How Remote work was an additional opportunity to revive workers daily lives

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Just a month ago, remote work was an additional opportunity to revive workers’ daily lives. Today, business has to almost completely switch to remote format, quickly overcoming the challenges of virtual interaction.

New role

An article by The Economist quotes: “The crisis of 2007-2009 has drawn all the attention of CFOs. Whether that CEO was strong or weak depended on the survival of the company. The pandemic and the current crisis have shed light on another corporate function – HR”. And although specialists are closer to the term HC (Human Capital), but the essence of the thesis does not change: the future of business depends on how professional and decisive the HC-head is.

The Economist says HC’s main functions now are to maintain the health of employees and their “morale”, to set up and support total remote work experience, and, if necessary, to rethink and change the organizational design.

Does it feel the same in our country? It turns out that it does. For example, the March survey of AmCham and Deloitte showed that 63% of the surveyed organizations have a temporary headquarters to ensure continuous and productive business activities, and 53% of respondents said that employees of the HR Department are most involved in the work of this headquarters. For 87% of respondents, organizing remote work is one of the most important tasks in the current situation.

Digital changes

The concept of teleworking first appeared in 1972 at the University of Southern California. So it’s not a new phenomenon at all. However, the rapid spread of remote work began only in 2005 and, according to Global Workplace Analytics, by 2019, the application of this concept has increased by 140%. During this time, 21% of Americans have managed to work for companies that systematically use remote work.

Josh Bersin, a well-known expert in the field of talent management, founder of consulting company Bersin by Deloitt, says that over the past 10 years, the market for HR-technologies has grown more than in his entire career. There were more than 4000 technology companies that developed automated solutions for interaction with HR, there was enough venture capital, many ideas were in the incubation stage. The changes were ripe, but they did not happen. Now the pandemic and the crisis leave no choice – we must take advantage of all that we have accumulated.

It is also important that these changes will not be temporary. What we are implementing today will not be an ad hoc solution, crutches. It will stay with us for decades. So what we are doing now needs to be done as thoughtfully as possible, as a long-term solution.

According to forecasts, organizations will change: conditional 50% of the work will remain in a remote format. This applies primarily to those tasks that have long been possible to translate into online, but for some reason we did not do it.

Of course, it’s not just about transferring meetings to Zoom. Rather, it is that we need to reconsider our attitude towards many things in the organization of work. Based on the words of Nitin Nohriya, Dean of Harvard Business School, let’s look at 8 key transitions that companies need to make to survive:

  • From hierarchical structure to network structure.
  • From centralized leadership to distributed leadership.
  • From a fragmented structure, where the departments compete with each other and are as if “autonomous kingdoms”, to a denser, less independent parts.
  • From a concentrated team to a dispersed one. The concept of career changes, it is no longer a progressive vertical growth within the same company, it is the management of your portfolio. A person can cooperate with different businesses in different roles and thus upgrade themselves. At least 43% of “Generation Z” people saw themselves as hygro workers before the pandemic (work on temporary contracts, for different companies). Organizations also needed to rethink their understanding of the team and start actively using the human cloud (a pool of people who are not employed on a permanent basis but are involved in individual projects or tasks). By the way, in our country 30% of companies have already experimented with the human cloud. In the near future there will be more of them, as it will become more difficult to maintain permanent employees. However, there is also a new challenge – to learn how to manage such teams.
  • -From “specialists” to “generalists”. Previously, it was believed that the best specialist is the one who has one advanced “hard” competence and the range of “soft” skills (creativity, empathy, etc.). Then – that there should be two related “hard” competencies, and the requirements for good “soft” training were preserved. Now the need for “software” becomes even deeper. As for “hard” – the boundaries between professions become blurred; activities become hybrid. The ability to understand many directions simultaneously becomes important. Businesses now and in the future will need such “universals”.

At least for the period of the crisis, companies have to abandon detailed long-term scenario plans and move to management through transparent, expressive fundamental principles. Now it is possible to make annual plans only for reduction of alarm level. However, they will have to be rewritten frequently. But it is useful to hold a session at which the company updates its answers to the following questions: Who are we? What idea unites us? What do we believe in? What do we believe in in the conditions that have developed? How did we see our future state, who we wanted to be? And what has changed – who do we want to be under the conditions that exist? How do we want to get out of this stage (and how do we not)? What are we ready for (and not ready)? What are we going to be guided by in our decisions? What is “good” and “bad” for us now? What are the key beliefs underpinning our current way of thinking and acting?

Crisis management is no longer a job for narrow risk and safety experts, but a task for the entire team. First of all – top management, as well as other employees.

From complex policies and procedures to simple and flexible rules. The company will have to say goodbye to every process that does not add value to either an internal or external client. For example, one company uses a “process shredder” tool: each employee can specify which part of the process should be simplified, while maintaining product and value. It is important to create coordination mechanisms that help to get real-time feedback on internal and external changes and find optimal solutions.

Which team wants to see the first faces?

Based on research carried out by consulting companies around the world, a list of 8 criteria for a leader in the current environment can be drawn up. It can be used to evaluate yourself – say, on an 8-point scale.

– To be visionary. The crisis will end, and the question will arise: Are we not ashamed of the way we acted? Are we proud of our steps? Have we really taken this stage and found ourselves, or have we just stayed afloat?

– To be flexible, but also concrete in the expectations of others. Now more than ever, people want to have a leader who has a position.

– To be visible, audible and understandable. To communicate constantly, to create a single information and meaning field.

– To be honest and tell the truth. Even before the crisis started, 83% of employees surveyed in the Edelman Trust Barometer survey said they were afraid of losing their jobs in 2020 (due to automation, digitization, etc.). Now the scale of fears has increased. It is important for people to know the answers, even if they are unpopular. After all, waiting for the unknown is often worse than waiting for him.

– To be sure. A general who runs in peacetime causes laughter. And a general running in time of war is panicking.

– To be real. People need other people today more than ever. So there’s nothing wrong with workers seeing a piece of what’s going on at your house.

– To be empathic. People are looking for support and the leader’s task is to help them find balance. For example, Starbucks in the U.S. offered its employees 20 free psychotherapy sessions to understand and balance emotions, to enter a resource state.

– To be decent corporate citizens. Today we want to work for a business that is socially responsible and does something not only for itself.

To summarize, we can say that the leader now becomes the director of meaning, energy, empathy and learning.

Tips for every day

Firstly, it is useful to introduce daily check-in – systematic morning meetings where employees can consult with their supervisor and with each other about tracking time on current tasks. Subsequently, it may be possible to hold them less frequently, but they should start with daily meetings.

Secondly, the rules of interaction should be agreed upon. In particular, the frequency, means and ideal time for communication should be agreed with colleagues. For example, we use Zoom, from 15 to 17 – online silence time.

Third, there is no need to invent ways of total control over employees. It is necessary to agree with them on another level: the purpose and value, as well as frankly talk about the painful things that concern people. If this is done, then what difference does it make whether the employee does his job in the bathroom or in the middle of the night? The main thing is the results that are in line with the goals and principles.