by Michael Holden
Time.com published an article on March 22, 2021, titled, “Spain Is Going to Trial a 4-Day Work Week. Could the Idea Go Mainstream Post-Pandemic?” In the article, by Lisa Abend, she describes the national trial the Spanish government is rolling out to change how Spaniards work in the post-pandemic economy. The plan is to use government funding to sponsor 200 companies to switch to a four-day work week and pay their employees the same salary with the funding. It will be an interesting experiment to watch.
While Spain’s national trial of a four-day work week may not translate to the title insurance industry in the United States, it does give a glimpse into how so many countries, businesses and municipalities are investigating how work will look post-pandemic. What we have learned in the past year of lockdowns and endless Zoom meetings may be informative on how we start building a new working dynamic in the title industry.
Starting with the five-day work week, some changes in scheduling are certainly possible as we get back to normal. When I owned my title agency, I had an employee who worked a 5/4/1 schedule. She worked five days the first week for nine hours a day. She worked four days the second week for nine hours a day, and she had every other Friday off from work. She was working an 81-hour pay period each two-week period, and she got a day off twice a month. It was a good deal for my company as she was one of the most focused and productive employees on staff. It was also a good deal for her as she used that extra Friday off to volunteer at her daughter’s school twice a month. We do not have to be locked into the Monday through Friday nine to five work week. Working four 10-hour days, the example above of 5/4/1, or other adjustments to work schedules may be a first step to reimagining work in a post-pandemic world.
Another question that looms large is, how much can the title industry embrace remote work? We learned that so many of our staff can effectively work from home during the pandemic. How many of them will need to return to offices? Will employees opt to working remotely or will there be a mix of two days a week from home and three days a week from an office. If we have less people working in offices, does that mean our office space can shrink? Prior to the pandemic, about 10 percent of the U.S. workforce was working entirely remotely. That number shot up to 50 percent when the pandemic hit. As we get back to work and begin fully opening up again, even if the number of people working from home settles at 25 percent, that is still two-and-a-half times what it was in 2019. That would mean thousands of empty offices across the United States and potentially the need to reduce office space.
The combination of remote work and adjusting work schedules brings up a third need the title industry will have to embrace to increase productivity. That need is technology. Regardless if you are working a flex schedule, or working remotely part time or full time, technology will be the key to growth. During the pandemic, I spoke to a title agent in Florida. He has a large agency and has an in-house IT specialist. During the pandemic, he had the advantage of directing his IT specialist to create completely digital workstations and ship them to his employees to work from home. This completely digital workstation or laptop was connected to the company’s virtual private network and could work with the company’s shared files without the need for printing. This completely virtual environment eliminated problems with non-public personal information in homes. Title production software mostly can work in a remote environment. Many systems have an option to be web based, which allows employees to access files anywhere there is an internet connection.
These three key areas will define how the title industry fully reopens and moves back to a more normal operating procedure. How we answer the questions of flex schedules, remote work and technology will define the next decade. My experience in the business tells me that innovation and experimentation are going to be in high demand. Workers will gravitate to businesses that can offer these arrangements and can newly define the way work is conducted for our industry.
The article mentioned at the beginning cited a study published by the Cambridge Journal of Economics that projected that a change in work schedule to eliminate just five hours a week from employees’ time would result in an overall increase in production and a 1.4 percent rise in gross domestic product for Spain. Could the title industry be on the cusp of an increase in productivity coming out of the pandemic? I think that is highly likely.
“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary” – Vince Lombardi, 1913-1970, legendary football coach and executive in the National Football League.