What will it take to lure workers back to the office after years of remote work? One chief executive thinks he has the answer.
Seth Besmertnik, CEO of software company Conductor, recently signed a lease on New York City office space where free cold-brew coffee and beer are on tap and where he plans to build a pickleball court. Although his 200 employees value a flexible schedule, the company and its customers benefit from in-person collaboration, he told CBS News. These days, that means going the extra mile to get workers back in the office at least three days a week.
“From a company’s perspective it’s important because you want your people — which is generally the biggest place where you invest your resources and your money — you want them to be helping each other and working together,” Besmertnik said. “And while you can be very productive at home doing your job, it’s very hard to help the person sitting next to you and the group that you’re in. It’s really hard to collaborate on projects.”
Before the pandemic, for many employees the workplace provided a sense of community, fostered friendships, offered a place to learn professional skills and helped people build a network.
But “All of that becomes significantly difficult if you’re 100% of the time on Zoom or behind a computer,” Besmertnik said.
Still, many Conductor employees voiced their preference for remote work, or at least the ability to work from home a few days per week. At the same time, they also described the mental fatigue that can come from staring at a screen all day.
Conductor listened and adapted its policies.
“Our strategy is you come into the office three days a week, you’re home or anywhere you want to be, effectively, two days a week,” Besmertnik said.
Conductor also uses other means to help keep employees fresh and engaged. Every year for an entire month that Conductor dubs “YOLO” month, the company’s offices close. That way, workers who want to stay home or travel don’t feel like they’re missing out on in-office activities.
“All of our offices shut down, and you can have a remote experience without having to fully give up the community of actually going into an office,” Besmertnik said.
While some corporations are shrinking their real estate footprint to cut costs, Besmertnik is expanding with a 10-year lease on a bigger office.
“If people are going to come in, it’s got to be a great experience. The reason why people come in is they come in for each other. The coffee, the extra things are nice, but they come in for each other. They come in for the friendships, they come in for the community and ultimately to do great work for customers,” he said.
If in-person work helps his employees feel more engaged and connected to the company, he thinks the investment will have been worth it.
“From my perspective, it could be nice to save money on office space. [But] I think the bigger risk is around attrition, engagement, and really making sure our people feel activated and excited to do what they do everyday,” Besmertnik said. “That’s how we do our best work, and that’s really the most profitable thing for us to do.”