Page 46 - BusinessWest May 13, 2024
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 “I was the bright, young kid who came out of college and somehow took a course my senior year on how to use that software, Lotus 1-2-3. I was the only one who knew how to use it, so they had
me start to train people on how to do spreadsheets on it.”
bright, young kid who came out of college and somehow took a course my senior year on how to use that software, Lotus 1-2-3,” he recalled. “I was the only one who knew how to use it, so they had me start to train people on how to do spreadsheets on it. It was so slow and so ineffective that I can remember partners saying, ‘we’ll never be using this ... I can do in 10 minutes what you just did in an hour.’”
Meanwhile, he was doing this work in a three-piece suit. “My first day, it was about 85 degrees out, and I’ve got this suit and tie on, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘why am I doing this?’” he recalled. “I was thinking that I should have taken the summer off and worked at the beach.”
Flash ahead to late last month, and he was doing this interview with BusinessWest via Zoom, from his home, wearing an unbut- toned collared shirt, and marveling at just how much things have changed — not just since he was that kid fresh out of school, but since the start of this decade.
And he’s certainly not alone.
Indeed, one of the common threads running through the stories in this 40th-anniversary issue is the dramatic changes that have come to the workplace in recent years, what they mean, and what might come next.
Many of those we spoke with have been working for three or four decades and referred to themselves as ‘old timers’ or even, in one case, a ‘dinosaur.’
And while some admit to being a bit stubborn when it came to those changes that have come in realms from relaxed dress codes to remote work, in almost every case, reason — driven by many fac- tors, but especially the need to attract and retain talent — has won out over stubbornness.
“I’m a suit kind of guy,” said Tom Senecal, chairman of Holyoke- based PeoplesBank. “And it’s taken me a while, but the pandemic changed things. People wanted to go to casual; I said ‘no,’ but finally acquiesced. Then they wanted jeans on Friday, and I acquiesced. And then they wanted jeans every day, and I acquiesced, and it hasn’t really changed.
“I acquiesced on all of them,” he went on, “because who wants
to go work at a stodgy, old-perceived institution versus one that’s flexible? I’m competing against tech companies and insurance com- panies and financial-services companies. You want to wear jeans? You want to work at home? I have to compete, so I have to acqui- esce to what the market is doing.”
Moving forward, Ebner and others are seeing some slight move- ment toward returning to the office, or at least strong efforts in that direction. What they don’t see is the pendulum (meaning that upper hand) swinging back to the employer any time soon.
Is This Work in Progress?
As he talked about all the changes that have come to the work- place, Andrews put things in poignant perspective when he said he would prefer to visit his firm’s three offices, scattered across North- ern Conn. and Western Mass., on Monday or Friday, because there are noticeably fewer people on the road those days courtesy of hybrid work schedules and a desire to be home those days.
His own employees are among those who fall into these catego- ries. “So, if I went on Monday or Friday, I’d be visiting myself,” he said with a laugh.
So he winds up visiting toward the middle of the week, when people are around — at Whittlesey and most other larger places of business across sectors and jobs in which hybrid schedules are feasible.
And that’s a large list, said Ebner, noting that, while profound changes have come to the workplace since the pandemic arrived in 2020, there were already shifts in those directions years before COVID. The pandemic simply accelerated the process, and on many levels.
Also, the period just after the height of COVID became one of the most competitive in recent memory when it came to talent, the shortage thereof, and the lengths that employers would go to attract talent and then retain it.
“Employers pulled out all the stops to keep their people and attract talent, in terms of raising wages, enhancing benefits, and working on ways to keep their people happy,” she said. “It’s settling down just a little bit; we’re seeing a little bit of a cooling on wages —
to BusinessWest on their 40th Anniversary!
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MAY 13, 2024
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