COVID-19 touched every area of our lives, not least how — and where — we work. When offices suddenly closed 18 months ago, Clevelanders quickly adapted to working from home. This newfound freedom from daily commutes and annoying cubicle mates proved quite popular, leaving employees eager for more remote or hybrid opportunities in the future. Now, local companies are working overtime to accommodate this growing preference for working from home.
“Flexibility is going to be key,” says Michael Deemer, president and CEO of Downtown Cleveland Alliance. “We’re social beings, so the norm will probably continue to be bringing people together in office environments — just with greater flexibility.”
Hyland, famous for its employee-first culture, allows anyone to work from home as often as they like — and did so even before the pandemic. Now, Hyland estimates that about 60% of its workforce will opt for at least some remote work long term. “It’s 100% employee choice if they want to return to the office post-COVID,” says Lisa Jackman, senior manager of employee experience at Hyland.
What does that mean for Hyland’s three-building campus in Westlake? Downsizing is not yet on the agenda, with the company preferring to explore ways to reimagine its headquarters to be a place where employees want to come and collaborate in person. “Our business is thriving, which reinforces and validates our approach to offering this flexibility,” says Jackman. “You can work anywhere — from anywhere — now.”
Proving that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, Bill Cosgrove, president and CEO of Union Home Mortgage, worries that, while working from home worked during the pandemic, it could hinder his employees’ professional development in the long run. So, as of Sept. 7, UHM employees returned to the office full-time at the company’s Strongsville campus. “I don’t think that working alone from home, having only virtual interactions with others, helps people get better,” says Cosgrove. He admits, though, that this issue is far from settled — including at UHM. “Nobody has this fully figured out. Although we believe that young professionals need to work together and learn from each other, I do think that, over time, hybrid work will evolve in certain segments of our business,” he says.
When Oswald Cos. surveyed employees post-lockdown, 85% expressed interest in a flexible combo of remote and in-person work. The insurance firm currently requires staff to work from its Superior Avenue office at least two days a week. “We will never have 100% of our employees back in the office again at the same time,” says David Jacobs, president and CEO of Oswald. “That’s just not going to happen.”
That begs the question of whether Oswald, a downtown fixture since 1893, might downsize its office space in the future. “There’s certainly a cost to having this amount of space,” says Jacobs. “If there’s a way to reduce our footprint and still have an effective space for our employees and clients, we will do that.”
In Ohio City, live video streaming startup BoxCast is expanding its space after booming business during the pandemic. BoxCast took the pulse of its workforce — who are mostly out of office in part due to expansion-related construction until October — with multiple surveys and roundtables exploring their preference for continued remote work.
“Everything is trending in the direction of trusting employees and providing flexibility, meaning that it doesn’t matter where you work, but finding what works best for you as an individual,” says BoxCast COO Sam Brenner.