getting-back-to-work Photo by Startup Stock Photos on StockSnap

I recently published an article on LinkedIn about the idea of "distributed work," which is dramatically reshaping organizations of all sizes both inside and outside the supply chain industry. (The term refers to employees being physically distributed in various locations distant from one another, and it includes those who are working from home due to the pandemic.)

Based on research presented by my colleague Todd Steffen, Vice President of Supply Chain & Real Estate Advisory Services at Colliers International, distributed work is already shaping the "workplace of the future," and that was my focus in that earlier post. Some employers have embraced a distributed workforce and will continue to do so long after COVID-19 is a distant memory.

Distributed Work is Not for Everyone

But what about organizations that still function best through in-person work in a centralized location, such as corporate offices or distribution centers? As the pandemic continues to significantly disrupt in-person work, these companies have had to get creative—or face big problems and losses.

During our most recent SCLA Executive Think Tank group discussion, we heard from our friends at Jockey International, Inc., the Wisconsin-based intimate and lifestyle apparel maker. They have shown us that it doesn't have to be a struggle to bring their teams back to the traditional workplace. Tim Taylor, SVP, Chief Supply Chain Officer, and HR Executive Lisa Johnson shared all of the things that Jockey has done right to get back to work safely.

Jockey's Success at Getting Back to Business

Staggered shifts in their distribution operations, compulsory mask-wearing, and rearranged office spaces that allow for proper social distancing were just one piece of the puzzle. Lisa and Tim related that it was more about keeping communications channels open.

The organization was also willing to follow a constant "plan, do, check, adjust" model that allowed leadership to react appropriately to changing guidance and circumstances.

In the end, Jockey also kept a constant focus on their guiding principles. Leaders were—and continue to be—in continual communication with employees throughout the organization and are genuinely dedicated to the belief that the pandemic is a temporary challenge that they can overcome.

What the rest of us heard is that a lot of empowerment of individuals throughout all levels of the operation has been vital. And Jockey's ability to truly put their employees first—not just talking the talk—has made their efforts successful. Jockey aims to be "an employer of choice," and it shows.

Not as Easy as It Looks

Per Tim, it hasn't been all smooth sailing—there were missteps. And most of those were due to fear. He cited a situation in which an entire retail division had to be sent home due to a positive COVID test and employee exposure.

And there were also many people who were unsure about returning to the office after stay-at-home orders had expired in spring and early summer 2020. However, recognizing when fear is driving decisions—and addressing that head-on—has allowed Jockey to move past the problems as an organization.

How About Your Organization?

Has your company—large or small—successfully navigated getting back to the office? If so, I would love to hear what has worked for you and what has not. Connect with me on LinkedIn to share your experiences.