The world is upside down. The word unprecedented has lost all meaning in this current situation. More so for businesses who are fighting to maintain business continuity. The challenge we face today is how to make sure that we keep running our businesses in a situation which is alien to us. We didn’t know how to work from home. Even companies who have well oiled work from home policies are not ready for this kind of a situation. Why? Simply because we only knew one way or working and all our systems, processed, behaviors, and company cultures were geared towards working together from one or multiple offices. Well it is all changing now. And rapidly. And when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.
For organizations this is a reset of the “way of working”. First reaction in reset mode is always panic. Not only from the senior stakeholders in the organizations, but till the lowest level. The feeling of uncertainty, isolation, unknown makes people nervous. Such a feeling brings down productivity drastically and hampers business continuity.
The crisis is not ending anytime soon. As per Goldman Sachs’ recent investor call, the peak infection will hit by Mid may worldwide and then start receding. In this scenario, lock downs will be a common place occurrence. Even following the recovery, the situation will not return to what we come to know as “normal”. We are entering an era of a “new normal”, which is only caused by once in a lifetime events.
So, is it all gloom and doom for a business trying to maintain business continuity? No! However, this is surely a time to take a very hard look how work gets done in organizations. The concept of “office” is changing and organizations that realize that faster will recover faster. Obviously looking at basic infra, runway, and rationalization comes as a first step. But what after that? How do you make sure that you make your entire workforce, which is not working remotely, becomes productive again?
Here are a few imperatives to make your organization work from home ready
- Get a work from home policy immediately. This policy should not cover who gets WFH and how to avail it. Rather, focus on very detailed guidelines for managers, employees to adapt to the new situation. Help the employees to understand what the expectations are, how to communicate, what is right, what is not right, how should employees setup home work space, what habits should they follow to be effective. The focus of this document is to make everything obvious. Why? Because employees also do not know what to do. They need guidance. Over communication is the right communication.
- Enable your managers. Just as employees, the managers also need guidance to activate the workforce effectively. People managers become extremely critical in making sure that everything is coordinated and running smoothly. Having said that, these are new skills that even experienced managerial workforce doesn’t have. Let alone the top individual contributors you recently promoted to become managers. Managers need guidance in this situation.
- Limit all synchronous communication for only fire fighting and problem solving. If you or senior folks, or managers find themselves on calls the entire day then something is wrong. Immediately activate asynchronous modes (mail, slack or any communication platform) of communication to share information with the right set of people even when they are unavailable. Keep in mind, in these situations, work schedules for different people might be different. Not everyone will be available at the same time on calls. Even if they are how many organizational hours are you spending coordinating and distributing work?
- Build care and empathy at all levels in the workforce. Everyone in the organization is challenged. Different people would have different schedules and everyone would be adjusting various other chores along with work. Someone would have a kid running around, someone might be living alone, someone is living with her entire family in a small space, someone has to cook and organize home along with work and many many more. Build a culture of being understanding on these situations for work to flow smoothly.
- Invest in technology to manage workforce better and take data led decisions. Yes, organizations will not think twice before spending $$ on acquiring new business. But if you do not enable your workforce, how will you deliver that business? Investing in right technology that will help you to manage the talent better in remote situations. In a remote scenario, only technology can help you reach to every corner of your organization and help you manage it. Invest in feedback collection tools, work management tools, virtual appreciation and recognition tools, or enabling tools that help you create the new habits of working in the organization.
The world for all of us will never be the same again. But what we do today will decide if we will enter a better one or a worse one.
We are doing our bit by running a pro bono WFH Hotline. We are here to help you, your managers, or your employees to over come WFH challenges. Feel free to send across your challenges and contact details to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will connect with you immediately.