Read time: 4-5mins
Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen many posts and articles that paint a clear picture on what’s about to happen to the workplace, as we know it.
Companies all over the globe have been forced to close their premises and adopt a home working arrangement in the blink of an eye. Many employees have now gone months without seeing their colleagues and teammates in the flesh, and most assumed that the move would be temporary, to protect the health and safety of employees. Unfortunately, the extent of Covid-19 has meant that many businesses were unprepared for such an overnight transition, impacting not only their business model but key metrics such as revenue, productivity and employee wellbeing.
Covid-19 has forced organisations to forensically evaluate their operating models and cost base, leading to a swift realisation that a permanent move to remote working for some, or all of their teams could be feasible. The opportunity to reduce overhead costs on premises, whilst also offering improvements to work life balance for employees leading to increased employee retention, is becoming a more appealing route forward every day that the virus continues to impact the world economy. Tech giants such as Facebook and Google have already announced plans to move to a remote working for the foreseeable.
In this blog I’d like to share my views on how business leaders can manage this transition successfully. I will share three fundamental steps that leaders going down this road can take, to ensure their teams successfully transition from, what employees may have thought was going to be a temporary arrangement, to a permanent desk-space at home.
Step 1 - Reflect on what’s happened
A fundamental first step is to revisit the change your people have been through to get to this point.
For most, the move to home working was sudden, due to government-imposed restrictions being announced that allowed just a few days to move teams out of the office. Covid-19 is the dominant topic of discussion around the globe at this time, with most people witnessing the devastating impacts of the virus via news and media outlets. The change would have been seen as sensible to almost everybody, plus there wasn’t much choice in the matter.
However, understanding the move doesn’t mean it was easy or desired by everyone, especially on a permanent basis.
It’s highly unlikely that all of your employees have a comfortable desk space or private office that they’ve been used too. Not everybody will have super-fast Wi-Fi that’s as robust as the office network. Aside from the tools, many employees may be trying to do their job with young children close by who want to spend time with mum or dad in the room next door, and I’m sure most of us have been on a conference call when somebody’s dog has decided to bark, right when it was their owner’s turn to speak!
These types of distractions can be stressful and the thought of persisting with them permanently, may fill some employees with dread. Lots of employees miss coming into work to see their colleagues and teammates who have become friends, so the thought of barely, if-ever, seeing them again may be extremely de-motivating.
If you don’t know how your team members are feeling about homeworking, the time to ask them is now, before you start communicating a permanent move. You need to gain a detailed understanding into how your teams are going to react to a permanent homeworking decision and ensure you address these points of concern in your communication and delivery plan. If you don’t, expect to face some resistance.
Use 1-2-1 meetings and employee surveys, as well as productivity and quality assurance data to gain a view on the impact homeworking has had. This will quite quickly paint a picture that tells you how your teams are adapting to their new office and how you’re your decision is going to land.
Step 2 - Plan thoroughly and don’t underestimate
Step 1 has shown us that there may be some varied feelings on permanent homeworking. The insight you’ve gathered here will help you identify any hurdles to overcome. Along with all of the positives to the change, these must be addressed when communicating your decision.
Questions you may end up asking yourself are:
With adequate insight-gathering, you’ll have formed a comprehensive list of questions and actions, which will give you an indication on the timescale in which you’ll be ready to communicate the decision. Your preparation may end up being a lot longer than you first thought!
Step 3 – Monitor and adjust as necessary
This is the step that most leaders or business owners know they should take, but often don’t get around to it because other priorities take over.
Once the change to permanent home working has been communicated with all of the anticipated hurdles and resistance barriers addressed, it’s integral that you repeat the insight gathering process that you completed in Step 1 a number of times. Adjustments and further tweaks to working routines are inevitable and you’ll only know what they are by listening to your employees.
By following these three steps you’ll give yourself a high chance of sustained success when moving to a remote working model. I hope you find them useful, and good luck!
Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear your thoughts and additions in the comments section below!
If you need any help or guidance in creating and delivering a comprehensive change plan for a move to home-working or any other upcoming organisational change, I’m here to help and would welcome you to get in touch.