3-phase approach for moving forward
By Niels Kemp
Due to the sudden onset of lockdown measures, most office workers were sent home to work remotely. While everyone scrambled to adapt to new work practices, some had good experiences, others the opposite, but cumulatively we have gained lots of learning about remote working.
Opportunity for Transformation and Change
A client recently stated with a roar of laughter: ‘Everyone wants transformation, but no one wants to change’. How true that is. We often appreciate the need for transformation somewhere in the system, but not if it affects us individually.
Agile & Remote Working is a good example of this. It offers a lot of promise for transforming work styles, behaviours, and organisations, but changing individuals is difficult. The idea of agility sounds good, but remote working feels like losing control, resulting in resistance, and little transformation.
Then suddenly most of us were forced to set up 100% remote working practices overnight.
Did businesses suddenly stop operating? No. Did the work stop? No. Did meetings go virtual? Yes. Was it difficult? Yes. Has it made us rethink? Absolutely.
For years, few organisations had the impetus to fully embrace Agile and Remote Working, and those who did, sometimes ended up calling the remote workers back to the office (Yahoo, 2013). Hence, all the transformative opportunities of Agile & Remote Working did not materialise in full, and the impact was often watered down by individuals resisting it. The idea of agility is good, but I prefer to keep working with my staff the way I have always done.
What was unthinkable before Covid-19, suddenly forced us to change the way we work, resulting in lots of challenges, but also lots of learning, and put us closer to gaining those long desired transformational benefits.
What Have We Learnt So Far?
Many of us have discovered that some of the meetings we used to conduct face-to-face were not effective or even necessary, and that it can be just as effective, if not more, to conduct some types of meetings virtually. On the other hand, it is also clear that some types of meetings are better conducted face-to-face.
Some have found that working at home has proved to be more productive for the type of work that requires focus, mainly because the disruptions by colleagues in the office have been a lot less. Others miss the social and informal interaction in the office, and it affects their motivation.
Obviously, personal circumstances in the home environment, individual job scope, availability of support systems, and worries about the future, have resulted in individuals having quite different experiences, encapsulating both positive and negative learning.
There are numerous implications to explore and address, and we believe that this could have a profound impact on how we continue to organise our work, organisations and workplaces, allowing us to build sustainable solutions aimed at building better employee well-being and performance.
How To Go About It?
We have developed a 3-phase process divided out over 8 steps to help organisations capture the learning and to enable them to come out of this stronger than ever:
Phase 1: Moving back to the workplace
When the lockdowns ease up, it is essential to capture what everyone has learnt from working remotely. This learning could revolutionise work practices and make us rethink how work is organised as well as how we work together.
There is also the opportunity to make aspects of remote working a permanent part of how work is carried out. Are some roles more suitable for home working than others?
Employers also need to be able to address concerns such as: Is it safe to go back to the office? What hygiene procedures have been put in place?
Phase 2: Analyse for long-term optimisation
Having addressed the critical issues, there is also an opportunity to revisit behaviours and culture. Are the behaviours we cherish still the right behaviours, and if they are, did they flourish or flounder during lockdown?
We may need to rethink the workplace and the activities it supports, and possibly redefine workspace in broader terms than in the past.
Phase 3: Embrace new work practices
The changes to how we work and where we work is bound to cause upheaval for many of us. Instilling and managing this agility requires change management, from communication, to co-creation of solutions to coaching and training to ensure everyone is working together more effectively than ever.
We are in the midst of challenging times, but with the right approach, we believe there is plentiful of learning to benefit from, and by embracing a process of assessment and analysis, there are great opportunities for moving forward in a stronger position than before.