Hybrid Work

Future of Work Pioneers - Debbie Millsap

Imagine a workplace where employees determine everything. You only need trust. Hear about how you can 'Work Together Live Wherever' from Debbie Millsap.

Over the last two years, we have interviewed 2,000+ Future of Work Pioneers who have shared their insights into new work paradigms. Today we are very excited to feature Debbie Millsap as part of our series. Enjoy!

Debbie is a senior strategic business partner with diverse experience developing and leading internal and external communication strategies, defining and embedding organizational culture, managing global change management initiatives, and spearheading merger, acquisition, and integration communications. She is a recognized Communications leader and collaborative change agent who translates companies’ values and purpose into business results. Her experience spans Fortune 500, mid-size, and high-growth, emerging organizations. 

How are you approaching your organization’s new work model (in lieu of 9am-5pm | 5 days a week)? 

We believe that our employees should be empowered to decide what ways of working are most effective for them and their teams. Shortly after Covid hit and everyone was sent home for the first time, we surveyed our team to better understand the benefits and challenges they were experiencing as a result of remote working. We leveraged this feedback to establish a cross-functional team of colleagues focused on six workstreams.

1. Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

2. Culture & Engagement

3. Well-being

4. Talent & Team Effectiveness

5. Admin & Operations

6. Facilities & Digital

Each of these workstream teams was tasked with developing the information, resources, tools, and processes to enable our employees to excel in their work, regardless of where they were working. Throughout this process, we checked in with our employees regularly to better understand what was working and what wasn’t. The result of this cross-functional effort was the launch of our hybrid work model - Work Together. Live Wherever. (WTLW) - that gave employees the option to work 100% remotely, 100% in the office, or any combination in between. 

We launched WTLW with a full company-wide campaign:

  • A week of fun activities to bring colleagues together, including short mindfulness activities, online games (with prizes, of course!), and training on things like effective Zoom meetings.

  • All employees received a company-sponsored gift box with unique items representing each workstream. For example, the box included a portable charger from the Facilities & Digital workstream, a fitness tracker from the Well-being team, and a wireless mouse pad with our values from the EVP group.

  • A comprehensive intranet micro-site with direct links to all of the resources the team had developed.

  • A series of Executive Team videos from our senior leaders sharing some of their most memorable Zoom moments.

  • And an all-employee meeting to introduce employees to all of these great resources.

The result has been significantly reduced voluntary turnover and significantly higher employee engagement, all while our team continues to deliver the highest quality work. 

What metrics or other indicators will you be using to measure how your new work model is performing?

Our plan had been to use voluntary turnover and employee engagement scores to measure the success of our new work model. Although we have preliminary numbers, because we were recently acquired, we won’t be able to track these metrics over time. I do think an argument could be made, however, that the quality of the team’s work has only gotten better, given how attractive our business was to the company that acquired us ;-)

What does the purpose and vision for an ‘office’ look like from your perspective in the next five years?

In the next five years, I believe the idea of ‘office’ will mean something different to every organization, depending on how they approach flexible working. Very few organizations will be successful with the traditional office concept where all employees come to work every day and work a typical Monday through Friday 9:00-5:00 schedule. For some, ‘office’ will be a respite for employees who need a quiet place to work individually without interruption. For others, ‘office’ will become the place where teams gather to collaborate, innovate, and brainstorm, then leave to do independent work at home.

"Regardless, offices will need to be flexible and fluid spaces, designed to meet the unique requirements of employees who have come to regard how, where, and when they work with a very different lens."

What were the top three challenges you faced since Covid hit?

The top three challenges I faced were:

  • Work-life balance - When there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do but be at home, it’s easy to just keep on working through lunch, through breaks, and late into the evening.

  • Zoom fatigue is real! Despite having worked remotely before Covid, once everyone was online all the time, there was an expectation that every single meeting required participants to be on camera. If a meeting truly requires on-camera participation, the meeting organizer should make that clear in advance.

  • Lack of personal interaction - In previous jobs where I worked remotely, I always had regular opportunities to engage with my colleagues in person. For example, in my last role, the company headquarters was in northern California and I lived in southern California. One week each month I traveled to the office and spent a week with the rest of my team, both in the office and out of the office having informal lunches or happy hours. With Covid, travel came to a halt, and work relationships all became two-dimensional. 

What is one tip you’d give to your peers or have you learned from your peers?

As someone who has successfully worked remotely for over 20 years, one tip I’d give my peers is trust your employees. One of the biggest hurdles I see in organizations that don’t support remote or hybrid working is an inherent lack of trust that their employees will continue to do the right thing if they’re working remotely. The idea that “face-time” matters and that people can only effectively collaborate in person, simply doesn’t stand up any longer. If you create an environment that values trust, integrity, and accountability, then giving your employees the flexibility to work in ways that work for them is simply a logical extension of this philosophy.

Can you share one prediction for the Future of Work that you’d strongly bet on?

More and more employees will take advantage of the opportunities to work remotely by spending extended periods of time working from places other than their homes, and forward-thinking cities will create the resources to cater to these individuals. Puerto Vallarta is one of the places that’s already doing it well!

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