There’s a lot of conflicting news about when, how (and if) people are going to go back to working out of offices like they did before the pandemic sent everyone home. Some people can’t wait for any semblance of normalcy. Others have discovered the advantages of remote work. Some organizations are throwing themselves into remote work by shrinking their office space, while others are taking a hybrid work approach. No matter what the next months hold, everyone needs to take a deep breath. We’ll have to be very mindful of how we move forward.
It seems that for every decision or move your company will make going forward, there’s a counter-argument against it. Here are some of the most common sentiments we’re hearing, and a few considerations:
We are going to have more people working from home part time, so we need less office space.
This might well be true, but you need to think carefully about why you’re getting people together and how will you do it. Some companies are planning to have set days when everyone has to come in to encourage socialization, brainstorming and collaboration. But how will you allocate desk space if you have less room than you did before? And If you have everyone coming in on Wednesday, will you have acres of empty space on Tuesday?
Our people have expressed an interest in working from home and we want to oblige them.
Certainly, flexible working arrangements are at the top of any list of perks employees want right now. You want employees satisfied and engaged. And there are some jobs where it honestly doesn’t matter much where the work takes place. But what does the organization need? Jobs that require more innovation and creativity may require more socializing and the chance for serendipitous conversation. Working in shifts, or having people in on different days won’t help if the right people aren’t in the same place at the same time.
We can save a ton of money on travel and real estate by going completely virtual.
This is true. Of course you can also save money by using inferior ingredients or offering terrible customer service, but you wouldn’t stay in business very long. Any obvious, immediate cost savings must be balanced with the need to create a motivated, highly productive workforce. Teams that have at least periodic in-person socialization often report stronger relationships and better engagement and higher levels of collaboration and innovation. Getting people together on occasion will still be important for a lot of companies. Whether that’s in your offices, a hotel, or some other way of gathering you will still have to account for it. Reduced travel doesn’t necessarily mean no travel.
So far, our teams that were together and got separated by COVID are doing well, so we can do that with new teams going forward.
Anecdotally, at least, it would appear that people who worked together in the same place before they got sent home maintained those relationships fairly well. Working separately doesn’t automatically mean things will deteriorate. But when people who don’t have that pre-existing relationship work separately from each other, it can take longer to integrate into the team, and will require more time to become highly productive. How much is innovation and rapid on-boarding worth to you? How can you speed up that process if you’re not bringing people into the office?
Deciding on the precise hybrid mix of remote and in-person staff will be a long process, and there will be a ton of trial and error. Consider short-term experiments with lots of frank assessment, rather than jumping full-time into radical changes to how you work.
As with so much in life, the constraints shouldn’t completely dictate how you choose to work.
Regardless the option you choose, you need a cohesive, productive team. 12 Weeks to Being a Great Remote Teammate is the perfect way for you and your team learn how to become that no matter where you’re working.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, offers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.