Downsizing firms will retain best and brightest staff, says US expert

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Workers who embrace new technologies and a rapid return to the office will be more likely to be retained as companies face into two years of significant evolution.

That’s just one element of the serious wake-up call to overly home-fond workers issued by Rod Robertson, managing partner of Briggs Capital, US-based entrepreneur, and author of ‘Winning at Entrepreneurship: Insider’s Tips on Buying, Building, and Selling Your Own Business’.

Briggs Capital advises in the US and internationally on mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, turn-arounds and consults with distressed firms with a mission to bring companies back to profitability.

As businesses emerge from Covid, he believes that fewer than 30% of workers will continue to work from home, and even those will blend home and office hours. Citing a recent survey by US job agency FlexJobs, he says many workers are unrealistic to think they will get to continue working remotely indefinitely.

Some 65% of respondents told the FlexJobs survey they want to work remotely full-time after the pandemic. And in a poll conducted by LiveCareer, 29% of working professionals said they would quit if they couldn’t continue working remotely.

“The working from home crowd will soon feel pressure to return to the office,” said Mr Robertson. “When the ‘new world order’ resets this year, we should see approximately 30% of employees working from home permanently.

“There will be huge push-back from home-tethered employees, however, but they must be careful as  ‘out of sight’ can turn into ‘out of work’ when and if downsizing rolls out. Many workers at homes are making critical mistakes by thinking they are safe. It behoves them to have ‘face time’ beyond zoom with their bosses and have their presence felt.”

Many international businesses will start downsizing in the coming months and will return to the office early this summer with a reduced, re-energised workforce. Rod Robertson says that this reality will be seen in the Irish workplace as swiftly as in the USA.

“Ireland’s millennial and tech-driven workforce will feel the global retraction like everywhere else, if not more so,” said Mr Robertson. “However, this coming rollercoaster ride will create great opportunities for the young Irish as many of the ‘old-timers’ and their methodologies will become passé in the acceleration to technology.

“We’d expect that ‘Out with the old ways and in with the new’ will become the mantra for the surging tech pivot facing Ireland. A decade of pre-pandemic growth will be crammed into one to two forthcoming years, and woe to thee that clings to yesteryear!”

He said some workers may still get to work part-time from home, and some businesses will make remote work permanent. But tension between owners and workers is building as it becomes evident many employees are resistant to giving up working from home.

He suggests that those workers who really want to continue working from home should now start going into the office one day a week. Sitting, waiting, and wishing won’t cut it. He says they should also push their boss to measure them quantitatively.

“Once we reach herd immunity, companies will be deciding whether it makes sense to keep expensive office space,” he said. “Corporate gravity will begin to pull key workers back to the office, and there will be resistance from employees. And those companies that do choose to go remote at least part of the time may still downsize. The bottom line for workers is, if they want to work remotely, they would be wise to take the extra steps to ensure they stand out.”

Briggs Capital is well placed to know the post-pandemic plans of global businesses. Mr Robertson says that downsizing is on its way from ownership and management worldwide. The changes are imminent.

“Gone are the government bailouts by springtime and the firms that can pivot to profitability are making plans to do so now,” he says. “As in most down cycles, the cuts come from overhead which includes rents and human capital.

“As office and retail leases come due over the next few years, firms will be taking less space and forcing workers offsite. Most all ‘legacy’ businesses will continue to decline if they don’t adroitly pivot to technology. The cuts are making their way down the chain of command and should be deployed in the forthcoming months.”

He that it is imperative, with ownership seeking to make cuts and keep only “the best and the brightest”, that employees at home prove their value in a quantitative manner.

“Don’t rely on a prior personal relationship with your supervisors as they often go stale when one is working remotely,” he said. “Remote workers should take the initiative to have a clear set of weekly deliverables that leave no doubt to their productivity with management. It’s a new tech world and we must metamorphosis with it.”


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