Remote is Clicking

Recent survey finds half of area business leaders report opting for a hybrid work environment

Most area executives are continuing to run their businesses using some version of a remote work model according to the latest Biz New Orleans email survey of the “New Orleans 500,” a list of influential CEOs.

Biz New Orleans asked business leaders to classify their current system. In response, 12% of respondents said they allow their employees to work solely from remote locations, 36% said they require presence at a workplace and 50% said they apply a hybrid approach.

“What we have discovered is there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer,” said Susan Bonnett Bourgeois, president and CEO of the Northshore Community Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization. “We have remained flexible with our team members, making sure to work as best as possible with their needs, while maintaining a successful and thriving organizational culture. It’s challenging but worth it to keep quality employees on board and fulfilled.”

As the two-year anniversary of the pandemic’s arrival in the United States approaches, survey respondents mentioned successes, problems and surprises they’ve encountered during this seismic shift in the way they do business.

On the plus side, many reported that a full or partially remote work routine has increased productivity and morale. Their employees are getting work done more quickly and they appreciate the flexibility to build a work schedule around other responsibilities.

G.F. Le Breton, managing director of investment banking company Chaffe & Associates, said “The remarkable dedication of our staff and flexibility around school schedules … have allowed us to meet the needs of our clients, and record our best year yet.” Restaurateur and hotelier Robert LeBlanc, owner of the Chloe on St. Charles Avenue, said “I think we actually communicate better and more consistently now that we have to rely on set Zoom times.” And Robby Moss, president and CEO of Hartwig Moss Insurance, said “Generally it is working very well. We have 52 remote workers and a core group of seven or eight who come to the office daily.”

Many execs reported virtual meeting tools have allowed companies to make new contacts, expand their reach and save their clients time and money. Thanks to telemedicine, for instance, patients can “visit” the doctor quickly without having to take off time from work.

“One of the pleasant surprises with going virtual is that now the whole world is open to us,” said Adrinda Kelly, executive director of the nonprofit group Black Education for New Orleans. “We’ve been able to more easily make connections with notable influencers and partners outside of our bubble of New Orleans and leverage those connections to strengthen our overall programs.”

Another plus: the shift to remote work has allowed employers to save money by consolidating office space and using less supplies. For employees, meanwhile, the change cuts down on commuting time, transportation costs and childcare costs in some cases.

Of course, remote work creates plenty of problems as well. Several respondents said the new way of life makes it harder for them to build a workplace culture and for co-workers to connect for a quick chat or brainstorm session.

“Productivity for many has gone up without constant distractions but the sense of community and morale has gone down,” said Tania Tetlow, president of Loyola University New Orleans.

And of course several respondents pointed out that there are plenty of jobs that simply can’t be done from a distance.

As Jonathan Kernion, president of Cycle Construction, said: “It’s impossible to pour concrete remotely!”

 

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News from the top Each month we ask the top business professionals featured in the New Orleans 500 to weigh on news and notables that are impacting New Orleans business community. Have an idea for a survey question for the New Orleans 500? Please email rich@bizneworleans.com.