For nearly 12 years of my career, I Worked From Home (WFH). For the record, I was in sales and when I wasn’t calling leads relentlessly, following up, booking appointments, all from the comfort of home, I would travel the Upper Midwest for days at a time. I could argue that I was more productive than I ever was during the other times in my career when I was confined to a traditional cage…err…I mean, office!
It is my belief that for far too long, business leaders have leaned on the ‘crutch’ that in order to be productive, employees needed to report to a centralized location we all know as, the office. Those crutches have since been cut off at the gross, spongy and strangely discolored grips through the tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic. Not to mention, the increasing technology gains through video conferencing, telemedicine, etc. Like it or not, we are more connected while away from each other than ever before.
Business Leaders….my recommendation, embrace it!
As a result, Un- or Underprepared leaders have been left scrambling in an effort to keep teams together and to maintain a sense of cohesion. But, don’t panic! It will all be OK. With a level head, organization and trust in your teams, everything will work out just fine. By laying out the proper road map, you and your teams will get through this new WFH scenario with great success, both in the short-term, and perhaps, the foreseeable future.
There’s that word again! Without trust, nothing works. If you can’t trust your employees, why are they even working for you? You hired them for a reason, they’re smart, productive, inventive, resourceful, and dare I say….trustworthy?
The bottom line is this, regardless if they work from home, or the office, the ‘bad ones’ will always weed themselves out. Productivity doesn’t discriminate by location. Show me the WFH employee who’s status is always ‘away’, late to the video conference and logging off at 3, and I’ll show you the same employee who spends half their day in the breakroom or ¼-cheeking it on their buddies desk, bragging about how ‘epic’ last weekend was!
Could a flexible WFH policy be the ultimate ‘barometer’ for a quality-first, integrity-focused hiring policy?? Human Resources….are you listening? The best and the brightest are paying attention, if you want to stay competitive for talent, I highly recommend you do as well. WFH is no longer seen as a ‘perk’, but a requirement.
Business Leaders…trust your employees! Trust is a cornerstone in building a relationship with them that will stand the test of time and get you through almost anything. Your teams will see it, feel it and recognize that you trust them, and it will absolutely pay off in loyalty, hard work and dedication, regardless of where they log in.
Implementing a feeling or process of cohesion amongst everyone on your team can be very difficult, whether you are within 100’ or 100 miles of one another. When WFH, this can be even more difficult and a delicate balance as you don’t want to overdo it. Does it make sense to schedule more meetings now that your team is working offsite? Not in my opinion.
Resist the urge to schedule more meetings than you would otherwise. Scheduling a meeting to prepare for the meeting about the meeting, is not a good use of time or resources. Remember, it’s all about remaining productive, not implementing more distraction and interruption.
Business Leaders…while communication and transparency are 2 successful keys to making this work, in addition to the inter-team meetings that continue to take place, I recommend 1 comprehensive meeting per week with the team leader. I’ve always enjoyed a late week meeting for everyone to share updates and how their week went and concerns, in addition to what is coming up for the following week. This ensures accountability across the team and keeps everyone on the same page. Then, if possible, schedule 1 meeting/month in-person with the entire team either in the office, or better yet, offsite over hors d’oeuvres and drinks to keep team chemistry alive and well.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
Question: What’s more stressful than having to take your child to the Dr. during work hours, and on top of it, worrying about what your micro-managing, overbearing boss is thinking?
Never forget my simple equation for business success:
Happy employees = Increased production/Improved service = Happy Clients = Increased Profits
This equation can be applied to any segment or scenario across a business, and WFH is no exception. What do employees and candidates want now more than ever? Flexibility. Whether is taking Billy or Suzy to soccer practice or ballet, or Fido to the vet. Having the ability to do these things without having a French Au Pair on staff is critical, nor do they ever happen on the weekends.
WFH offers the ability to hop in the car and just go, and knowing your employer or ‘boss’ trusts you to manage your time appropriately, makes all the difference, earns mutual respect and creates a happy employee. Hmmm, interesting, that’s the first part of the equation!
Business Leaders…I recommend having a simple system in place that doesn’t come across as micro-managing. If a team member needs to make a run, they send a simple text or Instant Message, no questions need to be asked. Ensure it goes to both the boss and other affected team members just to let them know you will be away, and for approximately how long. Make sure everyone has your cell number, just in case an ‘emergency’ comes up. Upon your return, a simple, “I’m back”, does the trick and the train keeps rolln’! When everyone realizes that ‘I’m not the only one’, it humanizes the team, makes everyone relatable and as the leader, you immediately earn credibility as you ‘get it’!
Everyone’s Doing It – Conclusion
According to a May 2020 article on SHRM.com, many very large and well-known companies plan to allow employees to continue to WFH well beyond summer, and potentially beyond. In addition, in a recent study conducted by the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, more than 1/3 of U.S. jobs—37%—can be done remotely. That’s some good company, a lot of trust and a lot of happy employees!
Make no mistake, the trend has been going in this direction for years now. It only took an incredibly unfortunate and tragic health crisis to speed things up. If we are going to be honest, WFH allows for a certain amount of freedom that a traditional office environment simply doesn’t, and that’s a good thing, not to mention, a 2-way street! It saves employees and the employer significant amounts of both time and money, lessons the environmental impacts, etc. There are numerous and additional financial and personal advantages yet to be discussed, but one thing I know is for certain, once you have Filet Mignon, you will never go back to Sirloin! What’s done is done and once your teams have a taste for the ‘WFH life’, good luck getting those horses back into the barn. If you try, the damage will be swift and severe.
Business Leaders…This is the world we live in, this is the ‘new normal’ and it’s the hand we were all dealt. My ultimate recommendation is this – cultivate a work environment and company culture that thrives in any condition, whether it be onsite, or across the globe. If you do this, the ‘Where’ is completely irrelevant.
Written by Ryan Waters. Here’s what you’ve missed?
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