The year 2020 has been one of the most challenging years of our lives. It affected our physical, mental, and overall well-being. But most importantly, it reinvented the idea of working remotely.
Though remote working has not been a new concept in the corporate world. According to a December 2005 article in BusinessWeek, distributed workers are people who have no permanent office at their companies, working instead in home offices, cafés, airplanes, and airport lounges, client conference rooms, or some combination of what Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, calls the “no-collar workplace.” They are working as teams to drive projects via wireless technology and broadband Internet, and report to bosses who may be thousands of miles away.
But ever since the outbreak of COVID-19 happened and the government regulated the norms of maintaining social distancing, it allowed organizations to rethink the way they were working till now. The situation demanded the companies start working from home culture and this caused a lot of challenges both for the employers and employees especially during the initial few months of the lockdown.
One of the major challenges that most of the companies faced was the lack of proper setup and ways to manage their workforce virtually. This led to a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty. This ambiguity further affected the mental health of the people which eventually impacted their productivity, efficiency, and motivation.
The new test facing businesses is how to get virtual team members to work well together across geographic, cultural, and organizational boundaries to deliver results quickly, effectively, and consistently. Gradually companies realized that handling the team virtually is not limited to technology. For one thing, technology in itself is no guarantee that virtual teams will thrive. The most advanced technology will not cause people to share their knowledge or become productive while working in diverse environments.
They understood the importance of connecting with people on an individual level to address their concerns and collaborate with them to bring out the best. It involves creating a culture in which people can participate within a virtual community and communicate effectively, operate with a sense of trust, respect, fairness, and affiliation with other team members; help to establish and work toward a set of shared goals, expectations, purpose, and vision that are clear and inspiring; focus on obtaining visible, measurable results; self-lead and lead others by example; and coordinate and/or collaborate across organizational boundaries.
However, all of these aspects can’t be developed overnight. Organizations need to organize proper training and practice sessions to develop the mindset and skill set of the leaders who are responsible to drive these changes.
Working in a virtual environment might not be the knee-jerk reaction for some organizations but for most of them, it came as a surprise and with unforeseen challenges. But despite all these challenges, it’s undeniable that working virtually has its perks. Some of the benefits of operating virtually includes:
1- Advances in technology mean increased use of computers in the workplace and greater availability of affordable technology for home-based and mobile workers.
2- Travel to meet face-to-face may not be practical or affordable.
3- Teams can be assembled based on people’s skills rather than their location, and people can work anywhere and at any time.
4- Increased productivity because the global workday is 24 hours, not 8 hours, and virtual workers spend less time commuting and in inner-office discussions.
5- Reduced overhead costs.
6- More flexibility for workers.
And because of this, many companies are leveraging the benefits and still working virtually even when the impact of the pandemic has slowed down. Whether new ways of working are effective, the focus should be to give necessary support that leads to responsible behavior and stimulates the growth of the people.
Leaders need to be coached to improve the well-being of their people and encourage them to learn about new leadership styles that promote team dynamics and social cohesion. To retain talent in the post-Covid world while controlling costs, consumer-oriented companies must carefully engage their workforce in reopening businesses or stabilizing operations. Proper communication about safety and transparency about policy has become important to meet employees’ expectations and maintain trust.
Conclusion:- Now that most of the organizations and people, in general, have accepted and adapted to the new working environment, it is equally important for the organizations to understand the different expectations of their employees and create a culture of trust & collaboration. They need to adopt a people-centric approach and address their concerns properly to thrive as a cohesive organization and become an employer of choice.