If introverted EYers were expecting another quiet Monday as a socially-accepted hermit in these troubling times they were in for a surprise this morning when EY Chair Kelly Grier came crashing into their inboxes with an update on the big post-COVID plans. Spoiler: it involves making yourself available in the office.
The following email has been transcribed from screenshots we received from a tipster and appears in its entirety without commentary for your reading pleasure.
This week marks one year since I sent out an email early on a Monday morning to let you know of our office closures as a result of COVID-19, and I think it’s safe to say that nothing could have prepared us for what ensued from there.
I’ve been reflecting on a late-February Americas Operating Executive meeting where we set aside our planned agenda and instead focused on this “novel coronavirus” that was making its way across the world and headed our way. We couldn’t begin to predict the ultimate impact, but we were mobilizing. We were looking at how we protect our people, our business and continue to serve our clients. At the time having 100% of our people work remotely was unheard of, and two weeks later we closed our offices. You know well all that followed, both personally and professionally.
I want to acknowledge how extraordinary and difficult the circumstances have been, and how grateful I am for the care and concern you have demonstrated for each other in the face of so many challenges. And I want to thank you. Our culture and our business remain strong thanks to your #CourageToLead.
Since those early days, our goal has not been merely to survive, but to emerge even stronger on the other side of the pandemic. We have constantly been seeking opportunities to stay one step ahead and leverage what we have learned.
In the next couple of months, you’ll learn more about New Ways of Working, a program being led and designed by your peers to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity to reshape the way we work for a post-pandemic world. We are not going to stumble into a new future. We are going to shape that future to create a better, more sustainable and more inclusive experience of working at EY.
It became clear through discussions with many of you that we won’t go back to the way things were before the pandemic. You value the increased flexibility in where and when you work, the reduction in time spent traveling and commuting, the ability to spend more time with loved ones, the access to more diverse work experiences that don’t depend on where you live, and our commitment to reduce our carbon footprint. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to evolve some of the most entrenched habits of a career in professional services.
That being said, most of us are also not going to work remotely every day either — we are going to strike the right balance. There is a tremendous value to in-person work; indeed, teamwork and collaboration are what make our jobs most rewarding. Our business depends on the ability to build client relationships in the discussions that happen before or after the big meeting, not just on a scheduled Teams call. And our learning depends on the kind of apprenticeship and mentorship that is often best when we’re together, many times just by turning to the colleague next to you with a quick question. Those moments don’t require us to be working in-person with our clients and teams every day. Rather, they challenge us to focus our in-person time on the activities that make it most meaningful.
As we define these new ways of working, we’ve also being guided by our clients’ need. They’ve seen us adapt over the past year like never before and deliver exceptional service even when many of them would have doubted what could be achieved remotely. That experience builds trust. Most of them are now reimagining their own workplaces and work styles. We are listening to them to understand how they’re changing for themselves, and what they’ll expect from us — and we are using the trust we’ve built to help lead a conversation about how we can work even better together in the future.
We’ll share more about this on our next US all-hands webcast on Tuesday, April 20 — be on the lookout for a calendar invitation soon!
In closing, I’d like to reiterate that your well-being continues to be our top priority. We’re excited for the Recharge Challenge. It’s fitting that we’re kicking off this challenge right around the one-year “anniversary” COVID as we look to close this chapter and recommit to post-COVID wellness. My heartfelt thanks to each of you, and again, I look forward to connecting with you during our April all-hands call.
Someone on Fishbowl claiming to have spoken to “those in the know” says the plan will likely be WFH two days and in the office for the other three, depending on the office and practice. So take that information as you will. It could be a “my dog’s boyfriend’s cousin’s mailman says” situation for all we know.
It’s no secret that some people are eager to return to the office. It’s also no secret that some people — I’m looking at you, introverts and outcasts — would be completely content never to return to the office again. As KG pointed out, extraordinary circumstances led to unprecedented deftness on the part of historically prehistoric firms to adapt and quickly; although it seemed easy for firms to adapt, it’s unlikely to be as easy for them to get that genie back in the bottle.
So. Thoughts? Concerns? Wild and unfounded speculation? Whatever your poison, have at it in the comments and let us know what you think about the current state of EY’s return to the office.