Commentary

Virtual Working Is Here: Stop Worrying, Start Adapting

Here we are, nearing the end of the third quarter of a business year like no other, and the COVID-19-related headlines for the most part still aren’t great. If you haven’t already figured it out, it’s time to accept that when it comes to working from home, it’s here to stay until a vaccine is widely available. 

For a significant number of companies, working remotely has been a core part of  their company culture, even pre-COVID.

Today, other companies are recognizing not only the tremendous savings working remotely offers, but that they’re seeing the same level of productivity from their staff regardless of where they work.

Perhaps more striking, there’s been a renewed conversation about the 4-day work week in the U.K. and the U.S., something most would have never thought possible just six months ago.

So we all agree that remote work is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. Now what? Here are the four factors that will influence the future of flexible working. 

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Trust: Many senior management teams are grappling with having to trust teams working from home. I mean, if you can’t see someone, how do you know they’re working? 

Of course, any employer can tell you that time in the office doesn’t equal productivity. Managers need to rethink what they value, and how they measure it. Forget about seeing them personally. Think about seeing the results of the work they do. That takes good management, and the ability to trust your people. If you can’t trust them, you should question whether they’re the right people, or if you’re measuring for the right things. 

Corporate culture redux: We may be going in and out of lockdowns, either nationally or locally, so it’s crucial for companies to continue to focus on their culture. These times call for a bit of creativity: Think about staggering working times, reducing the number of people needed in meetings, increasing use of virtual tools to connect, collaborate, and create. 

For instance, we encourage a “no meeting Friday” to give team members a breather to catch up or simply take some personal time. We also mark our meetings as “optional” wherever possible. 

Deepen your talent pool: One of the benefits of a virtual structure is the ability to expand the talent pool. You’re not restricted to a single location, and there’s no bias toward those who live in bigger, more expensive cities. There’s a world of brilliant talent out there you wouldn’t be able to tap into if showing up at the office was requisite. 

While the pandemic won’t mean the end of the office, it will lead to a major shift in how employees, managers and business leaders structure and manage their workforce. That will include greater flexibility, and the consequences could be hugely positive in ways measured beyond financial.

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