by Kevin Eikenberry

Recently LinkedIn was abuzz about a post from Carly Martinetti, the co-founder of PR firm Notably, as she announced the organization would not be instituting a Return to Office policy.

There is plenty to cheer about and agree with in this post.  And as a remote leader of a largely remote team who has written, coached, trained, and spoken widely on leading and working remotely you would think I would stand and applaud.

I’m clapping, but not standing because there is one possible red flag in her well-written post. And she mentions it twice.

No one cared about what hours I worked.  They looked at the quality of my work.

And again …

I don’t care how early or late you work – As long as you are on top of your responsibilities.

I don’t know Carly, and I while I believe she has wonderful intention here, there is a possible problem.

What are you accomplishing with your newfound flexibility?

During the pandemic, I talked to thousands of people from around the world who were working remotely about their experiences.  One prevalent thought from leaders was a sense of pleasant surprise that the work was still getting done. Some even talked about higher productivity!  Yet when I asked individuals (those leaders included) what they were doing with the time they used to spend commuting, over fifty percent were spending that time working.  When asked if they were accomplishing more, few could conclusively and quickly say yes.

In other words, they were spending more time to get the same work done.

Friends, this isn’t greater productivity, it is exactly the opposite.  And this isn’t painting a completely pretty picture of flexibility of working hours either.

What expectations are you setting?

If the nature of the work allows for people to be successful in working remotely, with less commute time and more overall flexibility, I am all for it (and, in Carly’s world of PR, that is very likely true). In fact, that is exactly how our team worked before the pandemic changed the working situation for so many.  But as leaders we must be careful about the messages we send and the expectations we set.

Work whenever you want as long as you meet your job responsibilities, is great as long as the responsibilities are reasonable, and people have the resources and skills to meet them. Work early or late is great, as long as we aren’t now expecting calls and meetings to meet other time zones far off of our norm.

I applaud Carly’s decision – and the similar decision many others are making.  But we as leaders must recognize too that we are creating new expectations about work as we do it.  Make sure your expectations line up with and help your teammates succeed at work – while creating long term work/life balance too. As where, how, and when we work changes, so too are the stated and unspoken expectations of the work.  If we are doing the hard work of communicating and adjusting those as we pronounce a new world of work, we have a far better chance for long term success.

Want make sure your remote team is all on the same page and operating with a realistic set of expectations? This course is a great way to start you down that path.

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  1. Great article, Kevin.
    I believe that there are recent studies that show 2 things:
    1) Flexible, remote work is showing a productivity increase;
    2) Flexible, remote work is largely reflected in C-Suite and upper-management vs lower level employees..

    Now this may be as a result of more productivity through longer work hours. The anomaly is that many companies only trust their executive management to stay committed. This may in turn lead to dissatisfaction and distrust of management by workers which will result not only in higher employee turnover but also an impediment to fill vacancies due to poorer reputation as an employer.

    I respect that companies need to determine what best works for them. However, management needs to be more open-minded and able to communicate their rationale for their choices ( which may have more employees support their decisions) for the best operational needs of the company and its stakeholders.

    Keep up the great editorials. I am sure that many people are benefiting from them.

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