Business leaders need to take this opportunity to grow with a goal not to go back to normal, but to create a better normal for their company. A part of that is considering what necessary changes were made due to COVID-19 that should actually stick. Watch as we discuss whether it is better for business to be in the office, remote, or something in between.
Welcome to the JMARK Business Innovation Technology experience.
So today we’re going to talk about whether it is better for business to be in the office or to be remote or
something in between. This topic started because I got an article sent to me that was written by a
business owner. The title of the article was something like, “CEOs Want Everybody Back in the Office” or
something like that. It basically argued that in the office is where true connectedness happens,
productivity happens, where a lot of those things happen and it made me mad.
So, moving forward though. I think we’re going to have a good discussion about this and have plenty of
data and thoughts to share and how technology bridges that gap. So, Jeremy, you have not been a
remote employee like myself and your opinion of remote work has changed over the course of the last,
how long has it been now, six weeks, something like that. And I wanted to-
Every time I go to ask him a question. Delete video and return to page. Okay, it must be this producer
thing so let me do it a different way. Live on Facebook. Next time it will be like, “Jeremy. No.”
For God’s sake, man. Talk.
Christina, we need to delete some video storage on Zoom for this afternoon. No, I’m not going to do that.
Just so you know, the longer this takes, I’m searching for background images for Zoom so this may get
weird pretty quick if you don’t get it going.
Okay, let’s try this again in a different way this time.
Third time’s the charm.
Give me to Dax.
I just said, now for the first time I can actually see on my Zoom window. [crosstalk 00:04:18]
Okay, we are live for the third time. Thank you for anybody out there that’s joining us. Hopefully you
haven’t said forget it. This isn’t working.
We have a really good discussion today. Again, what happened is I got an email sent to me written by
the CEO of a company who was arguing that connectedness and productivity happen while in the office
and that remote work is bad for business. The title of the article was something like, “CEOs Want
Employees Back in the Office.”
It didn’t have any data in it and it openly made me mad but we will move beyond that and we will go to
Jeremy because Jeremy has a good perspective of this. Because he started out for years, a lot of years
actually, driving to the office. And then now your opinion of remote work and productivity and that
sense has changed a little bit. So I want to start the conversation with you and we will see where it goes.
All right. Well, when Todd asked me to join this discussion I found it intriguing because this Sunday will
be my 26th anniversary at JMARK. So I’ve had a lot of history with the daily grind. You shower, you get
dressed, you drive to work, you do your work, you come home, you’re at home. Sometimes you do more
work at home but there’s a big difference between office work and working at home.
A lot of my peers have gone to work from home days where they’ll have Wednesday or Thursday or
Tuesday or whatever day earmarked to work from home. I’ve tried it before because the talk is that you
can get a lot more done those days. It’s head down, focus time and I have never had good luck with that.
So up until March, whenever this whole work from home thing started, my perspective was, working
from home is not for me. It may be for some people. I know that Todd and Dax work outside of the
office and it works for them but I just figured it wasn’t for me.
Then March 13th was my last day in the office. Friday, the 13th. And then after that I’ve been working
from home. My perspective has changed a lot. I’ve gone from being less productive at home to being
more productive. There’s a few reasons for that. One is that I’d become complacent, or complacent
might not be the right word, I was reliant on being in the office to go talk to people. I was that guy who
probably made everybody mad because when I needed something or I wanted to talk to somebody, I
got up and walked over to them. I didn’t call them on the phone, I didn’t send an IM, I didn’t send an
email, I got over and got in their face and got what I needed and you can’t do that anymore. I’ve had to
rely on the technology to do it which is ironic since it’s my job.
So for me it’s come full circle to the point where I am worried about slipping back into old habits when
we do go back to the office more full time. And I do plan to have dedicated work-from-home days to do
project work because I’ve learned how to utilize the technology properly.
Yeah, I think it does take getting used to. It’s almost like an acquired taste of sorts. In this article one of
the things that… Let me pull it up here. One of the things that was mentioned in the article is that he
says remote work is “incredibly inefficient and most business leaders I speak with are starting to hate it.”
And that’s not what we’re hearing at all. Maybe the difference is the technology, the systems that we
use, the process that we have, but I remember being in the office, because I’m in Texas and I travel. Well
before this, I’d travel to Springfield every month and usually spend three days to a week there. I
remember one week, it was on a Friday, right before I was about to go home and I was sitting in an
office. I closed the door because I was having so much trouble getting things done because I kept getting
interrupted. And I sent a message over to Tom, almost in jest, Tom, our CEO, and just said, “Holy crap. It
is so much more productive working from home.” And his response was, “Yeah, I know.”
Yes, you need a balance though.
There’s productivity and then there’s the cultural aspect. And in reading that article, I can’t completely
disagree on some of the cultural parts of it because there is something to be said to being in person. And
Tom coming to the office once a month, those are times you actually look forward to seeing a person,
bonding with them, having lunch with them. There’s something to be said for that.
So it’s really two different things. There’s the productivity from a sheer work perspective and then
there’s the bonding and cultural aspect of it. They both have their place.
I agree and-
I was going to say that I agree with that to a large extent. I also think that a little bit of that… My first
impression of this article that Todd’s talking about was that the guy who was writing it was old school
and stuck in his ways. And I do think that the cultural aspect of it is a little bit of something that, that’s
what we’re used to.
We’re used to that one-on-one bonding. And the guy talked about, you can’t brainstorm. Much better
brainstorming in the same room. There’s a part of me that really wants to agree with that but then
there’s another part of my head that says, “Well, is that just because that’s what you’re used to and
that’s what you’re comfortable with?” And I have this feeling that there are other people that are like,
“Well yeah, but you know what? Let’s figure out how to make the bonding and the cultural things
happen online.” And they’re going to figure it out and move ahead, where any of us who get stuck in,
“Well, it’s much better this way just because that’s what we’re used to” are going to fall behind a little
Yeah, I agree that… and I haven’t always been a full remote work cheerleader but over the years, I’ve
had to learn different tactics in order to increase my connectedness, in order to increase that idea of
culture and part of it is the way the marketing team works. There for a while I wanted to bring
everybody together to have a couple day planning meeting and wanted to make that happen. And then I
found that while I still want that on occasion, I actually get better connectedness by looking everybody
at once in the face.
I can see the smiles, I can see the tiredness, or I can see the frustration. And that interaction has allowed
us to, I think, bond more as a team. Whereas, if we’re together in a conference room at an all day
planning session and planning something, Dax isn’t going to randomly draw a meme on the whiteboard
or send me an emoji just for the heck of it. I might say something and he likes me.
It sounds so weird but that is such a huge part of the connectedness that we have as a team. It’s
because we can have these conversations and kind of make fun of ourselves and laugh and do things like
that. And while you can still do that in face-to-face, it is a different way. It’s not worse, it’s just a
different way and there are still times that we come together to plan out our annual marketing planning
or something like that.
It’s just a preferred format for the meeting but the ongoing connectedness that we can make and the
productivity that we can have through the technology, essentially, has completely changed my mindset
on what build culture. What builds connectedness. Because for a long time, I was worried being in Texas
and being like, “I’m not going to get to know people, I’m not going to build any relationships. It’s going
to be easy for like, “No, we don’t need Todd. He’s over in Texas.”
Even coming to the office once a month, I’m in so many meetings. I’m not interacting with very many
people. I’m interacting with the same people over and over again. And so I’ve found that through all that
we’re doing with Workplace from Facebook, through all our remote meetings, video stand ups, and
video one-on-ones. It’s allowed me to get to know more people and it’s allowed me to connect to more
It’s allowed for us remote people, and Dax, you may agree with this or disagree, but I believe it’s
increased the connectedness and the culture of the organization in the last two months that everybody
else has gone remote.
I think it definitely has. It think that there have been times where… So in the last couple of months since
everybody went remote, we started doing what we call a mini rally every Friday. The entire company
hops on Zoom so everybody is on video. I know Jeremy and Christina, you guys can probably speak to a
little bit better. A lot of people in the Springfield office are excited because they’re like, “Oh, I can see
everybody’s face.” And so, got used to seeing everybody daily and so that’s really great to see
My perspective has been a little bit of, I’m seeing people that I never get a chance to see because, like
Todd, when I go to the office, which is much less, maybe three or four times a year, I’m in meetings too.
So, finally I’m seeing people and I’m getting to know people’s personalities through that. Through the
Zoom backgrounds that they choose and the little conversations that happen and then jokes where…
I’ve seen somebody’s Zoom background and send them a chat message and talk to somebody who I
might have never talked to in person just being in the office only occasionally. So it really has brought
me closer to the rest of the company in a different way.
Yeah, I wonder what tools this CEO that wrote the article is using in his company because I feel like he’s
viewing the working remote as the problem, when really he probably needs to look at what tools they’re
using. Are they basically relying on a bunch of emails for communication?
Yeah and you know… I’m sitting here thinking about how to say this because I don’t want it to sound just
too mean, I guess, but a lot of it’s just people. Some people just don’t like change. Some people aren’t
going to embrace it and we have to remember too, internally, we’ve got a great culture at JMARK to
build from. A lot of companies have a culture, the “Office Space” culture where the manager’s walking
behind people and timing bathroom breaks and that sort of a thing. That doesn’t translate to, okay go
work from home now.
You’re going to have anxiety ridden middle management whose place in the world is now questioned.
You’re going to have upper management who doesn’t know what’s going on and they’re freaked out by
it. And you’re going to have rank and file people who’re either going to step up and embrace the
freedom and be a lot happier and more productive or they’re going to wilt. So I really think a lot needs
to be said for the state of the culture going into the environment, not just here we are. You know what I
Right. So I want to turn this around little bit and make sure we’re not all just talking about opinions even
though that’s a lot what it’s about. But if we take what we’ve talked about and look at this from the
perspective of what is better for business. So we’ve talked about the culture, we’ve talked about
productivity. What are the points we can talk about that are “better for business?” Costs?
To me the best benefit, and again, I can’t speak from empirical fact, I can only speak from my
experience, but from my experience, being forced to use the technology in place and taking away the
crutch of, “Hey got a minute?” meetings has been really effective for me, and I would imagine for the
people that I interact with because they’re not getting bugged by me as much.
I’m now having to send them a meeting request. I’m having to say, “Can we schedule a time to get on a
video meeting or a call” versus showing up at their desk and going, “Talk to me?” So that’s kind of a
positive through a negative if that makes sense. I think that’s the biggest benefit I can point to so far.
Yeah. I think people have the ability to focus more just like you said. You can kind of block out
everything else much easier in your own home than in the office.
And focus, I could argue for the most part… Actually, more than the most part. Focus drives getting
things done. It drives execution. It drives profitability, potentially. It drives getting projects done,
On the marketing time I was thinking the other day about all that we accomplished in the last six weeks
or so and wondering what was different. In my mind I’m thinking about the maturity of the team and
the growth of the team and all these different things but the one thing that I really didn’t take into
account was the fact that there’s so much focus now. Everybody is just getting things done, they are
reaching out to people when they need to reach out to them, they are scheduling meetings when they
need to schedule them. Otherwise, it’s like head down, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam.
From a productivity side, well a focus side, I should say, better for business is when someone can focus.
Now you can focus in the office, it just requires potentially more discipline or the right environment.
There are a lot of rank and file that wouldn’t have an office so it would be harder to focus, I would say.
Whereas some people do have an office so they can shut the door, maybe put up a sign.
So two things, Todd. I think first of all, I have been in both situations working remotely from home. I’ve
been in situations that Jeremy talked about where it was two days in the office, three days in the office,
two days at home and I am certainly one of those people who, I cannot focus in an open office
environment. I need, at the very least, high cubicle walls to block out so I can focus. But I also learned
when I first, which this is like 15 years ago maybe even more… When I first started working from home, I
hard to learn to focus in that way too.
So I think a lot of this comes down to personal habits and personal discipline. The other thing is that I
think, you know we started about using the tools and stuff and I think that it was a matter of finding the
right tools and figuring out how to make them work for you because I could say that we did have some
growing pains back in March when we all switched over. It wasn’t immediately what we’re feeling now
and the productivity that you’re talking about even on just the marketing team. There were some
growing pains as we figured out the new thing but I think that’s innovation and growing and success and
moving your business forward.
That’s always the case. The businesses that actually do move forward are the ones that persist through
those growing pains and are continually looking to see what they need to be better. Maybe this isn’t the
right tool. Maybe we need to switch to a different tool or maybe we’re just not using it in the right way
and we need to hone our skills in that way.
Yeah, and something you said just piqued a thought with me. It goes beyond work. It goes beyond the
office and it goes beyond your job. Some people are more social than others. Some people need the
interaction. Some people like the isolation. I’ve got people on my team who… We’re split down the
middle. Half of us have embraced this, half have already gone back to the office this week because they
couldn’t handle it anymore.
And I think a lot of that comes down to, it depends on what your definition of normal is. One person on
my team, his way that he got away from work was he went home and he could play video games and
watch movies and he had a space. Well the way his house laid out, that was the space he had to work in.
So working in that space removed his ability to have his happy place, for lack of a better word. So it was
a double disruption to his life and he had to move things around.
And when you live in town in a house and you’re locked in it all day, not being able to separate from
work mode to personal mode, it can lead to… We’ve seen the studies on the higher instances of
depression and things like that because normal goes away and your escape mechanism isn’t there
anymore. So, I try not to be that guy who says, “Well I just did this.” Well not everybody has the ability
to do what I was able to do. I was able to take a room and make it mine and it’s my office.
And for me the first week sucked, like Dax said. The transition, the first week I thought, “This is going to
be horrible.” But the things that I implemented to make myself more successful was, I made sure to get
up. You do all the things you normally do. You get dressed for work. I see the kids, I give them a hug, I
tell them. “Goodbye. Daddy’s going to the office,” and I’m in here. And if I go out, bonus. But when I get
off work I will leave this room and I’m no longer at work.
That helped a lot with, not only my mental health, but helping my kids to know the boundaries of,
“Daddy’s at work, don’t go in there,” just like if I was at the office. And when daddy comes home it’s a
good time, daddy’s home just like normal. So that worked for me. It may not work for everybody but
that was pretty pivotal for me to be successful is setting those boundaries and rituals.
Now, Jeremy, you’re a farmer so when you talk about saying goodbye to your kids for the day, you’re
talking about your-
I’m talking about the human ones.
-talking about human kids or the goats?
No, I don’t go tell the goats goodbye every morning. That would be awesome but a little weird, even former.
Okay. Just wanted to make sure. Okay.
Christina, do you want to say something?
Yeah, just on the side of remote work. It’s kind of nice now that you have roughly an hour more with
your family as well since you don’t have that commute, 30 minutes in, 30 minutes out.
Yeah, but even that was a struggle because I have learned, and I didn’t realize this until it went away,
that had become part of my ritual. That I would up for work on the drive in listening to audiobooks,
listening to the radio, getting into my headspace. On the way home I got out of work mode. I got into
family mode. I used it to unwind. I would decompress during that time. One day this week, what is this,
Thursday? One day this week I went downstairs and I was just wound up tight and my wife looked at me
and said, “Whoa. What’s going on with you?” I’m like, “Sorry, I’m going to go for a walk. I need some
decompression time.” And I had to go for to get normal.
Totally understand that.
So, yeah I’ve got that extra time with my family but I still had to learn and I’m still learning, how to not
have that time to compress and decompress.
Yeah, there’s give and take on both sides. When I was in Springfield and working from the office, it was
pulling myself away from work because I would have a tendency to stay and get a few more things done.
Then I’d get home late but I’ve also dealt with that transition time and the transition time now is under a
minute 10,15,20 or more before.
Getting back to what’s better for business. I think that’s the key is that, it’s not a hard stance on
everybody being remote. It’s not a hard stance on everybody coming in. It’s what’s best for each
company not what’s best for certain… Well, have to be careful to say that. IBM did a study and it’s 54%
of workers that are working remote now would like to stay working remote. So these are people that
were going into the office. That’s a pretty large number.
So taking that into account, companies need to think about, what’s better for my business. Are these
people going to save office space that we don’t have to pay for all that office space now? Is it going to
improve collaboration? Is there a hybrid approach that we need to implement where maybe it’s a
certain number of days a week remote and some in the office? It potentially could change the entire
environment of the office because we don’t know what the… We keep saying the better normal here in
these podcasts because the new normal drives us a little crazy.
But when you think about coming back to the office, whenever that is; are there going to be people
uncomfortable with having face to face conversations for a while? How is that uncomfortableness going
to translate to collaboration? Will it be everybody scooting away from the table? If somebody coughs,
freaking out, or sneezes? So I think business leaders need to take this seriously because it’s not just
stopping everything that’s happened and getting back to how it was. We are looking at a potentially
complete paradigm shift in how businesses operate.
Companies need to look at this from the perspective of, “How can I innovate? How can I transform?
How can I create a future where my employees are happy, where we can keep the culture and improve
the culture. Where can improve collaboration and save costs.” Ultimately, the answer to a lot of that is
leadership and technology.
Yeah, you said, I forget the work you used, the potential or possibilityTodd:
-that this could be a paradigm shift. I would argue that this is going to be different. There will be no
going back to the way it was. I think our culture, western culture in general is very guilty of the mindset
that history is something that has happened in the past and it stops today and here we are. And not
looking it as a big linear thing and this is just one stop along the way.
Jeremy: I think people need to get out the mindset of thinking that, “Okay, we are.” No. We’re on this journey
and this journey is going to last a long time. This may take years. This will probably take years to get to a
point of defining what normal even is anymore. We’re early in the first quarter of a long game and a lot
of people are treating it like, “Okay, it’s almost over.” Now I’m afraid it’s probably not.
Regardless of what you believe about the virus and all these other things, once you start a ball rolling
down a hill, you can’t just make it stop. Inertia has a way of keeping things going and people have seen a
new way. Some people are going to embrace it, some people are going to reject it, and that is what it is.
We just have to be mindful of the fact that every business is different in what they need to run. Do they
need that interaction? Are they a retial organization versus an office versus call center or something
else? Technology can play a role in that between cloud driven applications, collaboration tools, all of
that stuff but ultimately all of those are just a means to an end. What is your company’s goal, what is
your mission, what is your value statement to your customers and then how can we make this fit into it?
Just focusing on getting back to normal is, I feel, just detrimental to the goal of supporting your mission,
whatever that is.
Yeah, and the paradigm shift isn’t potentially just in the operations of the company. There may be some
companies where it does very much go back to the way it was. Just depending on the structure of the
company. But we’re also seeing a paradigm shift in behavior of the consumers or of the customers that
potentially serve a business. We’ve talked about in previous podcasts about ordering food from the
grocer store and picking it up curbside. I’ve ordered stuff from Lowe’s and picked it up curbside and I
love it. Saves me so much time but that is also, that behavior, is going to transform into the operations
of the company as well.
Like you said, Jeremy, it’s not about wishing it all was over. It’s about, how can I prepare myself for
what’s next. That could be a change in operations, it could be a change in technology, it could be a
change in tools, it could be a change in a number of things.
Right, three different ways you can look at it. You can be in denial and hope it goes away where you can
like, “Okay, how can I survive this?” The other side of that is, “How can I capitalize on it?” And I know
we’ve done podcasts on that too. How can I get ahead of the curve on the new normal? I know you
don’t like that word but I [crosstalk 00:35:49]-
I think, Jeremy, that’s where the better normal came from was a discussion about those people that are
going to capitalize on it. And what Todd was saying about there are some businesses that are going to go
back to fairly close to the way they were operating before, which I think is fine. But I think the key is to
stop and think about it wholistically and that needs to be a deliberate decision because you’ve weighed
all of the options and figured out that that is what’s best for your company. Versus the ones who are just
like, “Well, this is the way it was. This is what were used to. Let’s head towards that.”
And the people that do capitalize on it are going to be doing the same thing. They’re going to be the
ones, they’re going to sit down and look and say, “Consumer behavior has changed. My customers act
differently now. They want different things. How do I serve them better. How do I take technology…?”
We talked about banks that are now looking at how they can use video technology to offer up some of
their services that used to be done face to face.
So it’s, how do I take the technology that’s available, how do I look at what people want now, and how
do I serve that to them? Rather than trying to bring them back to what I’m used to because that’s where
Both your customers and your employees. [crosstalk 00:37:17]
Yeah, I feel like these business leaders shouldn’t just wish for things to go back to normal as soon as
possible. I think they need to really take this time to think these things through.
Yes. Dax, you said about evaluating what their customers want and how they want to do business from
now on. I think part of that too, you need to evaluate your employees where you can. Going back to the
analogy over of the micromanaging and the culture of the company enabling this to work or prohibiting
it from working. A lot of employees have seen the light now. It’s almost a Pandora’s box sort of a thing.
You can’t put that back. Once they’ve seen that there’s another way to do this, people aren’t going to
want to go back to normal and the companies that… Once things do settle back to some semblance of
better normal, people are going to be looking for the experience that exhilarated them. I liked working
from home but my company won’t let me, now I’m going to go job hunt where I wouldn’t have before.
Or the opposite, my company wants me to work remotely and I hate it. I’m going to go find a new job.
So we’re going to have a whole different type of employment crisis down the road.
But there’s also an opportunity there because JMARK, we have employees, I don’t know how many
employees, that are farther out than just Missouri or northern Oklahoma. I mean, I’m in Utah. And now
you can look at this as an opportunity. We know how to work people remote. We can hire people from
anywhere in the country and they can be a part of our… We can hire the very best people, not just the
very best people within a 30 mile radius of the office.
Absolutely. There’s two sides to that coin for sure.
Yeah, definitely. So we operate out of nine states and have clients in 43 states. We’ve, over the years,
have been ahead of the curve so to speak in what’s going on right now because we’ve had to implement
technology and we’ve had to implement tools to make sure that we can communicate, collaborate,
expand on the culture, and provide the services and support for our clients.
I think it’s definitely been an interesting conversation and as we consider the original question of
whether this is… Whether going back to the office or working remotely is better for business, it’s
obviously going to have come down to the individuals within a business, the individual executives that
are planning the business. Ultimately, also, it’s about changing what you’re used to and embracing,
potentially, the new normal or the better normal. Whether that’s new technology, new ways of doing
things, new operations, a different world.
So basically the conclusion is, to the question we opened up with, the conclusion is; it depends.
Very well. And we will leave you with that cliff hanger.
Okay, thanks everybody.
Thank you for attending this podcast. We hope it has been informative and helped convey that at
JMARK we are people first and technology second. To learn more and discover additional content
relative to your business, please visit us online at jmark.com or at LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and
Instagram. You may also call us at 844-44-jmark. Thank you for your time and we look forward to seeing