As the maker of one of the best-selling hand sanitizers in the world, you would expect GOJO Industries to take special care when bringing people back to work safely. The firm’s systematic approach can serve as a guidebook for any company facing the same challenge.
Akron prides himself on collaborating with Purell’s OH maker, so the forced isolation of the Covid lockdown was a blow.
“Before the epidemic, we were almost entirely a personal culture,” said Emily Esterley, vice president of work ecosystems and employee experience. “We were extremely collaborative without any closed office.”
The company wanted to maintain that culture while respecting the new demand for social distance and the goodwill of employees who shine for distant work.
However it does not want to show its decisions arbitrarily or issue blanket policy, especially since many of its labs and manufacturing staff could not do their work from home. Long before the ban was lifted, executives thought hard about the future of the workplace.
GOJO has created 18 months of employee surveys, focus group management and future office prototypes. Hundreds of people took part in the exercise, the purpose of which was to determine a role that matched expectations of future office presence.
A transparent process
Employee buy-in was critical, meaning language is important. For example, managers have dropped the term “return to office” in favor of “must work”.
There will be no specific moment of return and the role of employees will determine expectations.
In the end, the organizers decided on four role types.
“Most virtual” jobs require less than 10% office hours and are optimized for traveling staff such as sales and service people. Office work involves the role of “blended weekly” and “mixed monthly” two to three times a week or three to four times a month. “Mostly on-site” for people who have to be physically present most of the time.
It was found that the workforce fell fairly evenly in each role.
The process was made as transparent as possible, keeping in mind the need for people to understand why their job type was slotted. “We decided to prototype and test instead of just changing things,” Esterley said. “Prioritize and create equations [decisions] We need to create a more equitable system based on work. People felt they were part of the process. “
There was some flexibility in the introduction.
“For each role, there’s a percentage of the time we expect you to be on the site that averages out the year,” Estherley said. “A person can be on site all the time for a while and then offsite for a while.”
Two categories of events were identified that required physical presence: site-specific work such as lab work and “milestone moments,” which included all-hands meeting, onboarding, training, and chartering of new teams.
Laid out from the office
The office layout has been revived to reflect the changing workplace role as a place of collaboration rather than an office collection.
The Akron headquarters is being restructured around “open” or open spaces for private gatherings. Also, the concept of “drop-in desk” was created to describe private spaces equipped with function-specific behaviors that people in virtual and mixed roles can take when coming to the office.
“We had an open office, in the beginning, so it wasn’t very different from what we had before,” Esterley said. “It was more about removing some desk density and moving it to drop-ins.”
Shortly before the epidemic, GOJO was fortunate to be standardized on a single collaboration platform. A set of consistent tools for file-sharing and conference calls was “wrapped around our work methods to enable employees to do their best work regardless of location,” said CIO Brian Carr. So when Kovid came, “We were able to pull it off the shelf.”
Special attention has been paid to meeting technology.
“We have implemented an integrated business cooperation platform that is the sticky part that has helped us all work,” Carr said. “We’ve provided good conference phones that fit the size of the room so that those who are actually working can hear and feel part of it.” In addition, virtual whiteboard technology has become so widely accepted that it is now used in spite of the presence of all hands.
GOJO has created a video to describe his new work ecosystem and outlines the process on his blog.
Wrestling companies may be able to learn a few things from its example, both inclusive and logical, about how to get back to work.
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