5 questions leaders must answer to help their companies and employees thrive in the virtual work world
Bad news can never be good, but the timing might make you feel a lot more fortunate. While the COVID-19 pandemic was definitely not good news (I am still not sure whether to use past tense or present tense), but the timing definitely reduced the impact for some sectors. Imagine if a pandemic of this nature were to hit the world about 15 years ago. Without IT infrastructure, a lot of industries and organisations would have collapsed in lockdown scenarios.
Bottomline, we were affected, but it could have been worse.
That’s the good news. Now for the aftermath of the pandemic. New-generation organisations and industries displayed responsiveness and moved to work from home. The pandemic might end, the need for work from home might end, but remote working is here to stay. The post-COVID world has some key enablers that organisational leaders need to focus on. Let’s look at the top five:
Unplugging from work
The line between work from home and work for home is thin. Most times it blinks and vanishes during the day. About 22% of the workforce surveyed under Buffer’s Report suggest that unplugging from work is the top most challenge they experience, leading to burnout.
The question that leaders need to answer to themselves everyday is ‘What am I doing to let employees manage their deliverables at their pace during the day?’ By doing so they will land up adapting to best practices like no meeting days, scheduling of personal priorities in office calendars, EOD deliverables, etc.
2. Fighting loneliness
Oxytocin is a hormone and a neurotransmitter that is also associated with empathy, trust, and relationship-building. Sometimes referred to as the “love hormone”, levels of oxytocin increase during hugging and orgasm and it can benefit in a number of conditions, including depression, anxiety, others. Now, imagine people working from home with limited contact with others (beyond family).
The question that leaders need to answer to themselves every day is ‘What am I enabling for the employees today so that they experience true joy and togetherness?’ This will bring in ideas such as compulsory vacation, scheduled bonding meets for teams, virtual fun activities, mentoring relationships, etc.
Collaboration and coordination
With no physical townhalls or self-paced meetings, organisations recognise the coordination gaps that can arise in workflows. A lot of times this is because people are focused on managing tasks, people are not focused on managing people in virtual world. When an employee is focused on a task, he is not thinking about the tasks that precede and succeed their deliverables.
The question for leaders is ‘What am I doing to carefully build in big picture thinking and collective approach in our workflow?’ Tools such as collaborative thinking and planning, ideation, collective recognition programs, big picture campaigns, etc. will help increase collaboration and coordination.
According to a Great Place to Work Survey, over decades companies with highly engaged employees perform better in terms of profitability and valuation than companies with low employee engagement scores.
But today the definition of employee engagement itself needs a re-look. The question that leaders need to answer each day is ‘What am I doing to ensure my employees are engaged mentally, physically, and emotionally in their life (not just work life)?’ This will enable thought process in the direction of physical wellbeing, mindfulness, remote infrastructure for work, and work infrastructure for home (creche, entertainment zones, sleep hubs, etc.).
The core of it all
According to a HBR survey (Remote Managers are Having Trust Issues), 38 percent managers believe that if supervision is reduced, employee performance will dip in remote work condition. The core of the whole work culture that has been built over nearly a century is trust and loyalty - employees trust the organisation for their wellbeing and the organisation trusts them for results.
This builds loyalty, key for mutual retention and growth. The biggest self-appraisal question for leaders is ‘What am I doing to build a culture of trust and loyalty in the virtual world?’ This will open doors for informal conversations, time-spaced reviews, recognition of creativity, etc.
Virtual working is here to stay. Organizations who succeed would have built a culture that enables productivity in virtual working. Somewhere in the (virtual) wall of fame, the names of leaders who address these questions will be etched in century gothic font!
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)