The Shared Benefits of Workplace Flexibility in the Solar Industry
By Cameron Kaiser
When the COVID-19 pandemic spread wildly in the United States in March 2020, the company I worked for at the time sent its workforce home with the expectation we would work remotely for two weeks and then return to business as usual on company premises.
It’s been nearly two years, and I have since set foot in an office on only three occasions: for a charity event, to collect my belongings after accepting a new job at Primergy Solar, and to meet new colleagues at Primergy. For many, including myself, this “temporary” work-from-home arrangement has become the norm.
Benefits of Workplace Flexibility for Employees
Primergy Solar was formed in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic and has lived its entire life in the work-from-home age. Given advancements in cloud-based technology and communication software, not only is it possible to be an online business, but it’s simpler than ever. Video calls have replaced traditional face-to-face meetings. SharePoint has replaced clustered filing cabinets. Sweats and slippers have replaced suits and stilettos.
Remote work has many personal benefits. A few examples I enjoy: no commute, a less formal dress code, and a more flexible daily schedule. It’s very nice to get up, workout, and make a hearty breakfast while doing my morning research instead of having to rush out of the house and microwave oatmeal at the office. The comfort I’m afforded while doing my job has undoubtedly been great for my mental health.
Workplace Flexibility Improves Mental Health & Productivity
Workplace flexibility works because not only does it benefit the employee, companies reap the rewards as well. In 2013, a study led by Stanford professor, Nicholas Bloom, was conducted with a Chinese travel agency to see if working from home had a positive effect on performance. This nine-month study yielded results of a 13% performance increase that was attributed to fewer breaks and less sick days, and a quieter and more convenient working environment.
Fast forward to a December 2020 survey conducted by PwC which found 52% of employers say average employee productivity is higher than pre-pandemic levels. In that same survey, 79% of employees say the flexibility to manage family matters while working from home has been a success.
Flexible work environments are necessary in a world that seems to bend us in any direction every chance it gets. When a company allows employees to work from home, it gives employees the freedom to create environments that foster the highest level of productivity for each individual. Some employees need to be mobile for school drop-off and pick-up. Sometimes a mild cough might keep you at home but you are still capable of completing work responsibilities. Some prefer to work in a quiet, more meditative atmosphere – I personally work best when I’m listening to loud music on my speakers. All the atmospheres that lead to individual higher productivity are more easily accommodated when working remotely instead of being in an office.
Additional Benefits of Workplace Flexibility
Another direct benefit of workplace flexibility is that companies have a deeper hiring pool to explore. Gone are the days of geographic constraints when looking to bring in new people. Instead, companies can hire from a more diverse group of candidates to find the perfect fit regardless of their location.
Primergy has employees in all four major U.S. time zones, and although in-person interaction has been limited due to safety considerations associated with the global pandemic, we are an incredibly tight knit group that works very well together. Why is that? I attribute it to being able to hire the right people instead of just people in the right place. We remain productive and cohesive as a group because Primergy was built around people who share similar core values, not a similar location.
The Return-to-Office Debate
As we enter a new phase of living with COVID, many companies are debating returning to the office. Wasted costs from unused office leases and perceived benefits of face-to-face collaboration are the main reasons cited by business leaders for return-to-office requirements. While the data shows remote work productivity is not a concern, the possible mental health benefits and career development fostered by in-person interaction are a concern for some companies.
The global workforce evolved with COVID, and companies will fare best with a hybrid approach of remote work, off-site meetings, and time spent in the office. COVID taught us that mental health matters and the companies that value their employees, in addition to the bottom line, will advance.
Workplace Flexibility: A Win-Win for the Solar Industry
Remote work has been an exceptionally positive experience in my career and the numbers point to it being good for company productivity as well. As permanent remote work become more palatable, companies that opt for strict, traditional office environments will miss out on talented workers who prefer jobs with workplace flexibility.
I am grateful to be a part of a team that not only embraces the changing dynamics of a workday but was formed around those changing dynamics. With over 6,000 MW of solar in active development and more on the way, Primergy is thriving.
About The Author
Emily oversees origination, development, marketing, and policy. Her 20 years of renewable project development experience have led to more than 15 GW of operational wind and solar projects, as well as a creative variety of off-take contracts comprising another 4 GW. Prior to Primergy, Emily oversaw renewables commercial activities for ENGIE North America, while leading her team to a nationally recognized #1 position in utility-scale corporate PPA contracting.