Managing remote teams was a big transition for many organizations. It didn’t take managers long to increase their competence and confidence in this virtual work environment that we were thrown into on a global basis. Now, as I work with organizations in various states of return-to-work strategies, it’s important to critically evaluate how we can be most effective in the emerging work realities. The truth is, there are very few employers deploying an entirely remote or on-site work arrangement. Many, to their credit, are going with a blended option, working through the options with their teams on what makes the best sense for the business, individual, manager and team. This approach will help to retain the talent in your organization and will optimize their ability to contribute in a meaningful way. The one size fits all approach is a challenging solution.
One of the more critical skills in this environment is communication. People need to hear often and clearly about the go-forward plans for the business. While many approach these conversations with a high degree of trepidation, not having them is the riskier alternative. I work with management teams on communication strategies to promote a two-way communication process to ensure that all parties are aware of the others position and expectations. There’s no guarantee that we can deliver on all of the expectations but if we are not aware of them, we will likely miss them entirely. Engagement and trust increase exponentially with these conversations, strengthening relationships and increasing effectiveness. It’s also important to openly dispel myths; call the elephants out of the room if you’re aware of them and promote an environment where open discussion and challenging conversations are the norm. What you don’t know can hurt you. Solicit questions before, during and after meetings; not all team members are comfortable raising questions in a group setting so allow room for them to ask questions out of the limelight. Finally, be in curiosity with your team members on all aspects of their employment experience, not just the return-to-work arrangements. Knowing what they think about benefits, leadership, manager efficacy and the like will help you to direct resources towards these experiences accordingly. Be open to their feedback and get creative in delivering against their priorities. I’ve seen companies spend money on programs that had incredibly low participation, the value just wasn’t there for the employees. Reallocating the resources for low impact programs benefitted the organization and the team members.
The next consideration is about physical space. Evaluate your space requirements critically. Leverage hoteling concept to reduce your corporate footprint. This model allows employees to share space when they are in the office and eliminates dedicated offices for those not utilizing them 100% of the time. The real estate savings can also be utilized to fund more progressive programs to promote a higher engagement for team members. One employer reallocated the savings to increase the benefit programs directly to the employees which was very positively received. Sharing these realities with employees is also important. If team members see the real estate footprint shrinking and are aware that the savings were reallocated to the new or enhanced programs, it’s a huge win for all. Recent surveys are indicating a high number of employees that either do not want to return to the office or want a combination of remote and on-premise work arrangement. Also, don’t forget the social aspect of work and include opportunities to get together outside of work for all team members whether they are entirely remote or not. Inclusion is key here to make sure that everyone feels a part of the team whether they are physically there or not. The cost of an invitation is much less than the expense of disengagement. I’d love to hear from you on how you are addressing these challenges and happy to help identifying solutions that have a proven record of success.