It’s all in the name. Manpower.
Manpower Staffing’s administrative office in Banker’s Hill is seeing more people-power than it has in the past two pandemic years. Until recently, a majority of the staff has worked on a hybrid or entirely remote model.
Executive officer Phil Blair said the company was starting to figure out how that could be applied post-pandemic. “A pandemic is a terrible thing to waste,” Blair said. “There's some good things that have come out of that; we can work remote two or three days a week and we can have flexible schedules. It's not 8 to 5.”
Author of "Job Won" and a biweekly column for the San Diego Union Tribune, Blair writes about workforce trends and corporate culture. He said that in a candidate’s market it would behoove a company to strike a reasonable balance for employees. “I think any company that says every employee has to be in here 8 to 5, Monday to Friday, is going to have a very difficult time keeping their employees and attracting new ones, because we've seen the other side of the fence and profound flexibility in our industry,” Blair said.
For Manpower Staffing, Blair said he didn’t want to offer a cookie-cutter approach, instead choosing to be flexible to individual needs, as well as the needs of the company — for the culture, that does include some face-to-face time.
“Now, in our case, what we're thinking is Wednesdays. On Wednesdays, we ask everyone to be in the office so accounting can talk to marketing, marketing can talk to payroll. And food is a great attraction,” Blair said.
Just past a set of swinging restaurant-style doors, the office kitchen is furnished with comforts of home, armchairs with matching ottomans, free snacks and a cozy fireplace.
“Even though people work remote, Fridays they come in for the food,” office manager Colette Morel said. She chose colorful details to make the office kitchen feel homey for workers who do come in. And office staff cook and eat together on those communal days.
“We have desserts all the time — I love to make desserts,” Morel said. She also manages the building, which means that her job requires her to be on-site. “I have been here every day during COVID, so I have never worked from home.”
Although she said she would like the option of working from home, sometimes being one of very few employees in the office has meant less interruptions and more productivity. Accounts receiving specialist JoAnna Walls said fewer interruptions is why she prefers working away from the office.
Her last job required her to work from home full-time. At Manpower, she will be driving to the office from Oceanside two days per week, which she thinks strikes a good balance — especially considering drive time and the price of gas. She said preparing for work and commuting both ways could take four hours per day on top of her regular eight hours of work.
“If the company is supporting that and then it also saves cost as well for them and for you, I think it's a win-win,” Walls said.
When employees are asked to come in, Blair said, there needs to be a reason for it, and not just because that’s the way things were done pre-pandemic. “And then use that time together productively. Everybody goes into the cubicle, closes the door, comes out at 5 or 5:30 — that's not a reason,” Blair said.
And finding a balance between nurturing the corporate culture and maintaining work-life balance could be delicate, but something Blair says is worth exploring.
“Are they doing a good job? Are they doing the work? Is there good communication? Okay, take a breath and try it, or you're going to lose that employee because they will find an opportunity from a company that will do it,” Blair said. “And, if you have valuable employees, which I hope you do, don't make rules that says everybody has to do the exact same policy, because they're at different stages in their life.”
In a job market that boasts more jobs than workers, the choice between prioritizing career over family has become a less necessary one.