Following our national COVID-19 lockdown and what essentially became a remote working experiment, businesses have had to revise their working practices. Many have since adopted a hybrid approach to working but are still figuring out if this is going to work for them long term.
Balancing how employees feel about this has been one of the things that businesses have found difficult to get right. Those who have enjoyed working remotely may have found it harder to return and questioned why it happened; some may have been eagerly waiting to go back, and others hoping for a combination. This begs the question: how have you adjusted your working ways so that you can combine elements of both remote working and office work? And, more importantly, have you made the right decisions for your business?
Each business will have had their unique issues and challenges when thinking about this and will have needed to devise a plan which works for them. In fact, some may even still be working through this transition. For that reason, we thought it might be helpful to suggest some areas of consideration if you feel the need to revise, or take a moment to assess, your approach.
Due to its flexible nature, remote working will have differed from business to business. As a company, you will have had to decide how remote working would look for you. Here are some questions to help you reflect on its success:
And when it came to asking people to work in the office, did you consider why you were asking them to do this? If there was a specific, beneficial reason then you probably found that they were more open to it. Have these reasons now changed?
A lack of trust can be detrimental to a business – it can affect loyalty, productivity, and company culture.
A lack of trust was one reason many businesses were reluctant to embrace remote working. They were worried productivity levels would drop, and so they desired visibility of their staff; but the pandemic showed otherwise. Therefore, ask yourself: did you expect people to return to the office purely for visibility? Or were there valid reasons for them to returning, such as concerns that the work wasn’t being delivered effectively in a remote setting? If your staff felt they were being asked into the office to prove they were working, that will have had a massive impact on their trust in you.
It can be uncomfortable trusting people so completely, as it puts you in a vulnerable position. But being trusted is a huge motivator for people and they will want to deliver. It’s important they know what is expected of them, so if you haven’t already, be sure to set out clear productivity outcomes: what they are expected to achieve and by when.
But if you’re feeling productivity isn’t high enough, your managers might need to try and understand where that is coming from and see if there is any concrete evidence to support it. A conversation should be had to understand why they aren’t producing and then support put in place to help.
We have covered this topic extensively in other resources (see links above), but ultimately it comes down to a requirement for managers to upskill and make sure they have adapted their skills to managing remotely. If you still need support in this area, have a look at our Leading and Managing Remote Teams Training Package, or buy any of the relevant courses individually.
If you’ve decided that remote working is to be a permanent fixture of the business, communication will have had to be considered seriously, and solutions put in place to help ensure communication is effective. Are you now doing the following?
You may have put these in place during lockdown, and stuck with them since returning to the office, but have you checked that they are still effective? A survey to assess the communication of the company may be worthwhile at this point.
Overall, communication must be regular to reduce a disconnect from the team, and to ensure everyone is happy, functioning, and doesn’t feel abandoned. A lot of visual cues disappear when you work remotely, and you can’t always sense as quickly how someone is feeling or if they are struggling.
Remote working can affect people’s mental health – both positively and negatively. It’s important to consider what means you have put in place to help in this area, especially if you have rolled out a more extensive remote working style. Making sure managers are still talking to their team members regularly, especially those who may still not have fully embraced the hybrid approach, is particularly important. Finding out what they are still struggling with and putting strategies in place to support them will go a long way to helping to resolve this.
As we know this is a hugely important topic, we have some resources that can help support your staff and their mental health.
Remote working is said to be successful, but this may be down to the fact that teams and relationships were likely to have already been well established. Ask yourself, did things change once employees began to move jobs or change roles and new members joined your organisation? Did you give careful consideration regarding your new starters, including how they were going to be introduced and welcomed into the company and their team?
The onboarding process may be quite different, especially if it has gone through a digital transformation and is now done remotely, and a lot more attention will have had to have been given to the new starters to ensure they settle in, as it will be harder to form relationships. If you’re looking for ways to do this, arranging a number of face-to-face team meetings or team away days might help, or regular one-to-ones to begin with, or holding virtual team building sessions.
Overall, establishing the newcomers in the team is important – if only to avoid having to go through the recruitment process and onboarding process all over again!
Remote working will have had an impact on the type of training that has been, or can be, carried out, so you may have had to re-think your training plan. If you still haven’t considered them, digital resources are useful here, especially as they proved to be so successful during lockdown. As a result, many businesses considered a digital transformation, and mulled over questions such as, how do we decide what needs to be digitised? Do we need a blended approach? Do we have the skills needed to carry out the digital transformation, or do we reach out to other companies? If this was you, it might be a good opportunity to now engage with your staff members and send out a survey to discover their views on your new approach to training. Have their likes, dislikes, needs and wants changed?We have packed this article full of information in order to try to help you assess your approach to hybrid working and discover whether it’s been a success or if it needs adjusting. It’s a big task, and if you need further help or advice, our Learning Training Consultants have helped many businesses with their re-boarding and digital transformation plans. Feel free to reach out and contact us at email@example.com.