Nothing disrupts the flow of a work week like a good snowstorm. It’s 9 degrees in New York today with a gusting wind chill of 11 below. Buses are running with delays, meetings and flights have been canceled, and overcrowded subways are making everyone miserable.
Yet to Deanna Mulligan, CEO and president of Guardian Life Insurance Company, a storm like this could be “a blessing in disguise.”
Like many Wall St. firms, Guardian saw its downtown headquarters decimated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, its offices uninhabitable for nearly a year afterward, Mulligan told Fortune Magazine. The storm forced the company to relocate to an unconventional office space in Jersey City, and many employees worked from home or coffee shops for months.
While Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has famously argued that working from home sacrifices “speed and quality,” Mulligan discovered that greater flexibility actually increased her employees’ productivity by cutting travel time, focusing more on collaborative work on the days they were in the office, and switching to time- and paper-saving tools like Evernote. Customer feedback surveys distributed after the changes indicated an improvement in company performance in several areas.
“How much management do people need?” Mulligan asked. “Maybe not as much as we thought.”
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