27 Dec 2020

COVID-19 has certainly redefined the way of working. Organizations are now forced to think about handling teams and people across geographies. While many companies always had “work from home” policies in place, today’s biggest concern has been around crumbling social networks within organizations. For most teams, the pandemic has either brought colleagues closer or has driven them increasingly apart. Transitioning from the era of work-life balance to an era of work-life integration, every person in the organization has a huge role to play. Good news is that there are a few aspects in my perspective that can play a large role in making the “WFA” successful.

  1. Trust, a prerequisite: To be effectively working remotely, leaders must be willing to trust their teams entirely. Understandably, physical absence of teams makes it difficult to support one another, but trust is the prerequisite for remote working. Repetition and regularity build trust which means that every team needs to find a rhythm and stick to it. Make room for people to share their thoughts on a regular basis, whatever the frequency is. Showing a positive intent in their actions will implicitly promise patience and trust.
    Another way to build trust is to increase informal interactions. Promote these interactions within team members and drive these meetings without any agenda. On the other hand, employees should help enable this process since “trust” isn’t a one-way street.
  2. New age of empathy: This is a tough one, but ought to be done. We might have reached an extreme limit of individualism with each of us confined to our homes and hugely exposed to social media, the only source of social networking available now. With fewer face to face interactions, it is easy for everyone to lack communication and empathetic skills. But we will need to devise organizations where every person has a voice.
    Leaders and employees should develop a skill to understand virtual cues, being more observant and paying attention to signs of disengagement or difficulty. Acknowledging personality and lifestyle differences becomes imperative. Ensuring every call or meeting is inclusive, with everyone participating is essential. This is might be a good time to restore belief in the concept of togetherness.
  3. Identity crisis: Offices are often the place where professional identities are forged. Our identities are not merely assigned to us; they are realized and achieved through others. With remote working, this could be a challenge for some one new joining an organization or for graduates fresh out of college.
    Leaders or managers will now play a crucial role in helping their team members build their identities within organizations. Encouraging participation from these members in meetings, highlighting their contributions to relevant stakeholders, and helping them navigate through the system is important. Having regular meets with each of the team member, building a relationship and more importantly, providing and seeking feedback is crucial. Leaders will need to enable networking across teams which means one is not confined to a respective team but has access to and is able to build connections across the organization.
  4. Blended working: Just like blended learning, the way forward to the “new way of working” is blended working – a combination of digital and physical working – “Phygital”. We cannot entirely rule out benefits a face to face interaction has. There will be certain aspects of work that are done better when people physically interact. Virtual meetings are largely time-bound and limit discussions to a great extent. Innovation or creative discussions for example happen better when people brainstorm together, in person with everyone having the same context.
    Knowledge in these times can easily get limited to the interactions one has. Unlike in an office set-up where knowledge is more free flowing and exchanged via casual conversations, the virtual world, at least until now limits this. Organizations need to find ways to promote exchange of learnings and encourage knowledge sharing. Organizations and leaders must consciously tread this combination of “phygital” working carefully, going forward.

Many of these were already in development or were being emphasized within organizations, but the arrival of COVID-19 has accelerated their acceptance, and these might be here to stay. Performance metrics should be tuned to these needs and enable every employee in the organization to drive change. Organization structures should ensure a feasible span of control for every Manager.

Starting from industrial revolution to digital revolution, we have moved from physical labor to brain labor. Now, it is time for some mind labor…So, are we ready to “WFA”??

References:

  • https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/17/opinion/coronavirus-office-telecommuting.html?auth=link-dismiss-google1tap
  • https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/how-ready-are-you-for-the-work-from-anywhere-era-15411

–By Akhila

Authors bio:

With over 6 years of HR experience, I have worked predominantly as an HR Business partner and currently working as HR Leader for Noodle.ai .  I’m a BE in Medical Electronics from BMS College of Engineering, Bangalore and have completed PGDM from T.A Pai Institute of Management, Manipal.

Previously an Engineer, was keen to move into the people space and hence did an MBA with a specialisation in HR. People and their behaviour always intrigued me. I’m a huge believer of the concept of  “Employees first, Customers second”. Human Resources as a field has immense potential to make tangible and intangible differences to an organization and this is something that drives me every single day in this profession!If you have any comments or suggestions for this blog, I would love to chat with you. You can reach me @akhila.manjunath19@gmail,com

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