In a previous role, my team was responsible for identifying opportunities for innovation and transformation by collecting and curating ideas from employees, customers, partners and the broad ecosystem within which we operated.
The hardest part of the job was overcoming internal resistance to change and deeply entrenched biases skewed towards "the way it's always been done around here".
This resulted in many missed opportunities as competitors and new entrants to the market identified and acted upon those same opportunities before we had even managed to schedule the first round(s) of meetings of meetings of meetings (no, that's not a typo) to debate the value proposition and find a sponsor for a POC (Proof of Concept). *
Ideas and concepts were shared internally on a collaboration portal and it wasn't long before "#MISSEDOPPORTUNITY" became the dominant, trending tag on the repository..............
Right now, millions of workers around the world are for the first time ever being forced to (or choosing to) work from home due to the current COVID19 crisis.
Many are not so fortunate and I sympathise, admire and thank the millions of frontline staff in healthcare and emergency services and also those so often overlooked - the workers in manufacturing and supply chains that are keeping our supermarket shelves stocked (for now at least), the retail and banking staff keeping the doors open, the delivery drivers and postal services, the care workers looking after the elderly and delivering essential food and supplies, the people keeping our electricity and heating going and so many more humans that are required to keep us alive and functioning as a society during a time dominated by digital. (Pause for thought - will technology ever really people able to displace ALL human functions in the foreseeable future? Would we want it to? I digress).
From the looks of my LinkedIn and Twitter feeds, many of those that have been afforded the luxury (and it IS a luxury) of the opportunity to continue to work and earn an income from the relative safety of self isolation at home are really struggling to adapt to the situation as they battle with technology (at both home and work), physical space, self discipline, distraction, social isolation from their team and many now also face the added burden of looking after children where schools have been shut for who knows how long!
All while facing an uncertain future.
There are also millions of us around the world who have been working "location independently" for many years - from home, coffee shops, hotels, airports, trains, busses, co-working spaces, bedrooms, hallways, you name it. We have become adept at seeking out decent wifi when we need to do a video call and learning which applications suck up processing power in the background and should be closed before attempting one. (Also - hot tip - don't think about doing a video call while your kid or significant other is streaming the latest movie in 4K high definition on the same wifi as you ...... not unless you want to look like a stop-motion animation and miss what everyone else is saying.....) We have learned to work offline when we can't get connected and how to get connected when we absolutely need to. We have our favourite sound isolating headsets for calls or when we want to tune out of the world around us. We have our favourite communication channels and constantly feel connected within our work communities - often multiple communities at the same time. We have flexible routines and we get our work done, fitting it into our lives around our customer's needs and those that we live with.
We also know that many meetings held in a corporate environment just don't need to take place full stop.
Many of these things will also be discovered and learned by the latest newcomers to remote working.
Will things go back to the way they were once this is all over? Will you want them to? Click To Tweet
The overwhelming resistance to remote working that I have encountered in the past has been in the form of a lack of trust by employers that employees are actually "working" from home when they let them. They have valued presenteeism over productivity because it's much easier to monitor a "bum on a seat".
Judging by the sheer volume of "working from home" pics I've recently seen posted on social media, that clearly demonstrate employees doing anything but actually working, it seems many employers attitudes might well be vindicated - and don't get me started on the fact that DIY sales are suddenly rising OR the fact that so many people are spending time watching movies that Netflix has had to lower it's streaming quality for the next 30 days across the whole of the EU (to save bandwidth as Internet is under so much strain) OR the fact that I heard from a friend the other day that a municipal rubbish dump in Belgium had to close because of the sheer number of people that were using their "work from home" time to do some house clearing ............
Now is not the time to be "goofing off".
Now is the time to learn, adapt and contemplate the impacts and implications of what could possibly become "the new normal" in the future.
This is undoubtedly the largest remote working POC ever undertaken in history! While the circumstances are far from ideal, I encourage you to use the experience to your advantage. Relish the time regained from not commuting and think of how it could positively impact your life and that of your team. Consider the positive impact on the environment from the significant reduction in commutes. Savour the opportunity to spend more time with your family or having "me time" if living alone. Think about the amount of physical space your organisation currently occupies - does it really need it all / is it best utilised now? Do you really need to see those "bums on seats" or could your work and hiring practises be more inclusive by providing opportunities to those less mobile, geographically separated from your office or requiring more flexibility in time management? Give some thought as to how you could / would manage your time and your working practises better to deliver the best outcomes when you are working and to recharge your mind, body and soul when you are not.
And then ....... think about what you need to make it work or work better than it is right now:-
- Is technology an inhibitor or an enabler?
- at which end? Yours? Your Company? Both?
- What specific aspects of it? Laptop (or lack of), Wifi, support for your own equipment, video calling, access to information, what?
- Do you need multiple screens if you currently have / use them at work?
- Can you get remote access to the systems you need to do your job or are they locked down?
- Do you have the right communication tools? What's missing?
- Do you / your team need training?
- Have you heard of someone somewhere that has overcome the same challenges and if so, how? (hot tip - ASK other people!!)
- Are current processes in the way?
- Do you have processes that rely on paper?
- Do people need to be in a physical place in order to support a particular process?
- Is there a need to define / clarify remote working etiquette?
- Do you have a "core hours" concept where everyone is expected to be contactable at the same time? Is it absolutely necessary in their roles / your team's function?
- Are you comfortable with asynchronous communication or do you expect immediacy?
- Do you expect people to communicate to the rest of the team when they are disconnected or taking a break themselves?
- Have you thought about HOW your communications might need to change to be delivered remotely?
- Are you OK with the fact that kids might factor in calls? (Noise / interruptions / emergencies etc)
- Is video required to be on for all participants of a call? (Might encounter bandwidth problems and some people just aren't comfortable with it in the first place.......)
- How do you maintain morale across your team?
- Do you need to change the way you have team meetings?
- Have you considered taking "virtual coffee breaks" together occasionally?
- Do you have "best practise" advice to share with your team? (eg - don't be tempted to spend all day in your PJ's .......... "dressing for work" even in jeans and a tee shirt creates the right frame of mind and mental switch)
- If you share your space with other people have you set boundaries?
- Do you have / need a defined and distraction free work area?
- Can you create a quiet space for important calls / video conferencing when required?
- Are there confidentiality / security issues relating to your work that might require a specific approach toward all of the above?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of things to consider - make notes, ask questions, learn, adapt, begin to envision a better future state.
AND above all, you need to remember that you are dealing with humans ......... you might not be able to see their "bum on a seat" but they are not suddenly all robots just because your interaction is now predominantly digital!
This time could be a major catalyst for change and transformation across many organisations - OR, things could just go back to "the way it's always been done around here" once it's all over.
Please don't let this be a #MISSEDOPPORTUNITY in your organisation.
* The story above was the situation at the start of our journey of change and transformation. We tried many different things that failed and many more that succeeded - we adopted a state of continuous transformation as I've previously advocated - I can help you achieve the same outcome if you recognise that the way things have always been done are probably no longer the way they will be done in the future .........