Virtual Teams

What have we learned about working from home – Part 2

This is the second blog in a series of 3 designed to capture the learning from this unique period of working from home, see if you had similar experiences and make some recommendations on how we embed working from home into the new normal. The content comes from our new white paper on working from home.

  • Part 1 of this series of blogs looked at the initial concerns that people faced when they suddenly had to work from home, often with little preparation and how the challenges changed as people started to get used to working from home and needed to make the experience more sustainable.
  • In this blog, part 2 we will concentrate on the additional people challenges that are coming from a phased return to work and more mixed methods of working. We will identify the trends that are becoming clearer about the new ways of working that will emerge.
  • In part 3 we will draw on this learning and our experience of 30 years of training people to work remotely to identify the key individual and management challenges in working from home and what to do about them.

If you can’t wait for the last blog or want to get the content of all 3 as a pdf download you can get our working from home white paper.

Relaxing the lockdown – mixed ways of working

As we write this in mid-2020 the lockdown was beginning to be released in Europe. Other regions like the Americas are still in a growth phase of the virus. Asia was returning to a more normal, if socially distanced, way of working but China and other countries are experiencing local spikes of reinfection.

Some people, “returned to work” (as if it had not been working when we did it from home). Many individuals continue to work from home. Others remain furloughed or were laid off. Others had worked away from home throughout, maintaining essential services and activity. Still others around the world started to return to their workplaces, often for one or two days per week to workplaces that had been redesigned to enable social distancing and minimize individual contact.

Some companies experienced resentment between the different groups. People who continued to work saw themselves as having taken all the risks while others were safe at home. Some people working long days from home resented those on furlough getting paid for doing nothing.

Managers had to find new ways to communicate to and recognize the contributions of these groups who had very different experiences during the lockdown period. They needed to give reassurance and key messages about a safe return to work.

Teams could now include all these different types of working at once. How will we continue to engage people with these very different experiences of work?

We produced a free sample virtual team meeting plan for managers to use to re-launch their teams virtually, you can download a copy here.

Individuals are moving from a blanket instruction not to leave home to a more nuanced message of restarting the economy but exercising individual judgment to stay safe. Different people have very different personal circumstances and attitudes to risk.

We need to be prepared for a further period of volatility and some unique challenges in restarting our activities. In many ways this will prove more difficult than the sudden but compulsory move to home working. We need to make organizational and individual choices and plans that find the right balance between our health and safety and the needs of our businesses and the economy.

Travel and social distancing restrictions will probably continue well into 2021 and may change at short notice and vary in different locations.

Some individuals may be unable or unwilling to work in an office, travel or attend collective meetings and we need to find ways of working that are inclusive to all these different groups.

Entering the new normal

Some of our clients, particularly in Asia are already returning to a more normal situation, people are back to their offices, usually on a staggered basis and with increased social distance. It is too early to say exactly how this experience will impact ways of working for the long term. It seems likely to accelerate some existing trends.

Current thinking is that

  • Whilst safety and security remain paramount, some level of risk will be necessary to get the world’s economy going.
  • Demand for home working at least part of time will remain higher than it was with increased demand from both individuals and organizations.
  • Online meetings will be the primary way teams will collaborate for an extended period.
  • This crisis will give a boost to many organizations’ digital transformation efforts. Digital business models, jobs and services that can be delivered remotely have seen less disruption during the crisis and will become increasingly attractive as we move into recession.
  • Organizations will be under immense pressure to reduce costs, share resources and collaborate across functions, business units and geography to become more cost effective, innovative and to deliver digital initiatives.
  • Whilst recessions usually lead to business centralization, it will be essential to remain agile and innovative in a fast-changing environment.

The challenges that those new to working from home have experienced have not gone away. As remote working remains a part of their reality for many people, we need to change our skills, ways of working and our corporate cultures to reflect this.

The good news is that we have 30 years of learning in how to make this happen. Many organization and millions of people have worked remotely with great success for years. This is a great time to embed this learning, and our own recent experiences, into new ways of working.

In part 3 of this blog we will draw on this learning and our experience of 30 years of training people to work remotely to identify the key individual and management challenges in working from home and what to do about them.

Does this match your experience? Were there additional trends you noticed, we would love to hear about them.

Download our full white paper on working from home.

You can see more of our insights on working remotely or an interactive graphic of our working from home learning path and module contents.

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