By Theresa Heitman
I worked in “Corporate America” for 30 years of my career. I actually liked working in this environment as I have found there are more resources available for personal development. I am curious and love to learn, so this works well for me. However, one big drawback to working in “Corporate America” is that the talents of the employees who are not located at headquarters are not fully utilized.
My experience in two different companies is that it was challenging to communicate with the people at headquarters due to the separation by distance. Without strong communication systems, ideas and information flow were inhibited. I believe that the communication challenges led to headquarters being interested in transferring people to their office where communication was easier. Not being able to transfer to headquarters often reduced your opportunities for advancement and robbed the company of the contributions you might have made.
Working at a remote site was always challenging when it came to communication. We had conference calls from the beginning, but they were nothing like being able to be in the same room. Many dollars and personal travel time were spent to have face to face meetings. This was hard on remote workers because they were the ones that almost always had to travel. Statements were even made such as, “We need everyone to be at headquarters because the real communication happens in the hallways!” Yikes! Is this really the system! With both companies it became very clear that if you were not transferrable (eventually to HQ), your career advancement was limited.
As a remote worker, I was very frustrated with not being “in the know”. I suggested many times that we design a communication system to connect remote workers to be able to contribute more. Since these types of decisions are made at HQ and this would not be an easy task, there was very little effort directed to this need. When I was the only employee on the team that wasn’t at HQ, I experienced the feeling of not really being part of the team anymore. After 12 years of employment, this ultimately led to a decision to leave the company.
Along comes Covid 19. Now, most everyone is (or was) working remotely. Covid 19 really leveled the playing field when it comes to remote working. It suddenly didn’t matter if you were at HQ or Portland, OR. Everyone was in the same boat. What a great opportunity for people to get creative about how to keep everyone connected! I certainly hope that the focus we have today on inclusive communication and accommodating remote workers is retained in our organizations. Out of crisis comes great creativity! Here’s to capitalizing on all ideas and talent in your organization. It’s worth the effort!