The NOTL Hydro office is open during regular business hours and all the NOTL Hydro staff are working at or from the office. We have been like this since late January when the province opened up again after the last pandemic shut-down.
There are two key reasons we are operating in this manner:
The first relates to the nature of our operations. Our line, underground and locates staff work outside around the town every day. Working from home is just not possible for them. Our technical staff could work from home but there is also a sizable element of their job that requires them to be around town. That and the complexity of their computer systems means working from the office is more convenient and efficient. Our customer service staff could do much of their work from their home except they are the ones that work with customers that come to our office. As we believe having an office open to customers is important, that means they must be in the office.
That leaves finance and management. While they could work from home if does not seem right to allow it for one group when the rest are not able to. That is not leadership.
The second reason I like to have every one working at the office is to enhance teamwork. I am a firm believer that there is a huge benefit from all the informal talks that happen between people around an office. You cannot replicate that on Teams or Zoom. I cannot count the number of times I have been talking to some of the staff and the conversation goes sideways and, all of a sudden, you are talking about a new idea we can implement or look at.
There is also that intangible concept of being part of a team. NOTL Hydro exists to serve its customers by providing electricity in a safe, reliable and cost-effective manner. This requires all the staff to be working together. No person or department on their own can do all that needs to be done to be successful. To work together you need to have comradery and respect. This comes from having frequent interaction and from seeing the person behind the worker. You cannot achieve this if people are working in isolation.
There is a lot that we do to foster this team spirit. We hold ‘Team’ meetings every few months where anybody can add an item to the agenda. In addition to the usual social items and announcements, this is also a time when staff sort out some processes that cross departments. We also hold social events periodically. Axe throwing and escape rooms have been events in the past. Like at many organizations, these are designed to build cohesion and break down any barriers.
I am not convinced that the current move to have more “working from home” will be a long-term success. That we can now successfully integrate working from home technically is a great thing. There are certain jobs where working from home makes complete sense (call centers, programmers, sole practitioners) and there are lots of situations where working from home for a short period of time will be very beneficial (projects requiring focus, family needs, colds and ailments). However, it strikes me that much of the current enthusiasm for working from home is really driven by staff not invested in their work and, in the end, that will not be good for either their well-being and for the quality of the business output.
There is a reason the sports I play are hockey and soccer. Go Team Go.