Saturday, July 20, 2024

Orion Calls Employees Back to Office With Hybrid Schedules, Earned Flexibility -Dlight News

After a series of fits and starts that included what, by outside appearances, appeared to be a small but attention-grabbing employee rebellion, Orion Advisor Solutions has put together a back-to-the-office plan that will return the majority of its 1,300 employees to work across the company’s eight locations three days a week.

Orion’s executive leaders settled on the policy after seven months of deliberation. The internal planning was temporarily derailed when an employee survey sparked an outcry, as reported by Citywire and RIABiz. Relying on unnamed sources, both reported that employees were unhappy with what they perceived as a demand to return to the office made without employee input or enough discretionary flexibility. An internal survey to employees floated many different possible return-to-office scenarios but was met with anger by many.

According to Orion CEO Natalie Wolfsen, that initial survey was meant only to explore options and garner employee feedback.

“The impression was that we had given an edict and that was simply not the case,” she said, speaking in a recent interview held in the company’s New York City office. “In the evolution of the plan, everyone’s input was taken with the initial survey and even more came from the focus groups,” that were organized in the wake of the revolt, Wolfsen said.

To be sure, the controversy was a tempest in a teapot compared to the fallout at other companies wrestling with remote work policies. In February of 2023, Amazon announced a return to the office requirement that resulted in worldwide employee walkouts.

“It’s all emotional, and you have to show you have heart, and that was always the intent,” Wolfsen said. The entire management team felt the need to balance in-person collaboration, training and networking with the desire many employees had to continue working from home.  Complicating matters is many employees came to the company from acquired businesses during recent years when most worked from home full time.

Orion CEO Natalie Wolfsen

Orion CEO Natalie Wolfsen

According to the final plan announced internally this week and shared with, approximately a third, or roughly 400 employees, who are already remote workers will remain fully remote, with a requirement of at least one week spent in the office annually for departmental meetings and planning sessions.

Orion’s more than 800 other employees will gradually return to an office. Managers will return for two days each week beginning in September, followed by all other non-remote employees in October.

By January, non-remote employees will work in the office three days a week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Beginning in April, a “choice-week” policy kicks in.

Choice weeks allow employees to work wherever they want for a week at a time. Each employee gets eight choice weeks per year. They can take up to four consecutive choice weeks at a time.

Choice weeks are meant to help people accommodate personal schedules, such as holidays and kids’ school breaks, or times when an employee chooses to work away from an office, say at a second home or to help care for aging parents.

Prior to that eight-week policy, which kicks in early next year, employees will have two holiday choice weeks to be used during the last two weeks of December.

Orion employees can earn four additional choice weeks a year in 2026 if they collectively meet the company’s key performance indicator goals for 2025.

“What we have in this plan is very different from the initial options that were in the survey,” she said.

Following the original employee complaints, Orion executives went back to the drawing board. They formed seven internal working committees to help shape the strategy.

Each had an area of focus, from discussing flexibility to analyzing commuting distances and other logistics. More than 100 total team members particpated in either the working committees or focus groups. 

When asked how this seemingly complex system would be tracked, Wolfsen said Orion would rely on its Workday HR system to monitor compliance and track choice week options.

“That’s one of the reasons to have the managers back early, to get them trained and able to make sure people are recording their time,” she said. “And then we want to be able to track whether the employees are actually using those choice weeks.”

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