Before Covid-19’s spread, remote working was considered a vital part of a balanced, flexible way of working. Now more necessity than perk, it’s increasingly important for organisations to consider how they can support their people - both now and in the future.
Putting new measures in place to encourage productive work from home won’t just be a short-term measure. Perks given - even under duress - die hard, and we’d be surprised if there wasn’t increased demand for flexible working arrangements when the worst of the virus passes.
It’s therefore in businesses’ best interests to set employees up for success while working at home, starting now. With this effort in mind, we’ve picked out three aspects that ought to feature in every organisation’s WFH strategy:
When transitioning into new ways of working, there’s often an understandable expectation of instant impact. But this (sadly) isn’t always the case. Change can always cause confusion and damage productivity - making training and guidance vital.
It’s been found that training around remote/flexible working (e.g. improving time management) can lift both workers’ engagement and their willingness to collaborate. A study of flexible workers showed a 70% engagement rate among those with training, but just 57% for those without. Additionally, 53% of trained workers felt comfortable creating and collaborating with colleagues - dropping to 39% for those receiving none at all.
It’s also important for companies to build new knowledge and ways of working as tech stacks develop. A growing list of communications channels, like Slack and Skype, can easily become more distracting than empowering. Training workers on how to operate these most effectively will improve productivity.
Worryingly, more than one in two currently receive no training whatsoever on how best to work remotely. Companies looking to extract maximum value from such a radical shift (even when it’s enforced!) need to make sure there’s sufficient guidance on how best to manage the switch.
We’ve all watched that seminal Simon Sinek Ted Talk, where he talks all about the importance of the WHY (available here):
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”, he repeats - over and over.
At the moment, the reasons for remote working are self-explanatory. But this won’t always be the case! Your employees’ complete engagement (and subsequent productivity) will inevitably rest on the why.
What purpose do flexible working arrangements serve? How do they tie into the company’s values, goals and wider culture? If any of these are also changing, you’ll need to justify this, too.
Developing this story is especially important to help navigate the potential day-to-day drawbacks of flexible workforces. If a buzzy office has historically been one of your employees’ favourite work perks, for example, company leaders need to be vocal in highlighting the upside of remote working.
It’s clear to see that no kind of technology can make up for clear communication in this scenario. No instant messenger will replicate the positive impact of complete alignment of purpose within your ranks. Just because we’re concerned about Covid-19 now, it doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for a return to something at least resembling normality.
Finally, one problem raised by teams with a flexible work culture is “resentment” among colleagues. This, inevitably, stems from a lack of consistency. Who can enjoy the benefits flexibility affords, and who can’t? If there’s a clearer barrier to workplace collaboration than intra-employee resentment, we’ve yet to see it!
While less of an issue now as remote working comes into company-wide force for many, it’s another problem for you to consider when normality resumes.
So, before diving into flexible working as standard when Covid-19 recedes into memory, consider the necessary outputs of every employee. Is there more of an ‘always on’ culture in some teams than in others? Are the benefits available to all? Your answers to these questions might point to the need for changes in other areas, for example in how you structure your teams’ KPIs or OKRs.
Not only will the right base be crucial to ensuring the desired uplift in productivity and engagement but, without it, you actually risk being worse off than you were before introducing remote working! This, naturally, makes no sense, and so we’d advise thinking long and hard about whether any such initiative can truly be applied universally before you re-implement it in a post-coronavirus world.
Looking beyond Covid-19
As you can see, some of these are considerations for the future. For now, the priority will understandably be keeping safe and healthy and supporting loved ones,
But, the world will keep turning. How you set up your policies for after the virus wanes will have a long-term impact on how quickly your business can, well, get back to business. Setting your teams up for remote success, even when remote work stops being compulsory, will become a competitive advantage.
Investing in your culture and employee development? See how Arctic Shores can support you by arranging a demo here.
The Business Transformation Network have shared this article in partnership with Arctic Shores.