Moving into the hybrid workplace with intention

June 1, 2021, 10:04 AM UTC

Good morning.

As a leading provider of HR software, Workday takes the workplace seriously. It has been polling its own employees weekly and consulting with other human resource leaders to get a fix on the post-pandemic workplace. So I thought it would be worthwhile talking to the company’s chief people officer, Ashley Goldsmith, about the company’s own return-to-work plans.

“We’ve taken a persona-based approach,” says Goldsmith, dividing the staff into four groups: “always”, “mostly”, “seldom”, and “never”. The “always” are those, for instance, who look after data centers and need to be in the office daily to do their jobs.  The “seldom” include sales and service people, who need to be in the field with customers. “Never” is a small group—recruiters, for instance—who get little benefit from in-office collaboration. 

But the biggest group is “mostly”—roughly two-thirds of Workday employees. The company is expecting them to spend 60% of their time in the office. And it is challenging team leaders to focus that time on what it calls “moments that matter.”

“The ‘moments that matter’ are when people come to the office for collaboration, when innovation thrives, or for strengthening relationships,” Goldsmith says. “Somebody working on development may find their time together is best spent at the beginning of the quarter, while somebody in finance may be at the end of the quarter. Maybe somebody wants to come in just a few hours a day, to avoid rush hour. The key is intentionality. All of us have to be highly intentional as we move into this new world of hybrid. It’s new muscle. New habits.”

“Flexibility” also is critical. Workday isn’t setting a firm date for the return to office, but rather allowing several months of flexibility, for employees who need to remake arrangements for caring for their children, for instance, or those who moved during the pandemic and need to relocate. “The point is meeting people wherever they are on this journey, and creating space so they will be comfortable coming back.”

And for now, the company isn’t planning to reduce office space. “We decided we didn’t want to reduce our office footprint,” Goldsmith says. “That felt premature. Let’s bring people back, let’s start learning. We will see where it goes.”

Separately, our guest on Leadership Next (Apple/Spotify) this week is another person eager to see people get back to the office—Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta. I asked him: What will the new normal for business travel look like? 

His response:

“I’m not a big believer in new norms. Business travel is already coming back. It is probably a little bit better than half pre-pandemic levels in the U.S. My expectation is that as you get kids back in school in the fall and you get offices open, you will see a significant uptick in business travel. There is a huge amount of pent-up demand for business travel.

“As effective as it has been to use the various technologies out there, most CEOs I’m talking to realize to a very large degree that we’ve gotten to the limits of it. To really build culture, to get the collaboration and innovation and in-the-moment thinking, building partnerships and the like, it is just very hard to do in a digital format. My own view is that business travel will take two or three years to get back to where it was. But it will.”

More news below. And if, like me, you are one of the people who wonders what happened to the Bezos-Buffett-Dimon effort to reinvent healthcare, you should read Erika Fry’s fascinating piece about her effort to solve that mystery, out this morning here.

Alan Murray


Variant names

Naming new COVID variants after countries can lead to stigmatization, and normal humans can't remember the numbers and dots, so the WHO has come up with a new naming system, based on Greek letters, with the sequence matching the order of discovery. Here's the guide: U.K./B.1.1.7 is now the Alpha variant, South Africa/B.1.351 is now Beta, Brazil/P.1 is now Gamma, and India/B.1.617.2 is now Delta. Guardian

Sinovac success

Following the official publication of decent efficacy figures for Sinopharm last week, the other big Chinese COVID-19 vaccine, Sinovac, is also getting a spot of good news. A study in a small Brazilian town, where Sinovac was rolled out to three-quarters of residents (including 95% of the target adult population), showed a 95% drop in deaths, and an 80% reduction in symptomatic cases. Bloomberg

Chinese babies

China has again relaxed its population-management policy, and will soon allow three children rather than two. However, despite the attempt to counteract the effects of an aging population, the measure may not be enough to convince people who have become accustomed to the idea of small families, and who don't want to spend loads of money on having more children. Fortune

Cloudera purchase

The private equity firms KKR and CD&R are reportedly close to buying Cloudera, and taking it private. The data-processing firm has struggled with the shift to the public cloud, though recent results have shown some positive trends. Wall Street Journal


Daimler and Nokia

The Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler has agreed to buy 3G and 4G licenses directly from Nokia, so it can keep connecting its in-car navigation and entertainment services to the Internet, and use mobile connectivity for its semi-autonomous driving features. Daimler had taken the view that Continental and Bosch, the suppliers of its telematics units, should be the ones to pay Nokia. Nokia sued; Daimler lost. Now the fight is over. Financial Times

Tesla and AMD

AMD has won a big contract with Tesla, which will use AMD processors and graphics chips in its infotainment systems. Now Tesla's drivers will be able to play powerful video games when they're not driving. Fortune

Ransomware negotiators

Nobody wants to fall victim to ransomware, but it happens. Here's a fascinating Adrian Croft piece for Fortune that includes some top tips from seasoned ransomware negotiators, starting with this: Don't call them "bad guys". Fortune

Shareholder meetings

Many annual shareholder meetings may never return to the non-virtual world. As Fortune's Maria Aspan writes, this is partly due to cost implications and partly because virtual formats make it easier for companies to exert "more control over investor questions, public criticisms, or even protests." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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