The New Workplace—Envisioning a Return to the Office Post-Pandemic

September 14, 2021

Across the US and around the world, companies large and small are grappling with what a return to the office looks like in the aftermath of a global pandemic. What will change? What will remain the same? What are the challenges that lie ahead? And what are the opportunities?

Clearly, we’re far from out of the woods regarding the prevalence and threat of COVID-19. But the time has arrived for businesses everywhere to begin determining their “new normal” when it comes to physical presence in the office. Like so many others, Klein Hersh is charting our course based on insights gained while working remotely, and the lasting impact we expect the pandemic will have on how business is conducted.

Opening Our Minds to New Possibilities

I have to admit, prior to the pandemic, our leadership team was philosophically opposed to   people working from home. We have, with great intention, created a high energy office environment that promotes collaboration and is constantly buzzing with activity. Being present every day to engage in our workplace culture was considered paramount.

Suddenly, we were forced out of our comfort zone, with no other option than to be openminded and flexible. It required fundamentally reshaping our perspective. And it took a while to get comfortable with. Some of our learnings were quite surprising, while others validated what we’ve always known.

Perhaps most surprising was that counter to previous belief, our team and our business not only survived, but thrived, in a virtual environment. In fact, Klein Hersh experienced exponential growth during the pandemic, doubling our revenue over the past 18 months. We attribute this to the continued funding in our industry, the trust our partners have in our organization, and the tenacious mindset and relentless work ethic of our extraordinary team.

Pushing the Boundaries with Intentional Flexibility

The average tenure at Klein Hersh is over 10 years, and apparently, our core values are deeply embedded, regardless of where we’re sitting. Our team has been giving more than ever, determined not to let the pandemic stand in the way of delivering top talent in the pursuit of advancing science and innovation in healthcare.

Even I embraced our newfound flexibility. Like many of my colleagues, I have a young family, and working remotely means I can be home with them for dinner. Or I can divide the workday if needed. I might take a longer lunch to help my wife with our children, but make up for it later by working outside of normal business hours. Our entire team worked harder and longer to get it all done. And the collective work ethic was beyond impressive. Yes, we learned if you have the right foundation and work with people you trust, you can let go of the reigns.

That said, we’re more convinced than ever how critical it is for all of us to be together in a shared space. A fulltime, virtual work model is simply not sustainable. We’ve been successful during the pandemic because we’re relying on the strong foundation already built. And that foundation—our extraordinary culture—is a direct outcome of the learning and mentoring and collaboration that occurs when we’re all together. We feed off of one another’s energy, and discover some of our best ideas through the ongoing exchange of information. We can achieve so much more together. And that’s been the secret to our success.

Expanding with Purpose and New Insights

Klein Hersh is currently in the midst of an expansion. We’re bringing on more executive recruiters and additional support staff. We owe it to them, to our company, and to our partners, to ensure our newest colleagues have the same opportunity our tenured team members were given. We cannot continue to grow and deliver high value service without proper training, without passing down knowledge, without demonstrating our values and our work ethic, without providing an interactive forum that enables our newer colleagues to fully understand and capture the essence of our culture. We have to keep the legacy alive, or it will change. And why change awesome?

Still, we cannot help but be influenced by all we’ve witnessed. Like so many other companies, when we return to the workplace, it will look and feel different.

Just prior to the advent of COVID-19, our firm embarked on a design project to reconfigure our office. We were eyeing up additional space, with the intention of adding more desks for new hires. As the pandemic dragged on, we had the same realization as other companies. Some of the adaptations made in how business is conducted were here to stay. So, we revamped our plan.

The open environment we’ve always enjoyed will now offer even greater flow and flexibility. There will be two new lounge spaces that invite the exchange of ideas, and four well-equipped huddle rooms to conduct Zoom calls.

Embracing Reality (and Our Evolving New Normal)

Yes, Zoom is here to stay. I am betting that ultimately, business travel will return to only 50 percent of what it was pre-pandemic.

For Klein Hersh, this shift represents a tremendous upside—specifically, the speed at which we’re able to place candidates. Clients have adopted Zoom as not only the starting point for interviewing, but also the last mile. With the ease of scheduling and efficiencies that come with virtual interviewing as the final stage in the process, our executive recruitment lifecycle has been condensed considerably.

We still remain big believers in coming into the office. But we would be remiss in not acknowledging that everyone does not have to be present all the time. For our newer hires, we’ll expect them to be onsite daily during the onboarding phase. Our more tenured team members will have much greater flexibility, spending a few days in the office each week with the option to work virtually on the remaining days.

Of course, there are still many unknowns. I’m sure how we start will not be how we’ll finish. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that we can, and will likely need to, pivot several times along the way. Like everyone else, we’re figuring it out. And the solutions will be different for every business depending upon their industry, their infrastructure, and numerous other aspects. One size does not fit all in the post-pandemic workplace, and each company needs to do what’s best for them.

Connecting Has Never Been More Powerful

For Klein Hersh, the new theme is flexibility. But being a part of the Klein Hersh village, being physically onsite—at least some of the time—is as essential as ever. Our culture cannot be created or sustained from a distance. We need connectivity with our “work family” just as we do our own family. Success requires collaboration. And human interaction matters. A lot.

We recently held an offsite happy hour for our team. It was really special. We all share longstanding, deep relationships with one another. Before the pandemic, I was spending ten hours a day with my colleagues. And I hadn’t seen them for a year and a half! Everyone was so excited to reconnect and once again feel like we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.

I don’t yet know what the future holds. No one does. But what I do know is that when we come back together again, it will be better than ever.

About the Author

Jason Hersh is one of the founders of Klein Hersh International and has been instrumental in building it into one of the largest life sciences executive search firms in the world. In addition to serving as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Jason also leads the healthcare services practice, and co-manages all pharmaceutical executive search practice areas, including discovery, clinical, and commercial. Companies of all sizesfrom early-stage, venture-backed technology companies to some of the largest contract research organizations and management consulting companiesrely on the expertise of Jason and the Klein Hersh team to hire their future leaders.

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Jason Hersh
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About the Author
Jason Hersh is Chief Executive Officer, Managing Partner, and Co-founder of Klein Hersh International―a global leader in strategic leadership placement solutions for the life sciences and healthcare industry. He is responsible for managing strategic growth, organizational culture, and career development across the firm. Since the establishment of Klein Hersh in 1998, Jason has been instrumental in building it into one ...