A sweeping change
When the pandemic forced the almost overnight switch from office-based working to setting up shop at home, nobody had much time to prepare.
For the first few weeks it was merely about getting by and, for some, that mentality has continued.
But having a workforce in their kitchens and home studies instead of the office presents new challenges for everyone.
Now, more than a year into this transition, it’s time for companies to consider changing the way they manage their staff.
Same people, different situation
Because while they are still the same people with the same skillset and personality, their circumstances will have changed hugely, both professionally and personally.
And while it may have come as a shock and not be everyone’s cup of tea, there are huge benefits to home-working that bosses could enjoy.
Even looking back historically there are some lessons in this.
In 2009 IBM decided to switch to a remote working framework, a move which eventually saw 40 per cent of its 380,000 staff not working in an office.
But the firm changed this a decade later under the illusion that having everyone back in the same place would make staff more agile and innovative.
In fact, they became less productive and worked fewer hours.
Work to welcome the new normal
You can understand the suspicion of bosses when it comes to home working, especially among those who are used to having people around them pulling in long hours at their desk.
But the onus is on these bosses to make remote working a success, and there are some easy steps to making this happen.
Ensure the home-working has clear expectations set for them, and that there’s a culture of openness and honestly when it comes to communication.
Make sure regular calls are scheduled to keep them in the loop and make them feel part of things.
Video and voice calls are important too – it would be dangerous to always hide behind emails where tone and concern are difficult to gauge.
The importance of communication cannot be overstated. With so many offices closed or operating at reduced capacity, you can’t any longer nip to someone’s desk or whisper in their ear if there’s something you’re not sure of.
Somehow that facility has to be recreated virtually.
Present in body rather than mind
If the pandemic has reminded us of anything, it’s that someone merely being present in an office does not guarantee productivity.
Showing face does not equal showing potential.
If bosses truly want the best from their staff in this new off-site era, they have to stop managing them like they’re on-site.