The Empty Downtown
Within days, downtown offices in many cities around the world turned to ghost towns. Workers were asked to stay home to “flatten the curve.” Most service-oriented businesses, serving the downtown office crowd, were either ordered to close their doors, or voluntarily shut down because there’s no one to serve. Organizations that took many years to study the feasibility of allowing flexible workplaces and work-from-home options suddenly found themselves needing to make decisions overnight to keep their business running.
Even as offices start to open up, the temporary measures that are in place, such as only two people being allowed in an elevator at one time, will mean loss of productivity just waiting to get to one’s desk. To circumvent the potential risks and lost productivity, an emerging trend is now taking place. Some organizations have decided that their employees will either permanently work from home, or will have a “remote-first” policy. Shopify, Upwork, and Barclays are just some examples of companies that are embracing this trend.
Is Remote Working Sustainable?
For many organizations, remote working has always been the modus operandi. Small firms, coaches, consultants, and some high tech firms have always had the option for their employees to work remotely and connect via phone or other technological options. However, it is a significant shift for large corporations. A sudden change in the workplace will have an impact on the corporate culture that sometimes take years to cultivate. You can’t build a culture without people! Perhaps a new “digital” or “hybrid” culture could emerge.
Yahoo! had experimented with remote working until 2013, when remote working was banned by its then CEO, . There were many theories on why it didn’t work for Yahoo!, ranging from reduced productivity to reduced collaboration among colleagues. This is a new era. Perhaps it is time to revisit the idea of remote working as a permanent solution (at least for some). We are all in this now, whether or not we like it. The best way to do this is to look at the possibilities that exist, at the same time, understand how to mitigate the risks that come with them.
Building A Strong Team Environment In A Virtual (Or Semi-Virtual) World
Corporate culture is complex. There are cultures that are developed accidentally, and there are aspirational cultures, according to Patrick Lencioni, leaders must be intentional in building a culture that is aligned to the values and purpose of the organization, and in turn “Walk the talk.” Working in a complex team environment and bringing a diverse group together requires everyone to filter the world in the same fashion. Individuals bring with them their values, perceptions, goals, processes, etc. By writing down organizational values and goals, you can assess alignment with the strategic direction.
Individuals do not have the right to push their opinions on fellow team members. By establishing shared, common principles, individuals and teams can speak to an agreed-upon filter, making conversation focused around principles, rather than people. By doing so, we can ask: “How do your decisions or actions align with our principles?”. We must seek to understand before being understood, and this gives us a framework to do exactly that.
Beyond beliefs, values, and principles, your esprit de corps should also speak to common processes. This is an agreed-upon way of working. The benefit is having a portability strategy – meaning anyone across your team will have an understanding of why and how something was done, regardless of who did the work. This lowers the level of effort to onboard new people and increases productivity in a shorter time frame. Ordinary people can create extraordinary results when given shared common processes and tools.
The working world now sees Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, and GoTo as the de facto communication channel at the workplace. It is important to understand how teams work. Do you understand the concept of team before using these tools?
When you use these tools, you must understand how each of the features in the tool will support you in achieving the results that you want in your team. That is how do they help to build and enhance the culture that is ready for this ever-evolving world where remote working becomes a new option for employees.
CK Tan is one of our Kn/a HR associates and is a trained and experienced HR Investigator.