Remote Working and Flexible Work

Uncategorized Aug 18, 2020

I have been advocating that work flexibility be an integral part of any leader's strategy for talent management as a Contemporary Leader.

In this season where we hear a lot of organisations going into virtual remote work, and I thought I would just share a couple of thoughts, because I have done this work with my clients for the last 10 years around flexibility, around remote work, and around telecommuting. Sharing with you what worked and still works and what doesn't work, and perhaps bust some myths that you might have.

The first thing is issuing notebooks, giving your staff permission to go by monitors, and giving them VPN access is not remote work in action. It is a start, because without that structurally is not possible to remote work or telecommute at all.

Three key things that you need to look at right now if you are practising remote work, or having to practise remote work in the near future.

1. It is about Performance Outcomes.

As leaders and implementers of flexibility, we need to make sure that there's clarity between the managers/leaders and the talent or team on what is the performance outcomes. This is particularly important as you no longer have the team/talent where you can “see” them at work. We are no longer in the same space “seeing” others at work instead, we see the outcomes of them at work. So be very clear on the performance outcome and what is realistic in terms of performance outcome in this “new” way of work.

2. Communication channels are defined.

Have clear communication pathways that's laid out. Practice transparency and proactive communication to continue to build the bonds of engagement. If they have a question, who are the SMEs that they should call if they have a question, who do they escalate that question to and how do you communicate back as a team? If you have been having weekly huddles, how does a weekly huddles now take place in a virtual setting? Are they expected to answer phone calls on their mobile or only via emails? 

If you are just implementing remote working or telecommuting, we can’t just pick things up as we would in person. Have we thoughtfully curated what does it mean to have a similar outcome in a remote work setting? How do we still have that connection and engagement even if we are not physically there to give each other a hug or give a high five to one another? How do we still have that work flow of conversation and keep each other updated? Is it only possible through Slack? I have had teams work who worked well the just Telegram, Wattsapp. There are others who have their communications via Zoom or Skype. So regardless whether you have a budget for it or leveraging on free resource at the moment, technology is not the issue. Ensuring sufficient and supportive communication flow is.

3. Greater autonomy in decision making.

In remote working and telecommunity, there will be occasions where to be effective, the team member may need to make a decision and move on. Hence this is a great time to be comfortable to experiment, to pilot to be able to let go. Again it goes to back to management by outcomes and not checkins alone or micromanaging. I once had a boss who said to me and I agree, “Cheryl, if I want to test if he/she is a great leader, I will have him/her implement flexible, remote work.”

Kudos to leaders who have taken the leap, at least structurally to implement some form for flexibility/remote work. What do I mean by that? It means you have taken the leap to provide the equipment needed to enable your talent. There are policies and guidelines in place to support this manner of work.

As I've often said, I think the easiest is to have structural culture pieces in place – hard ware, policies, guidelines.

Game Changer?

The game changer is when you have the behavioural or the culture piece in play. That means being cool in measuring performance by outcomes. That means people know that their careers, training opportunities now promotions are not put on the line because of remote working/flexibility. But the culture - people's behaviour, leadership practices and team cohesiveness is sticky and enables high performing outcomes and innovation despite the need to remote work/flexibility.

Any other questions that you might have around remote working? Have them posted in the comments below.

If you want to take the chance to embed this nature of work into your management transformation, comment below. Now is the time to embrace a different way of work – not just structurally but having the culture transformation piece in place.

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