Uncertainty as a tool

It’s exciting to be looking forward. We’re in a new year that so far is less about what we can’t do and more about what we can do. Restrictions are easing, and a sense of confidence is on the rise. But rather than focus on “getting back to normal,” look ahead to a new market, one that has new opportunities, demands and obstacles, and figure out how you’ll meet this moment.

Take, for example, office life. Facebook has said recently that eligible employees can work from home indefinitely, and Twitter made a similar announcement to its employees. That might be expected from tech companies that are seen as more progressive. But Ford Motor Co. announced that starting in July, non-place-dependent employees can stay home to do work that’s considered independent — a decision that affects some 30,000 North American workers.

More broadly, these changes aren’t just opportunities to attract employees with more flexibility. It’s giving employers flexibility in their real estate strategies, as well as hiring flexibility, increasing their reach outside of commuting distance. It’s also increasing effectiveness, with more than half of executives surveyed by PwC’s U.S. Remote Work Survey saying average employee productivity has improved for those who have gone remote since the pandemic began.

But there are also companies that discovered remote work was not as beneficial as it has been for some. Google, for instance, is speeding up its plans to get its employees back in the office. That’s in part because the company believes being together builds community, something that’s core to its culture.

The dust from a tough year is still settling. Customers, consumers, employers and employees are entering this year with new priorities and new pain points, all of which will influence the market. Leaders can’t stand still in this environment. There are decisions to be made about internal policies as well as how to approach the market. Rather than see the uncertainty as interference, see it as a tool that can help you stay flexible and nimble, so that when you see your opportunity, you act.

Fred Koury is President and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc.