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WFH as a strategic initiative

 

With the recent conditions across the world, many organizations had to rethink their way of working. Obviously for certain businesses working from home (WFH) was not a new thing, but for the majority, it was challenging. We all know WFH is not new. However, some of the business leaders are struggling to deal with the nature of the WFH. In this article, I am trying to share my view on “Why” they see it as a challenge and “How” they should see it as an opportunity.

Leaders’ role

Forward-thinking leaders should see the opportunity, not the threat. Leaders’ focus should be to understand the goals in the short-term as well as long-term. They should understand the rationale behind this. In the traditional setup, we were asked to stay within the office premises for 8 or 9 hours and there was a supervisor who assigned the work to everyone in his/her team. It was a command-driven culture where the number of hours did matter. But gradually people started to think beyond the basics and found that the number of hours is no longer a measurement, instead, delivery should be measured against what is promised. This is very prominent in the software industry than any other business. With that flexibility was a hot topic and certain organizations started to promote flexibility as a work benefit. However, ordinary organizations cannot straightaway adopt if they have not built a trust-based culture where the employees do get the right to decide what they do to assure the bigger goals are met. More importantly, commitment from both leadership and employees is required to build such a culture where they value the trust within the organization. Should you worry about building it remotely now? I think it is not the focus. It will be more challenging to build a new working culture from the scratch, but here is a golden opportunity to remove the traditional hat and think freshly.

The new rules of WFH

With more people working remotely, we should not be trying to replicate the same working rules, regulations, and styles. Introducing the mandated working shifts (if it’s not necessary), tracking the total number of working hours through traditional HR systems, use formal communication, and managers going behind the individuals on work distractions during the daytime would not be futuristic. At least now you must trust your employees and delegate the work. For me “Manager or Leads can focus on what and teams/individuals can decide how best they can satisfy that and how best they can work to achieve that. Managers should model the behavior they want to see in others. Be extra flexible. Especially during this period managers should be more flexible than ever. You need to frequently talk to your team and ask about the challenges they face, be open to negotiating the work schedules and windows, or even shorter work shifts on given days. As leaders or managers, you must have already taken hard decisions by now. So, why not you remove your traditional hat?

Opportunity won’t last long

“Every dark cloud has a silver lining” isn’t it? For me, leaders should think of WFH as a strategic initiative. Introduce new policies, get the HR to wear the modern HR hat, and train and set the expectations to the immediate leaders/managers on the modern way of getting work done from the teams. Use the tools which are necessary to facilitate the work, not to track the in/out time or number of hours they worked on a given day and to capture the screens of the workers and evaluate if they are browsing the internet during the working hours. These measures drive away from the productivity of the individuals, instead, they fear enjoying the work. Focus more on how to make WFH more effective. Identify the organizational processes that block it. Redefine them. Identify more creative ways to socialize the teams and how effectively we can coordinate the work and assure the on-time delivery of the work with the expected level of quality that meets the organizational goals. It does not have to be the perfect solution at first, but WFH will be more cost-effective for both employer and employee. So, leadership will have to engage with employees very closely and work together creatively.

Rethink

Given the situation, you might not be able to facilitate everything. But, at least coming out from the standard operating practices mindset and be open and flexible for the changes is important at this moment. If we carefully look at the history, every disruption has helped the business to open new opportunities. Ex – new org structure, temporary work agreements, contractor models, etc. So, why not choose WFH as a strategic initiative and see the possibility of utilizing it for our advantage? You can revisit the utilities, real estate costs, rentals, and all other overhead costs.

Finally, remove the traditional hat and ready to be more tactful during this time. WFH should be a strategic initiative. Be extra flexible, Understand the importance, lead by example, adjust work expectations, get rid of the traditional working shifts and start to think of introducing more asynchronous work, rethink the collaboration, focus more on the quality outcomes than continuous monitoring and let your team decide how best they can be part of your goals.

SME & start-up specialist who has helped more than 30 SME’s and around 10 start-ups in their digital transformation initiatives from a systems & marketing viewpoint. An engineer by qualification, Sujit has been adept in understanding business processes because of which he has been a key member in devising core system implementation for B2B and B2C organizations.

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