As I sit here today, having worked from home for the past few months, I cannot help but think about new ways of working in the future. The COVID-19 crisis has forced us to relook at how we work with colleagues and conduct training across the globe. I imagine that for some individuals, this has been a particularly painful process of change.
Thankfully, our office has always been quite flexible and given that we are deemed a remote (from corporate) office, we are accustomed to daily conference calls and video calls. However, for some this is a new challenge. I have two friends that work in offices that require bodies in the chairs, 8 am to 5 pm, hard one hour lunch and no offsite working. Neither of these offices allow leaving fifteen minutes early to get to a child’s ball game. Neither allow working from home when one is sick. Hard old school rules. It is quite surprising as these are both sales offices. Over this month, I have often thought of those business “leaders”. Their minds must be completely blown with all staff working from home, conference calls, and children home from school playing and or yelling in the background. I have thought of them with a chuckle, while on my own conference calls, when I or another, neglected to hit mute in a timely fashion! There is nothing quite like the poorly timed Nerf bullet hitting its target!
During this time, team members are under tremendous pressure. Being a working parent has always had challenges such as juggling two worlds and compartmentalizing in time blocks during the day. But now, the two worlds converge in one location and all the time –at home. Some of your team may also be caring for aging parents. Some may also be dealing with illness, either for themselves, or a loved one. We need to be considering them as a whole person during a whole day, and not just from 8 am – 5 pm.
Travel has been cancelled so we have conducted previously considered “critical in person” meetings via video conferencing tools. Presentations have been sent via email. And do you know what has happened? Business has continued. People have stepped up. We are not only surviving but thriving. True leaders have emerged. Team members’ strengths have been revealed. Travel expenses are down. Connections are up. People are paying more attention in meetings and focusing on the task at hand. We are reaching out and checking on each other like never before. We are more patient and kind. With commute times gone, and a new flexibility in play, people are actually accomplishing more. The block from 8-5 is wider as some are working before and after that window. And it is ok. People are seeing the bigger picture.
As we experience new ways of working, here are a few questions to consider:
What has this time revealed about your leadership style? Has this shined a light on your level of flexibility? Have you been holding onto old school office rules that have been creating a stressful working environment for your team? Has this period forced you to change?
At some point we will all go back to the office. The kids will return to their normal school routine. We will have in person meetings. Travel restrictions will be lifted. We will gather at the water cooler and connect again with each other over the latest show or sporting event.
What will you do differently in your office to continue providing flexibility and an employee-centric workplace? What things will your team need to continue to deliver at this level and quality of work? Will this period show your team how an office can work and cause them to look for another job? Does your leadership style promote your team working at THEIR best or YOUR ideal?
Change is no doubt hard. But during change, especially forced, it can bring out the best in people. It can reveal a side that we have never seen before. Sometimes routines can become so inherent that we do not even realize it. And sometimes a new way of working is just what the doctor ordered.
*Walmart Account Director / Team Lead – PPG Industries
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.