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Remote Working…. the new norm?

After the hit of COVID 19 globally, businesses are now starting to look at the return to the office and plans on how to execute this in a safe way whilst also acknowledging that remote working has leapt forward 10 years in the past 3 months.

I think it is important to note we are currently all working at home during a global pandemic (excluding all amazing key workers) and that this is very different to a remote or flexible working. In my personal opinion companies that look to pull remote work or revert back to old ways of working may face backlash from their employees and ultimately may not have a choice in this with the guidelines the government are expected to release.

I wanted pop down a few of my thoughts on some of the key things to think over.

Physical set up in the office
Short term any return to work will need to address social distancing across desk and communal areas. This is perhaps the time to assess hot desks that help with distancing but also the flotation of people in and out of the office at any one time due to remote working. It will be important to think about meeting rooms and physical space people need, no more 6 people in a 4 person meeting room for a period of time.

By embracing remote working we need to think about the technology used inside the office. We have all managed meetings across Teams/Zoom/Lifesize etc, but we were ALL remote. We now need to think through how we are fully inclusive to those joining a face to face meeting but remotely to ensure productivity and engagement remains high. 

I have been concerned over the past few months that we would see people panic buy technology solutions rather than fully understanding the audience, business requirements and need. The return to the office and “normality” will hopefully bring with it some head space to review these challenges and approach this task in a more consultative approach. 

We have also seen a big trend in “use what you have/what you can get” from a tech POV. Security and compliance was less of the focus across organisations (was an ongoing IT worry!) and just enabling users was the priority. This will now need to be addressed with the appropriate solutions being introduced and rolled out across teams. 

Keeping teams up to date on next steps and progress whilst assessing general feeling of the team is going to be pivotal! Not everyone is in the same situation when it comes to COVID, parents and those in high risk bands will feel far differently to those who feel less impacted and that are just desperate to return to the office. 

It’s important to capture employee sentiment, understand the overall morale of your team and flex/adapt to how people are feeling where needed.

People have pulled together during the past few months and have adapted, it is important to take these learnings with us moving forward. Share experiences across teams and depts and figure out how these could be replicated to help enable people to be as effective and as engaged as possible. 

COVID has meant organisations have had to be super reactive to remote working, many not having time to address any policies or documentation. Remote and flexible working is here to stay, this needs to be addressed so that people have clarity and avoid any shades of grey.

Reinventing management styles
Over the past few months, the majority of managers have already had to lead their teams through a period of sudden change coupled with increased anxiety and uncertainty.

We’re now asking them to manage, not just a change in working space, but lasting changes in how to manage their employees, and how those people will choose to work moving forward.

Companies will need to support their managers to be more adaptable, flexible and become adept at change management.  Encouraging managers to engage with employees in the right way, at the right time can be a powerful tool to minimise the duration and impact of the disruption.

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