WFH Redux:Revisiting Remote Working as Covid-19 Resurges
Businesses continue to grapple with the organizational impact of the novel coronavirus and Covid-19. The challenges the pandemic poses are not going away, and companies have been realigning structures, processes and procedures to manage what is now a clear resurgence. Climbing infection rates globally show its shiftiness, and in the U.S., regional increases and declines make for constant readjustment and refocus.
Business and organizational leaders are confronted with daily reminders that the “new normal” has few norms. As the stock market vacillates on news of a vaccine, we have entered into a new operating paradigm that we can expect to instill lasting effects well into a post- pandemic time. Developing consistency and reliability while working remotely is imperative. Employees want to have a place – mentally, emotionally, if not physically – where they can put distractions aside and focus on their work. The approach must unite common purpose and concrete goals along with a culture that evolves with the environment without reflexive changes to the latest news.
This sounds like guidance from a few months ago when the outbreak ramped up to an epidemic and overflowed to a global pandemic. It remains sound advice sadly as the U.S. has become a global epicenter with the highest number of Covid-19 infections and deaths worldwide. Our plight will continue, and for businesses, the decision on school openings will have a resounding effect on where works is done.
Remote working has morphed over the past several months of the pandemic, but has it been enough to manage the multiplicity of complications when the next school year starts or any unforeseen future challenges? Here are a few considerations.
While access to technology may no longer be an issue, its proper use can remain a problem. A myriad of communication options creates a maze of texts, email, chats, posts, and cloud storage sites. Companies need to have protocols in place to ensure data and important messages are not misplaced.
Technology must support collaboration beyond seeing each other in a Zoom call. Project management software offers a wide range of tools, with updates and new capabilities coming out almost daily, but without standards of use, the tools can become a time-consuming hodgepodge. Set standards and enforce them to optimize and streamline highly capable tools.
The newest technology is not necessary in all cases. Simple, fast and reliable tools that make communication easy are invaluable. Take the intercom on your VOIP phone for example. Nothing is simpler for passing on a quick answer or telling a colleague to drop the Oxford commas. It has been a great tool for us.
Connecting with employees has become an even more important responsibility of executives and leaders. In the hallway conversations or impromptu stand-up meetings don’t happen like they used to. It now takes intentional effort and more time – and quite possibly a substantial amount more. It is time that is hard to optimize, yet it can be neither deferred nor delegated. The payback may be hard to quantify, but it’s an investment that can pay infinite dividends in team members willingness to go the extra mile.
Ultimately, leaders need to pick up the phone and make one-on-one phone calls. Video conferences work for groups, but in the end, old fashioned calls are the tried-and-true recipe for improving engagement. Leaders need to make engagement a priority, set the time aside and use a broad spectrum of communications to maintain employee relations.
Reexamine your internal and external communications from a cultural lens: Are they fortifying and expressing the culture you want and need for the next phase? Communication reinforces culture, and trust grows through confidence fostered by communication. In turn, your messages should espouse trust from your customers, partners and employees.
Rethink coaching and training models, and question how emotional intelligence is developed across your organization now that the sensory clues for self- and social awareness and relationship management are inhibited by distance. These skills are critical in developing and maintaining teamwork and customer relations.
Performance and Talent
Judge performance on production, not when or how it is produced. Performance should take on a new heightened sense of productivity and contribution, based on clear expectations of the end-product and its effect.
In finding new talent, work-from-home companies are no longer impeded by geography when seeking the best possible person for the job. They can seek candidates for their ability to mesh into a distributed team. With changes in performance expectations, recruiting can shift to a decentralized model.
These are not the only factors to consider as businesses continue to adapt to working from home and implement various hybrid models. They are, however, are important elements that Metro Group Maritime has focused on during its past decade as a distributed team. In your business and ours, leaders are found at all layers of the organization, and now is the time to communicate, act and support the transformation of working models. As the evolution of the pandemic has shown, it is never too late to improve your business processes.