As we approach the month milestone for the “Work from Home” order from our local governors as well as national government leaders, there is an enormous amount of appreciation for all of the insights and direct experience that we have gained in the virtual work world. While many of us may feel like remote work experts, there is still so much to learn about the remote work arena. I have facilitated the transition of many companies and teams to partial or full remote work environments and am always eager to share those learnings, especially as we prepare to return to our physical work sites around the world. I have experience in partnering with Fortune 100 companies as well as a number of smaller, global organizations in designing flexible work arrangements to meet their business challenges. I think of the global company that was faced with reducing their financial footprint years ago and as I was consulting with them on an unrelated matter, I offered to model a flexible work arrangement for their unique business challenges. The new model allowed them to reduce headcount and expand their hours of operation to cover the larger geographical requirements by deploying non-traditional work methodologies. The result was hugely successful which lead to porting these practices to other departments outside of the original call center area that launched the pilot program. Today, the program is offered company-wide and has been reported to save money, reduce turnover and increase employee engagement. In fact, when they were required, like so many other companies across the world, to immediately deploy their employees to work from home, this program laid the foundation to increase effectiveness and reduce organizational stress. The COO said that it was nearly a seamless transition.
I always start with the premise that individuals focus on the outcome of what work gets done and keep an open mind to “how” work gets done as that is the platform in which we create exceptional strategies. By focusing on the what and not the how, we empower individuals who are most knowledgeable of the work to determine how they get the work done. People and teams who are allowed to be flexible in the delivery of work are very loyal, committed and reliable to deliver exceptional results to the organization and their clients. I recall an organization that was challenged to consider flexibility due to space limitations. Once we designed a program to meet their needs, they never resumed the traditional work model after their space issues had been remedied. They also realized the benefit of reduced overhead by shrinking their corporate real estate footprint. While we appreciate that there are so many options available to companies that are open to working differently, we also need to appreciate that they also require a holistic approach to the solution. Suffice it to say that you cannot launch the flexible work arrangements and literally, walk away (pun intended!). These programs, and the individuals in them, need support through the change process much like any other change initiative. An infrastructure needs to be created to support the new program to ensure its success. So often when these types of initiatives are launched, they fail and it’s not because of a deficiency in the flexible program but rather, the deficiency always existed, it was just never uncovered before the new program highlighted it. Be open to the opportunity that this presents and solve for it with a broader perspective. The infrastructure needs to include an open communication platform between managers and employees to discuss the options and determine the best one based on the employee, manager and position. I also strongly encourage that training programs be evaluated to include these new work arrangements; can participants engage in the programs remotely, are managers provided skills and training in leading remote teams? Culturally, organizations need to ensure that there isn’t a prevalent “face-time” preference in the organization; an ‘out of sight is out of mind’ mentality can be devastating for this new work alternative.
So many work alternatives, so little time! I am certain that our work world is at the precipice for enormous change. So many employees and companies will opt out of the traditional way of doing business. While change is inevitable, it is also positive. Let’s create that positive change for your organization proactively! I’d love to partner with those interested in exploring the options to creating more compelling work arrangements for their team members and the organization as a whole. It is mutually rewarding and financially beneficial for all involved!