The emphasis on COVID-19 may be receding, but remote work is here to stay.
Over the past year I’ve been watching companies start to insist that workers come back to the office at least a few days a week. Having them there is like a security blanket for managers; “if I can see you, then I know you’re working.” Given how well most businesses with office workers thrived when everyone was remote, it’s kind of silly to think that all of a sudden remote work isn’t feasible or productive anymore. It just doesn’t make sense.
Let’s be honest; having everyone back in the office reestablishes the physical power layout; managers in offices with doors, and everyone else out in cubicles (if you’re lucky), or in an open area. Some companies actually have employees competing for seating every morning because they don’t assign permanent seats anymore. (Anyone else feel like we’re in a Dickens novel where Scrooge is looking down over his desk at rows of workers?)
And Then There’s Hybrid Work
Most companies are basing their hybrid work approach on the number of days they want people in the office, not on a well-reasoned strategy that could improve productivity or team cohesiveness. I just got a call from a friend who said the recruiter was asking if they were interested in a “remote” job where they’d have to be in the office for “occasional meetings.” “Where does it stop?” I said. “First it’s a few meetings, then it’s several days a week, and then they want you there all the time.” I narrowly avoided that trap early on — I know it’s real.
The reality is that if you’re a good leader, the development of team culture and productivity does not depend on physical proximity. Furthermore, innovation can happen whether you’re in the office or not. It’s a mindset and a culture, not a roll call.
To make it even easier, collaboration tools have matured so quickly in the last 3 years that savvy users can draw better and faster on digital whiteboards (like in Miro or Zoom) than on physical whiteboards. Plus, creators don’t have to worry about scrambling to find usable whiteboard markers. (When was the last time you found fresh markers in a conference room?)
Workers figured out the remote-work thing; it’s the executives and managers that are still struggling with the mental mind-shift. Here is where we come to understand the difference between managers and real leaders. Leaders with good remote management skills don’t need to have their teams physically present to accomplish great things — I’ve seen it first-hand with corporate clients over the last 3 years.
There are so many advantages to accepting remote workers that businesses who reject that option out-of-hand are missing out on a pool of people who are more than happy to dig in and do the work from home. These are not slackers; these are people who recognize the value of a dedicated workspace they can control, who know how to communicate on multiple channels, know how to structure and deliver their work, and who are just as deserving of raises and promotions as everyone else.
We’re Not Going Back
When the pandemic hit, the business world shifted on its axis. The pandemic was a “major medical event” for the business world, and like any real medical emergency, people started reprioritizing their lives, and what they were willing to do or not do. The shift to flexible work options was necessary then, but now it’s an advantage for businesses who understand — who “get it.”
I’m tired of the scare tactics that I’m seeing online, urging workers to give up on working remotely: consider the source! I would rather focus on improving the skills of the leadership so that they can effectively work with their teams wherever their personnel are situated.
I’ve led remote teams myself, I’ve seen others successfully lead remotely, and I’m ready to show open-minded, thoughtful corporate executives and managers exactly how to do it. With 40,000 hours of remote work experience in the USA and in 32 other countries and territories, I have time-tested methods for mentoring leaders on how to make remote work successful for themselves and their teams. In upcoming posts, I’ll be revealing some of them here. Stay tuned. Or talk to me right now.