Walmart Maintains Productivity Working Remotely – Early in March, Klint Shaddox, senior manager of energy operations at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., was doing a trial run with his team for working from home.
Suddenly, in the middle of the Friday test-run, Shaddox received a company wide notice announcing that beginning Monday, everybody at Walmart’s (ticker: WMT) global headquarters needed to be working from home.
“In a small community to suddenly announce you are going to have about 18,000 people working from home, that’s a big strain on services, not only Walmart and the internet itself,” Shaddox says. “But we were ready, and everything worked well. There was no disruption.”
His experience illustrates the speed at which the coronavirus crisis has caused profound changes among large corporations.
The good news, as Shaddox and others say, is that technology is mostly allowing them to continue to work from home at relatively high levels of productivity with limited interruptions.
The unexpected good news, they say, is that the physical distance between colleagues has broken down social distance.
After years of growing workplace sensitivity about appearing too personal in the office, leaders and midlevel executives are not only communicating more authentically but also, out of necessity, bringing a fuller picture of themselves to work and recognizing the true value of real collaboration in the workplace.
Managers understand that “there is a lot of disruption,” says Shaddox, who has four children ranging in age from 6 to 15 and a wife who teaches second grade.
At the team level, Shaddox says, “I’m not finding a huge difference between online and video versus in person.” In fact, he says, “we had a meeting with a vendor out of state that was supposed to be in our offices and we did it by video and got the same result out of it as if it had been in person.
We could see each other and share our spreadsheets so we only missed out on the handshake.”
Company wide, however, “we have way more calls,” he says. Twice a day now there are management check-ins. “At this point everyone is curious and wants to know what management is thinking and hearing. It’s been a positive,” he says.
“We previously hadn’t done these kinds of calls but now they are sharing what is happening not only with the virus but with the company and our stores.”
For example, leadership has talked about managers “going above and beyond” outside of their normal job obligations to volunteer in the stores, which are now closing between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. for cleaning and restocking.
Shaddox, who notes that Walmart is playing a critical role as the largest grocer in the U.S. Data from Statista, a consumer data website, estimates that Walmart controls over a quarter of the grocery market, according to an analysis of 2018 spending.
Shaddox’s experience of feeling better connected to both his company’s purpose and management during the crisis even while working from home is echoed by Marc Rothenberg, vice president and senior regulatory counsel for enterprise regulatory law at Prudential Financial (PRU) in Newark, N.J.
“Prudential management learned a lot of their lessons in crisis management not only from 9/11 but also Hurricane Sandy, and the company was well positioned to react to continue to serve our customers and the communities we’re in,” Rothenberg says.
He relayed that the company, which had stockpiled over 153,000 face masks and 75,000 N95 respirators, donated them in March to bolster critically low medical supplies.
“It shows the level of business planning, company culture and community commitment in a time of crisis,” he says. He felt proud to “work for a company that helps in dealing with the stress that people are facing now.”
Rothenberg also shared how the company’s leadership is thinking about employees. It sends a nightly email that shares updates on the health of company employees, business location issues, mobile work efforts, and other issues.
Within those communications are also video messages from the CEO and other leaders, such as the head of information security, so top executives have a way to connect with everyone in the organization.