One of the positive things to come out of the COVID-19 crisis is the fact that organisations around the world have finally removed the barriers to their staff being able to work from home. As someone who has been doing it since the early 2000s, there were never any technological barriers to people doing so, most of the issues centered around a lack of trust or the intransigence of a senior manager who insisted that people could only work productively in an office.
Once managers overcome that fixed mindset thinking and open themselves up to the opportunities that remote working offers, then the rewards can be great.
Cisco is one such organisation. For over 10 years 90% of their employees have been telecommuting once a week. This saves over three million hours of commuting, providing them with $270m more productive time and stopping over 47,000 tons of carbon from being pumped into the atmosphere. The numbers for remote working certainly stack up.
Buoyed by the success of remote working, many organisations are now thinking of doing it full-time. Significantly reducing their floor-space by taking away offices and dismantling those lovely open plan arrangements that were supposed to increase productivity, but instead led to an influx of headphones.
However, making working from home (WFH) the only option would be a bad thing to do for most organisations because not all of their work can (or should) be done remotely and it’s not an approach that suits everyone’s personality.
Working from home should be one of the options available to staff, such that they are able to best select the workspace they need to be in, in order to achieve the targets that have been set. That’s what all the great cultures do including the aforementioned Cisco, plus companies like Salesforce and Atlassian, to name just a few.
These cultures recognise that in order to be successful their people need to feel connected to a culture they believe in. Then they need to be trusted and empowered to deliver. Where they do it is often not specified, but there’s a recognition that some work requires physical co-location for periods of time; some work requires face-to-face availability and everything else can be done at their own pace and in their own space.
Surveillance software isn’t used to track what’s been done as that merely undermines the trust. These organisations instead focus on doing three things really well:
- They co-create a culture that people feel a sense of belonging to because they recognise that this is the foundation for all productive work
- They have team leaders that know how to set and manage people to expectations so that there is no ambiguity about the products or quality that’s expected
- They manage underperformers with empathy but firmness to ensure that nobody undermines the culture or trust that exists.
This ‘design your week’ approach is a sign that an organisation is ‘people-first’ in action, not just in words. Those that work in this way aren’t looking to save money on real estate, they are realistic about the interactive requirements that people within their cultures need and prioritise accordingly. They invest in quiet spaces, group spaces, collaboration tools, common sense processes, management training and coaching, team empowerment and, most of all, cultural definition — upon which everything is built.
In these organisations, WFH is one option, but not the only one.
Does your organisation allow you to design your week?
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