Here’s a conversation we heard during a video conference the other day . . .
“We’re thinking about doing a PR,” one exec said, “We’re not considering that, because WFH is working well for us at the moment.”
Don’t You Hate That?
It is awfully frustrating to be in a meeting when an alphabet soup of acronyms is flying around and you don’t understand what people are talking about. And it is more than just frustrating. It is inefficient to spend time in a meeting where people don’t know what other people are talking about..
But don’t worry, because in today’s post we are going to explain what some of the terms and acronyms we are hearing today mean.
Let’s start with the two that puzzled us in that conference the other day, and move on from there.
PR, or Phased Return (Also Sometimes Called Phased Return to Work, or PRW)
To cut to the chase, this simply means that all the people in your company will not resume full work schedules at the same time. That wasn’t too complicated, was it? But what makes it a bit confusing is the fact that there are different ways to do a phased return, like these:
Some of your employees return to a full work schedule now, and others do so in a week, in two weeks, in a month, or whenever you decide.
Some of your employees continue to work outside the office indefinitely, or for a specific period of time, before returning.
You let employees come into your workplace at different times of the day (some people work from 8:00 - noon, perhaps, while others work from noon - 4:00, and so on). Some companies are doing this to help observe social distancing protocols.
Some of your employees come to work for only a few days a week, and work remotely the rest of the time. Or they only come to the office to attend monthly meetings.
Some of your people start to work a week or a month before others do, based on functional roles. For example, you could get your customer service reps started because you need them, then bring in your marketing people, then bring in your HR team.
Some of your job positions get eliminated, outsourced, shifted to part-time, etc. These changes are not actually part of PR, since they don’t necessarily have to do with returning to work. But still, they are sometimes being discussed as part of PR.
Flexible Return to Work
This is another way of referring to PR Phased Return and Phased Return to Work.
There, that was simple right? And so far, we have not heard anybody refer to it as FRW. But be on the lookout, because that could start to happen.
WFH, or Work from Home
Okay, you know about this option . . . or do you? WFH varies more than most of us realize at first, for a number of possible reasons:
Your company already had a lot of people working from home before COVID-19 hit, so you have experience with it, and so do some of your employees.
Your company never had a lot of WFH employees before the pandemic came along and then suddenly you did, and now you feel it is part of your culture and way of doing business.
A number of your people are justifiably worried about safety (during their commutes, in your office building’s common areas, in your elevators, etc.) and they are counting on you to let them keep working from home. Figuring out how all those people will resume or continue working for you will be a big challenge.
Some of your employees now want to modify their work schedules, based on the kind of WFH experiences they have had over the last few months. Some want to drop back to part time so they can have the same amount of time with their kids, for example, or maybe some have found they can get a lot of work done in less time than they can if they start commuting again. Again, putting all those pieces in place will be a challenge for your organization.
Remember, there are pros and cons to evaluate before moving in the WFH direction - considerations like increased liability and insurance costs, modifications to benefits offered, the security of your company data, the cost of setting up home offices for your employees, and more. Although WFH seems like a welcome option - and it certainly is - it requires planning.
WFA, or Work from Anywhere
This might sound similar to WFH, but it isn’t the same thing. (You could think of it as WFH on steroids.)
WFA means that a company allows employees a lot of freedom to decide on their working locations, and (in some cases) to decide their work schedules too. Here are some considerations that can come into play:
Companies can decide to implement WFA with only certain employees. Those employees might be long-term workers that have proven themselves to be trustworthy and honest. Or WFA can be used for employees who are salespeople, and who need the freedom to travel, visit clients, etc.
WFA can be offered to employees who work far away from company locations; it simply makes sense to allow them to work from anywhere.
WFA can be offered to part-timers or even, in some cases, to independent contractors who log time working for your company.
Okay, we have discussed working remotely when we discussed WFH and WFA just now. But there are a number of options to consider while you decide whether to allow some or all of your employees to work remotely.
You can create satellite offices where employees can work, instead of coming into your office or offices.
You can allow your employees to do some or all of their work in shared coworking office spaces where you have set up accounts.
You can even allow some of your people to work in the offices of your vendors, or simply of other companies that have agreed to cooperate with you.
You can even allow your employees to log all or some of their time in public spaces like libraries, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, etc.
We like this term, because the word “reentry” sounds like something from NASA. That makes sense, because we have all kind of blasted off into new ways of doing things during the COVID-19 crisis, and now we are landing back on solid ground.
We’re all getting back to what we once did, only finding that things have changed in ways we do not yet understand. It will be an adventure. And a positive one for all of us, we completely believe.