It’s a tough and uncertain time for employers and employees alike. Many organisations have had no choice but to rethink what they can accomplish with a remote workforce. As individuals, we have had to adjust to working from home with all the different factors that our personal lives bring.
We’ve embraced the ‘new normal’ (probably the most overused phrase since the pandemic began) because there was no choice. It begs the question though, with the future of office work hanging in the balance, what happens to company culture if organisations become ‘location agnostic’? Slack, Facebook and Twitter are just some of the big technology players whose business models can support distributed and more flexible working. However, large and small organisations across industries will also need to find their own way of emulating this. The Senior Vice President of Slack, Robby Kwok, has already stated they will become a much more distributed company, featuring permanent home working.
“Most employees will have the option to work remotely on a permanent basis if they choose, and we will begin to increasingly hire employees who are permanently remote.”
Robby Kwok, Senior VP, Slack
Kwok confirms that there will be fewer physical amenities, less focus on in-person meetings, and more options for employees to pursue “solo work.” How they transition into this will depend upon determining the options available, the strategy choices Slack needs to make, and a workable plan around how best to support their colleagues and company over the long term.
The service offerings delivered by these tech giants make it easier to consider permanent home working, but for many other organisations in different industries, this could mean a shift into uncharted territory, with wider implications for people and organisational culture.
The reality hits home
For some people, the Covid-19 pandemic has altered their perceptions. Pushing a reset button, this situation has forced them to evaluate their current status and their values, posing questions about their work, the future, and the things that are most important to them. Many have asked themselves: “How do I want to live?”
When dealing with this mix of employee expectations, and adding in commercial considerations, many businesses are rapidly rewriting the playbook for the future of remote working. From an organisational viewpoint, how leaders support their employees through this change and uncertainty is going to be a vital test of leadership skills, but you need the right organisational culture to support the future needs and expectations of all stakeholders. Making sound business decisions now, that are sustainable and scalable, rather than a quick fix, will require a long-term view to get better results in the years to come.
Getting the necessities right
Motivation, consistency, and clear communication are crucial to success during this time, and individuals will be leaning on their managers, coaches, and leaders more than ever. Leaders need support in facilitating conversations, gauging motivation, and helping each person find their productivity through their natural abilities and inclinations. The strategy, culture and climate of the organisation must combine to allow teams to do their best work; nurturing people and guiding them through change. This will allow people to feel supported and gives a positive employee experience.
Problems of organisational climate arise when you’re not paying attention and a malaise settles in, bringing with it a decline in productivity, damage to collaboration and an increase in employee retention issues. In the midst of change, there may be a lack of psychological safety. This could manifest in a number of different ways: a focus upon failures rather than successes, systems and structures that are hindering effectiveness and chronic issues that never get resolved.
Empowerment fosters a positive working environment. Success is created not by luck or coincidence, but by consistently taking action and developing the ability to overcome obstacles. Without empowerment, an organisation runs the risk of modelling itself purely on the views and ideas of the few people at the top rather than the majority. Micro-management and the authoritarian leadership styles that prevail could stifle innovation and thinking. Remote working will not succeed in this environment.
Here’s how you can foster a climate of empowerment in your team:
Take a people-first approach. More than ever, it’s important to give greater consideration to people as individuals, their non-work priorities, their needs and preferences. Coaching rather than micro-managing will keep relationships on an adult-to-adult basis. Ensure your organisation supports and encourages leaders and managers to develop their coaching skills.
Seek to build trust. Working from home has required a certain level of trust but go further than that. Seek to individualise working practices as far as you can. What does each team member need for it to work for them? See employee experience as an individual approach.
Revisit the company’s core values (or create some if you haven’t already) and make sure that behaviours and expectations within your team align with those values.
Be open to embracing new ways of working. People’s expectations on how they balance their work and home lives may now be one of the biggest drivers of how they evaluate their current role or new opportunities. How your organisation embraces remote work will likely play a part in retaining and attracting talent.
Build collaboration and empowerment into the team so that remote working is set up for success. Foster a culture of high will and high skill. Take time out to understand your own beliefs about team and individual capability. If a team member feels they can do something new or differently, let them try. Most people will have made a judgement about what they can or can’t achieve. Test out their capabilities, then review the results and let them self-evaluate before offering your thoughts.
- How can I provide the climate to create autonomy for the team to make decisions without consulting others?
- How much decision-making capability do I need to build?
- How much power can the team have to take action without oversight?
- How will the team perform if I don’t check-in as frequently?
Developing your team culture
For more support on creating a strong team culture, we’ve developed some materials that can help:
As a leader, how have you set the tone for how your team works? Our worksheet can help you measure the cultural climate of your team.