LAS VEGAS - Dani Collinson, pest division manager at Blades of Green Pest Control, Annapolis, Md., and Mark Davidson, A.C.E., operations manager at Pestech Pest Solutions, Wappinger Falls, N.Y., shared their thoughts on the effect remote work has on office culture during part one of a Nov. 4 PestWorld 2021 educational session, “Imagining the Office of the Future: Culture and Remote Work.”
About 60 percent of employees work remotely at BOG, said Collinson, including all sales staff.
“COVID forced us to go remote very quickly,” she said.
Though many companies were forced to scramble at the beginning of the pandemic to accommodate remote work, she said, leaders now have the time to formulate a more thoughtful plan.
At Pestech, Davidson said, “We always categorized technicians and salespeople as remote, even before the need was there.” Technicians work on laptops or tablets right out of their trucks. Even before the pandemic, the only staff who worked in the office were managers and customer service representatives, he said.
Though Pestech employees were forced to go fully remote during the height of the pandemic, Davidson said, “People trickled back into the office one by one, and now, none of the regular office staff work remote.”
Office staff missed face-to-face “water cooler” time bonding with each other and talking about topics other than work, he said. “On Zoom, there wasn’t much joking or chatting,” said Davidson.
BOG employees missed that in-person interaction as well, Collinson said, which is why the company requires most employees to visit the office at least eight hours a month. Team members are required to turn on their cameras during Zoom meetings.
Remote work has benefitted BOG financially, Collinson said. Before the pandemic, the company was close to outgrowing its office space. Real estate is one of the most expensive aspects of doing business, Collinson said. By increasing its remote workforce, the company was no longer faced with renovation and expansion costs and was able to hold off on purchasing or leasing another location. BOG also realized smaller savings as the need to supply things like coffee and toiletries in the office dwindled.
“We were able to take those little savings and invest it back in our people,” Collinson said. The company has done that by fostering a robust family-oriented office culture, despite the distance created by remote work.
“We wanted to be sure that our culture could withstand being a remote workforce,” Collinson said. “You have to know what your culture is and what your culture is going to be. Everyone’s culture is completely different. … Our culture is more of a family culture; a culture of learning.”
Every month, BOG hosts a family meal night and orders food from a local business. Sometimes, a food truck parks in the office lot, and the company has also hosted cornhole events and picnics. During the worst times of the pandemic, BOG offered drive-thru-style catering.
Davidson described the office culture at Pestech as a team atmosphere with shared goals. “We all work toward a common goal, and your goal is my goal,” he said.
Staff members all help with answering calls and share customers and other responsibilities. The company emphasizes a combined sales total rather than individual achievements.
Looking forward, Davidson said he thinks Pestech will keep its current work model, with sales and technicians working remotely and all other staff reporting to the office.
“There’s no need to diverge from what’s working right now,” he said.
However, he said he thinks overall office trends point towards more remote work. Echoing that sentiment, Collinson said BOG “will definitely encourage the remote workforce.”
Offering remote work gives the company a competitive edge over others that don’t, she said. BOG has been able to cast a wider hiring net now that it is not limited geographically.
“It’s not for everyone, but it’s an option,” she said. “We’ve been able to hire people who never would have given us a second glace if we didn’t have that option.”