Today’s only new knowledge required; two meters is about the length of two supermarket trolleys and remote working is a new feature of life…
… and likely to become a feature of the everyday.
Employers who insist on dragging people into offices will find it difficult to recruit. Sweeping, open-plan offices, blaring fluorescent lights, battery-hen-workstations, will go the way of the gas lamp.
If remote is the new close. Temporary, the new permanent. Managers will have to think about how they look after their teams and manage performance.
Conventional management is based on knowing people founded on everything from a quiet word, to a rousing, lifting-the-spirits. Watching, eye contact, listening to what is said and more important what’s not.
Management is a pat on the back, an arm around the shoulder and speaks volumes.
Managing at arms length? A new skill. If remote working moves beyond the temporary, into the ‘this is the way we do things’, there’s stuff we have to get right.
It’s important everyone knows how they’ll be working. Making sure they don’t feel abandoned. Working from the kitchen table can feel like working from a desert island. Creating connectedness is a new management skill.
The water cooler moments, exchanges in the lift, the quick word in the corridor are all components of office life. How will teams talk together? Keep each other updated? The role of good-gossip! A drink on the way home, a coffee in the canteen.
Working at the dinner table… it’ll be easy to lose sight of the big picture. How the individual fits into the plan, the mission, the objectives.
Have your people got the kit they need? Putting up with uncomfortable can only be done for so long.
Some companies have been sending office chairs and repeater screens, to home workers. Avoiding humpty-back from the dining room chair and going boss-eyed from laptops. It looks like an investment to me.
Can everyone work the technology? Are some people always late logging-in for an online meeting? Maybe they’re getting into a tangle? Take them to one side with a quiet phone call;
‘Are you having the same trouble I had? Let’s sort this out and make your life a bit easier. Let’s go through it together…’
Don’t abandon people and assume they know how to work remotely. It’s a new skill for them, as much as it is for managers.
Remember, not everyone has the luxury of a study.
Be flexible about time. Some people may find it easier to focus on complex work in the evenings and late, when the kids are in bed…
Face-to-face working is based around routine; regular meetings, open-door, a quick phone-call. All that changes.
Agree ways of working. Produce a schedule, let everyone see what everyone else is doing, keeping each other updated. File sharing is easy with the Cloud.
Remote working can encourage cliques. Little groups emerge, not good for efficiency or morale. Insist, all meetings are logged and wherever possible, scheduled.
Keep reminding everyone about the big picture. How their contribution fits in. Do that by constantly reviewing the short-term-goals. Be ready to flex and be nimble.
Review your goals and review them again. Setting expectations where people work together, in an office is one thing. Be clear about what your expectations are and be sure people understand what the targets and timelines are and get clear buy-in, from the outset.
During video conferencing, keep a look out for the quiet ones.
Be prepared to have an off-line chat, making sure they’re coping at home and there are no issues.
Create ‘water-cooler’ moments so people can talk to each other, spark off each other and share ideas. Make time for social conversations.
Plan a daily gossip. What’s on the telly and latest from BoJo. Think about how you can support people who have family members, victim of CV-19.
Arrange a night-out-in. Set up a group chat, bring your favourite drink and have a gossip.
Think about the one-2-ones; keep doing them on the phone, better still FaceTime. Check on wellbeing, worries and workload. Keep the rhythm.
Your people may not be nearby but that’s no excuse for not keeping them close.
News and Comment from Roy Lilley