When working from home becomes the new normal

– How to manage current challenges and prepare for a long-term shift

 

The pandemic is changing how we work

Undoubtedly, we are experiencing challenging times and one of many consequences of the Covid-19 virus is the large number of employees and students working from home. Far from everyone has the possibility to work from home. Among the ones who can, we see a differentiation in preparedness: some organisations already have remote working capabilities in place while others are trying to find their way. Nevertheless, every organisation faces new challenges when long-term involuntary isolation becomes the only way to conduct business.

Challenges with working from home

One of the most obvious and direct consequences of working from home is the loss of social interactions at work, which may result in reduced sense of belonging as well as missed information and collaborative efforts. In addition, lack of experience from digital collaborative tools could slow down productivity. Overall, we see a risk of declining efficiency and engagement.

The new normal

We don’t know how long businesses will have to work remotely, but we expect it to go on for a while, why we can assume that remote work will become the new normal. There is no time to waste, organisations must quickly manage the challenges related to social isolation in order to maintain or increase productivity and engagement.

 

Organisations must quickly manage the challenges related to social isolation in order to maintain or increase productivity and engagement.

 

Recommendations on how to build remote-working capabilities

Based on Cartina’s experiences from helping clients with digital transformation, we have compiled some recommendations on how to quickly build remote-working capabilities.

1. Engagement through inclusiveness and presence

Being physically isolated from you colleagues for a long time makes it important to ensure inclusiveness and presence in your organisation. Here are some of the keys to employee engagement and well-being:

Visible leadership

During a crisis, it’s important for leaders to be even more visible, accessible and present. Even if you cannot meet physically, leaders must show their colleagues that they are there; make an extra call, send a message, show that you care.

Timely, honest and relevant communication

Your company’s main stakeholders all demand timely, honest and relevant communication on what’s going on. Your employees want to know the status of your business right now, which decisions have been taken and what the plan is going forward. Don’t delay information which can be shared. Be honest and be relevant. Get to the point and cut the crap.

Small talk, lunches and coffee breaks

Set up social non work-related meetings and breaks. For example, at Cartina we start workdays with a morning check-in where we ask each-other how we feel and what’s going on. You can do this in a more structured way too, by asking questions such as what books are you currently reading? What has been your favourite meal this week? What are your best home workout tips? Other activities may be:

  • Setting up specific digital social gatherings where people join based on interest.
  • Online lunch-dates with random people across the business, to allow for spontaneous interaction, based on interest.
  • Digital after-works and reflection sessions.
  • 15 minutes home-training session to activate yourself and your colleagues.

2. Increase digital maturity through training

As a response to remote work, some organisations will need to introduce or expand the set of digital tools in order to secure effective collaboration. The choice of tools should be based on the collaborative needs and kept to a minimal variation. When implementing the tool, it’s important that everyone is trained to reach full capacity for successful and effective meetings and collaborations.

You may be used to meetings, workshops, business briefing etc. but doing these 100% remotely while using digital tools is a different experience. To succeed, you must provide training and guidance so that everyone feels confident when it comes to leading and participating.

3. Enable effective meetings and teams

To create effective teams is a challenge. To create effective distributed teams is undoubtedly even harder. The key is communication, openness and continuous improvement. Explore what works and what doesn’t for your team. Here is a list of recommendations which are equally relevant for non-distributed teams.

Effective teams

  • The team objectives should be mutually agreed and understood
  • There is a clear understanding of the different roles within a team and how they contribute to the objective
  • Continuously evaluate ways of working after meetings and in recurring improvement meetings
  • Enable psychological safety with openness and inclusion which is a pre-requisite for a culture of continuous improvement
  • Discuss and agree on WoW and working agreements within a team on e.g. communication and meeting behaviours. Should everyone mute their audio when not speaking, and how do you request to speak virtually?
  • Visualise result and progress to secure alignment on ongoing work 

Effective meetings and ways of working

  • Create agreement within- and across teams on meeting structures and meeting purposes to enable clarity and predictability, two elements that enhances focus and productivity.
  • Set up daily stand-up meetings to start the day. It creates focus and awareness on what the team is working on and where support is needed. This is probably even more relevant with distributed teams. Daily stand-up is a form of status meeting.
  • Try to shorten the meetings as much as possible, as it’s difficult to focus for longer period online.

4. Create a seamless employee experience with mapped employee journey

When remote working becomes the norm faster than companies had prepared for, we believe it’s important to take a holistic approach of the employee experience. Make the investment and explore the real implications and values of remote work based on your company’s goals and people strategy.

 

The modern organisation will need to prepare for an entirely remote and digital employee experience.

 

The modern organisation will need to prepare for an entirely remote and digital employee experience, touching everything from recruitment to the employee leaving the company. However, it’s essential to define a digital employee journey that reflects the specific company values and culture which generates a sense of belonging and purpose. What makes this business stand out from others, and why should an employee stay? We believe that this step is essential for understanding and creating the best foundation for a fulltime shift into becoming the digital workplace of the future.

5. Becoming agile provides a structured approach to collaboration

The agile transformation requires substantial effort, but generates great value and prepares the business for the unknown thanks to its systematic approach to/view of e.g. organisation, leadership and ways of working. There is a lot to be said about agile organisations, which we will not address here. And you are probably wondering, what does agile organisations have to do with remote working capabilities?

 

Successfully scaled agile organisations also provide clarity and alignment on business purpose, prioritised initiatives and objectives and a structured approach to collaboration across and within teams.

 

We believe that remote working capabilities benefits greatly from the collaborative- and distributed decision-making capabilities maintained in the agile cross functional teams.Successfully scaled agile organisations also provide clarity and alignment on business purpose, prioritised initiatives and objectives and a structured approach to collaboration across- and within teams which generates predictability and enables focused efforts. Our view is therefore that agile organisations and the associated leadership-style, “the servant leader”, provides a good foundation for productive and effective work despite location – remote or onsite. The current situation could provide an opportunity for your organisation to start exploring what agile could mean to you and what benefits could come from changing your ways of working.   

In summary, it is likely that remote-working capabilities is not a temporary solution, but rather a long-term capability needed due to the lifespan of covid-19 pandemic and could be changing the future of work. We believe that remote-working capabilities does not only consist of a set of tools to be used in a certain context, moreover it’s about leadership and ways of working, why we hope that your business will take the time to build the needed organisational capabilities to prepare you for the future of work.

Do you have ideas or would like to discuss further how you can build remote working capabilities through agile practices and employee journey mapping, don’t hesitate to connect with us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *