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Remote Work Tug of War

The work from home movement is under fire. Jamie Dimon says it’s a productivity issue. Elon Musk says it’s a moral issue. As a result, more and more employers are forcing people back to the office. Even Zoom is bringing people back. The future is uncertain, for sure. That’s why we brought Mary Elkordy, president & CEO at Elkordy Global Strategies to the show. Elkordy Global Strategies is a full-service PR firm, well-versed in influencer marketing, talent integration, social media strategy, strategic communications, and digital marketing. A great guest with a unique perspective on a complicated topic. Enjoy!

Intro: Hide your kids. Lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts, complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Oh yeah. What's up everybody? It's your favorite semi sober podcast, aka, the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host, Joel Cheeseman. Joined as always, the McHale to my bird, Chad Sowash is in the house and today we welcome Mary Elkordy, president and CEO of Elkordy Global Strategies.

Mary Elkordy: Well, hello. Thank you for having me on. I'm so excited to be here with both of you.

Joel: Oh, you look excited.


Chad: Lies.

Mary Elkordy: Lies. No, not at the moment. If you asked me like 20 minutes ago, maybe it would've been like nah, but now I know how awesome you guys are and I'm cold. I'm so pumped.

Joel: She's pumped man? She's been in the green room for five, 10 minutes. We're best friends now. We're best friends.

Mary Elkordy: Oof, obviously.

Joel: Mary, our listeners, however, don't know you more than likely. So give us a Twitter bio about what makes Mary tick.

Mary Elkordy: I, started a PR firm three and a half years ago after I got laid off from the pandemic. It's grown to a team of about 22 over the past three and a half years.

Chad: Wow.

Mary Elkordy: I never managed people in my life besides, working in radio with a soundboard guy and an intern. So you guys can appreciate what an actual radio team looks like. I go to school at night. I graduate in two months from my second grad degree 'cause I am that nerd and, I'm having a good time talking to the both of you.

S?: Alright. Alright. Alright.

Chad: Radio, what did you do in radio? You had soundboard guys all other, were you a technician? Were you a production person? What were you doing?

Mary Elkordy: No, I produced four shows a day at WABC. And then I was a co-host, and producer for DL Hughley's podcast for three years.

Chad: No!

Mary Elkordy: Yes. And my nickname was White Chocolate.


Chad: White Chocolate. I love, we've got white chocolate. Why didn't you lead with that?

Joel: That escalated quickly.

Chad: I'm also known as White Chocolate.

Mary Elkordy: I mean, I'm allegedly serious sometimes, but strong on the alleged.

Joel: White Chocolate.

Chad: That is awesome. That is awesome and we love it.

Joel: I don't know where we go from white chocolate. Chad, pull us in.

Chad: I think we're done, I think we go ahead and just wrap up. Thanks Mary. Appreciate the time.

Mary Elkordy: Anytime.


Chad: I'm gonna go ahead. We're gonna talk about remote work today, right? The war on remote.

Mary Elkordy: Let's go.

Chad: And I wanna throw this out right now. The war on remote work, to me, it sounds like it's dead. Zoom just called back their employees. It's like they're boiling the frog. Everybody's trying to boil the frog. They want 'em in for a couple of days, but we all know what that's gonna end up and back in five days. Right. So...

Mary Elkordy: You can't even imagine that.

Chad: Can we just say that this thing is dead Zoom the prognosticator of working. Like we're doing this podcast right now, remote...

Joel: It's like getting married, like it's over.

Chad: Yes, it's over.

Joel: It never should have happened. And it did.

Chad: It's done. So tell us why remote still lives on Mary.

Mary Elkordy: I think people have experienced what, like a taste of freedom of having ability to manage your time outside of your hours. Like imagine like, I can't imagine spending two to four hours a day commuting to work every day. Like that's just like, I'm able to do other stuff with that time or I sleep so much more. Like I don't have bags under my eyes anymore. It's a beautiful thing. But I do think that there are some aspects that people miss in terms of the collaboration and being together and in person. And don't get me wrong, I like that too, but I don't think it's like a necessary requirement every week. I just don't see that being the reality of what people need. And then from like, as a business owner, I think we benefit so much from having an access of talent like all over the world, both from finding talent, but also fiscally, you're able to have potentially better talent because you're able to convince them for lower prices because you're not making them go to work or because they can work from home or because of the flexibility. People value different things when you're doing negotiations for roles. So I think the second that you're requiring someone goes into the office and they give up their time with their kids or their ability to maybe go to school or do other things on the side, like that's an opportunity cost for them and they should be compensated for that, I believe, in their opinion.

Chad: So we've seen productivity go up from remote work, we've seen happiness happen with remote work. We've seen all these things and some of those points that you talked about, even finding better talent, right? I mean it's easier when you have a much larger pool, you can catch bigger fish. So why is it, do you think that employers are trying to force this measure of everybody getting back to the office when all of the indicators are saying that doesn't make any sense?

Mary Elkordy: I think different companies have different motivations. Do they have leases that they've already spent money on for seven years that they feel like they're just throwing the money away.

Joel: Bingo.

Mary Elkordy: But like also like the same point, like for instance in New York City, I find it really ironic that they're forcing people to go back into the office and then at the same time they're bringing congestion pricing into the city and they're increasing subway fares. So to me, not to be, I used to work in politics for a long time, so to me, not to be that weird person, but like, are you just forcing people to come back to the city as like a business move to enforce people to spend money on the subway, to force people to spend $9 to go above 62nd street in the city? So I think everyone has different motivations.

Mary Elkordy: I do think for some industries the collaboration and in-person aspect may be like a requirement. Whether if they're like, if they're doing certain type of skills or industries that are very hands-on and you need like people in the same room. But I think for industries like service-based industries, like what I do, I don't believe you really need that. And I think it also hurts the end consumer, right? Because if I have to get office space, I'm spending money on rent, which means I automatically have to increase my prices. So if you're trying to like have competitive prices and you're in a world where most, there's a huge percentage of companies that have the ability to be remote, you're gonna have a harder time, in my opinion, getting work because your prices will not be as competitive.

Joel: I love that you mentioned, the commercial real estate aspect of this and Chad and I talked recently about, WeWork essentially, pooping the bed, if you will and talking about bankruptcy and going out of business. Now Chad and I find that very curious because if any company should be working right now, it should be WeWork with you have flexible leases and employees, individuals can come in and out. What's your read on the WeWork meltdown?

Mary Elkordy: I think that in terms of I think they got, with any business, there's this really hard balance of like embracing the growth and opportunities and then moving too quick. I think they got stock happy, right? They got excited that all these people wanted these things to a point where they just signed up for so much before they could guarantee that. And I think a lot of businesses, when you see an influx of clients, and I've even gone through that too as a business where you see much potential, but then you can't predict the future. Like if someone talks about recessions then clients leave. But you just hired three people, and that's similar to what WeWork did, except on a much larger, massive scales with like, things that they are guaranteed to for like seven years.

Mary Elkordy: Now, the irony is if they were, if they managed it better, I think that they would be doing very well now. Because for me, like a WeWork is something that I would consider in a year or two just to have like the op because people, some, like some teams, like people want the option to come in once in a while or have a place to go to. Like I love my dogs, but like, sometimes I just need to leave the house. Like I call 'em my chief barking officers, they enter most of my conversations. It's a selling point for some, but for me, by the time it's 6:00 PM like, I honestly need to leave. And I think some people with their kids around, summer vacation, their husband's next to them their whole day. They have no separation of space or their own time. I do think there is value to that. I just don't think you need the same level of real estate or space or commitment to like a landlord or a commercial real estate property or even buying as a business.

Joel: Yeah, well from one eccentric founder and Adam Newman let's go to another. So Chad and I have talked about sort of all the reasons that the ivory tower folks talk about coming back to the office. We've heard culture, we've heard just business sense. One of the more interesting one is that it's a morality question. I'm gonna play a soundbite from Elon Musk in an interview with CNBC and get your opinion.

Mary Elkordy: Is he gonna carry the kitchen sinks with him this time too?

Mary Elkordy: Something like that. Yeah.


S?: I'm a big believer that people need to, are more productive when they're in person. But there are some exceptions, but I kind of think that the whole notion of work from home is a bit like the fake Marie Antoinette quote, let them eat cake. It's like really you're gonna work from home and you're gonna make everyone else who made your car come work in the factory. You're gonna make the people who make your food that gets delivered that they can't work from home. The people that come fix your house they can't work from home but you can? Does that seem morally right?

Joel: Mary, what's your take?

Mary Elkordy: For me, I think it's a stretch. I don't think, I think in any industry, for instance, you could complain about someone else, like the grass is always greener. But if you made a choice to be in a certain industry that you know is very hands-on, like building a car. Obviously, that's not going away as a remote work job anytime soon. And if that's something that is bothering you, then maybe find a different path. I don't think it's a moral issue, personally. I do think that when he makes an argument about productivity, I would humbly disagree. I think I work way more, and I think my team does, because they don't have that same level of like, oh, let me go talk in the break room, or let's go to happy hour. Let's leave for happy hour early. Or I need to head home because I have like two hours of traffic and I need to do whatever. I think people like, and then it becomes a problem, right?

Mary Elkordy: Actually on the flip side of like burnout, because it's so easy when I have no time, I just put, I put the computer on my lap when I go to work. And there's no boundaries when you're in your home, it's really hard to create those boundaries with remote work at home. So I would humbly disagree with a lot of that statement that he's made. I do think it's harder to monitor people, but I think in any office place, like let's say I'm like a hawk. No one likes a hawk. Like whether you're at home or you're in office. And the thing is, if you don't, in both scenarios, if someone's not doing the work and you have a decent processes and a decent management, you'll notice that someone's slacking. Like I can tell when someone's slacking pretty quickly. Do I need to see them to know that? No.

Chad: So I think you just pointed out something, which is really the problem. And tell me what you think about this. I think this is a management issue more than it is a worker issue. Because if you don't have KPIs, you don't have goals, you don't have set phase lines for projects and things like that, and you are not managing those people to those then that's more management than it is the actual individual. So to me this is more control and micromanagement than it is anything else. What's your take on that?

Mary Elkordy: Yeah, I think that there's this concept of micromanagement that as I was saying, like no one likes, right? But if you have to create processes, whether it's every company is different on how they measure their time, but it's about creating a process that works for your company. And with any business, there's a testing phase, right? You're piloting something, you're trying something out. It may take a couple of times to find what works best for your company, but I don't think it's at a place where it's impossible for any company to be able to manage or be able to evaluate how effective their team is and can be. And it's also about having regular communication. I think one of the hardest things when we were starting is like getting people to use the phone. Like to call, even for me when I'm someone that's a very big multitasker.

Mary Elkordy: Like I may talk, you guys can tell I can talk. But if someone messages me during work, I may send two words. Okay, cool. And people take that offensively like, oh, well she's, that she thinks, and there's a lot of, there's that tone and that learning curve of knowing that person in a different way than in person. And I think maybe that's where some of the disconnect is, but that's why it's like teaching a team to pick up the phone to go on the Zoom. And I think that's probably, I think the hardest thing in terms of building a culture, is building people who can actually communicate with one another outside of like being able to tap on their shoulder.

Chad: Right. But that's a management point though. I mean, if you're feeling that as the team, then that's a point where you have to manage your people. So we've seen some companies and some leaders like David Solomon and Jamie Diamond, where they've been very, very harsh around ensuring that everybody's back to work, period. So are the companies actually starting to take on the identities of their CEOs? And at that point, the culture of the organization is much like the CEO, right? So you can start to... At that point understand where you wanna work and where you don't wanna work.

Mary Elkordy: Yeah. And I think that's one of the benefits of a remote work and freelancing, to be honest. I find when we're hiring more in today's world, that more people are wanting to test out their employer before committing to their employer because they know that... Especially in these remote companies where you have no office, the identity really is the founder and how the founder sets that tone because everything... Your whole identity is based on that really as a company. So I do think there's that, but I think people are more wanting to test out the relationship on both sides. A lot of the people that have become full-time with me, were freelancers to start with right? Because... And even when I hire certain people, they're like, "Oh, well I have several clients and I'm just trying to figure out which one I wanna work full-time for." The fact that someone can do that is amazing for them.

Chad: Yeah. Autonomy.

Joel: Let's talk about demographics. So no one on this call is in the 18 to 34 demographic.

Chad: I am.

Joel: However...


Chad: I am. I'm 33.

Joel: Then you're perfect to answer to this question, so...

Mary Elkordy: Okay.

Joel: But I do remember those days and I remember being new to the work world and realizing how important mentorship was and realizing how important seeing older colleagues work and how work is done and how the whole game is played. Are we alleviating a large part of the working community by making young people stay at home? In other words, I wanted to be in the office when I was 25. I wanted to get outta my apartment, I wanted to interact with people, I wanted to go to happy hour afterwards. That was something I looked forward to now that at the age I am now less so how does that whole thing play out? Do the older folks have to come back for a few mentoring days? What's your vision on how that whole thing plays out?

Mary Elkordy: I think mentoring could happen virtually and in person. I think mentoring is an ongoing process. And I think as a company... Well, it's for two things. If you're in that age group, whether you work for a company that does mentoring or not, there's a lot of opportunities and avenues to find mentors. And I think it's networking and really leveraging the network that you're building for yourself. But I think as a company it's also providing opportunities for people to learn. And then something that we are going to be doing, which is teaming people up, pairing people who have more experience versus those that aren't. And just making them have coffee once a month or chat and just as human beings. Because even if you don't work with someone directly on a team, doesn't mean they don't have value or insight to offer. And so I think it's just really how you structure that within your company. And then, as a remote company, we typically do a one year weekend thing where everyone comes to New York and people are like, "Oh, are you gonna do trust falls?" I'm like, "No, we're just gonna have life experiences together, explore, get to know each other personally, do fun things. Whether it's seeing a sports game or just taking away random walk in the city and get to know one another." And I think for me, building those memories and trust has more impact than me doing a leadership training meeting.

Joel: Do you think it's important as an employer, if you have younger employees, that you give them an outlet to get out of their apartment or living situation and go to a coffee shop or go to a workspace where they can have a desk if they want? Do you think that's important or no?

Mary Elkordy: For us, we don't care where you are per se as long as you communicate. So I do think people should take advantage of it. Now in terms of a company sponsor like Workspace, I think if the company can do that, they should... We... I'm considering at some point getting a small office or a WeWork or something along those lines, just so that people have a place to go if they just wanna leave and have the thing. But we also... I also try to plan activities where I am. Like going to a baseball game or doing something that's not just surrounded with solely just alcohol.

Joel: Yep.


Mary Elkordy: Right? Or solely just coffee. Something that we actually bring people together...

Joel: Or both.

Mary Elkordy: And have a good time, or both. I do love my coffee. I notoriously never finished my iced coffee, but I do love coffee.

Joel: And I love my Irish coffees, Mary.

Mary Elkordy: Me too.

Joel: I'll let you go on this one. What does work from home look like five years from now?

Mary Elkordy: I think work from home is going to stay. I think that there will be solutions that companies will have to create for those that want that balance and so that they can still maintain different types of talent, right? So if you're looking to have that in-office experience or options, I think it depends on where you're at as a company financially and size wise. But I do think that there should be options for people to do that if they want that but I don't think it... I don't believe it's going to be mandated for most companies 'cause there's going to be a... Unless it's a company where you make badonkadonk money, [laughter] right? You're not gonna be able to compete with the fact that people like the flexibility of having options.

Mary Elkordy: I think we're just in a society where people like options, right? Sometimes too much, right? Sometimes I say if it wasn't for my dogs, I would be traveling constantly. I'd have no home base. So I think that there's some grounding that some people may not get if they really dive too deep. But I do think that there's... People like options and the more that we're able to give reasonable options, I think that there's this thing in society where they expect so much from their employer. Not just a place to work, but like I refer to myself as a therapist half the day for the team. I hear everybody's problems or all these different hats that people have to... All these expectations of what an employment means, right? And so I think it's just finding that balance of like, "Yes, I'm offering you a place to work and also offering you a place to grow and place to be able to provide for your family, but we also still have to get work done too." So I think it's that balance of options, caring for people, but being able to obtain and sustain and retain talent.

Joel: It's all about the badonkadonk money, Chad.

Chad: Always about the badonkadonk money.

Mary Elkordy: I just came up with that.


Chad: You should keep it, you should definitely keep it. Mary, thanks so much for coming on the show. I want to... I wanna give you a chance to tell the listeners where they can find out more about you, connect with you and maybe even start a conversation around remote work, PR, who knows? Where do they find Mary?

Mary Elkordy: It's very easy to find me 'cause I'm the only one with this last name and first name. So at Mary Elkordy. E-L-K-O-R... D as in David, Y, by my Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, all the places in the world.

Chad: Excellent.

Joel: She loves posting the shorts, Chad. So if you like your video shorts, [laughter] Mary's the one to follow.

Chad: I love video shorts.

Joel: This was fun. Another one in the can. Nice to meet you, Mary. Hopefully, we'll see you around New York City sometime. And with that we out.

Chad: We out.

Outro: Wow. Look at you. You made it through an entire episode of the Chad and Cheese podcast. Or maybe you cheated and fast forward it to the end. Either way, there's no doubt you wish you had that time back. Valuable time you could have used to buy a nutritious meal at Taco Bell. Enjoy a pour of your favorite whiskey. Or just watch big booty Latinas and bug fights on TikTok. No, you hung out with these two chuckleheads instead, now go take a shower and wash off all the guilt, but save some soap because you'll be back like an awful train wreck. You can't look away. And like Chad's favorite Western, you can't quit them either. We out.


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