March, Stifel transformed from eight group trading desks to more than 180 separate trading locations. Dozens of staffers fanned out to smaller office locations in Connecticut and New Jersey, and some people set up work-from-home stations using secure cloud technologies.
Mr. Kruszewski said the company didn’t miss a beat, but when the pandemic has passed, or there are viable treatment options, employees will be recalled from their alternative locations.
“Our traders need to be together,” he said, adding that, at a broader company level, employees benefit from interaction. “We’re missing things, and that will become more evident over time.”
And then there’s the challenge of training employees who began work after the pandemic began and have had to work remotely from the start. At Discover Financial Services, thousands of new call-center workers and other employees have come on board since March, said Andy Eichfeld, chief human resources and administrative officer.
Most of those new employees have never worked in a Discover office. Customer-service agents who once got six weeks of in-classroom training now must learn the information remotely. They don’t have the same casual day-to-day opportunities to ask more experienced workers for help or advice that they would if they were working in the same office, even as the company has tried to connect people virtually. New employees in marketing and analytics roles haven’t been able to quickly pick up company jargon and shorthand in meetings, leaving some of them lost.
“If you were physically on site, you might have someone physically whispering, ‘Hey, that means this.’ We don’t have that here. So, it’s taking longer for the new employee to understand what’s happening,” he said.
In a recent company survey, less than a third of Discover employees said they want to work from home permanently, though many said they would like the flexibility to do it sometimes, which the company plans to offer. Without the interactions that define office life, Mr. Eichfeld worries that Discover’s culture will gradually fray, which is why he’s eager to get workers back together once it is safe.
“It was easier to go remote fast than most people would have ever imagined,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s great.”
Source: The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2020 | Chip Cutter