Quarantines, lockdowns and travel restrictions. These pushed businesses to resort to work-from-home arrangements in the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. What gradually unfolded was an experimental dabble in the way we work. Suddenly, we found ourselves reliant on technology and virtual platforms like Zoom to ensure that work deliverables are completed.
When pandemic restrictions are eased, companies have three options to choose from in terms of adopting the right work setup - office/on-site, remote, or hybrid arrangements. With remote work, companies are increasingly seeing its benefits including reducing their carbon footprint. Meanwhile, employees also see remote work as an effective tool for striking a work-life balance.
Remember the time when hybrid work was a relatively unknown buzzword? Experts predict that hybrid setups, which consist of both on-site and remote arrangements, will most likely be the norm. Hence, companies must shift their gaze to this mix of on-site and remote setups.
In fact, we are now seeing the rollout of the mixed work setup in a number of organizations. According to a McKinsey report, this hybrid work model will most probably be the new normal for the highly educated and well-paid segments of the workforce. Data show that more than 20 percent of the employee population can work remotely for three to five days in a week and still work as effectively. If this is implemented, there will be three to four times as many people working from home than before the pandemic.
Despite the positive outlook for hybrid work setup, transitioning to this type of work environment is easier said than done. Some challenges include a decreased close working relationship among peers and issues on team collaboration.
This rings true in the case of companies in the Philippines. A survey by leading technology research firm International Data Corp. showed that before the pandemic, the labor market in the country cultivated a strong sense of office-based culture. Another key obstacle unique to the Philippines is reliable internet connectivity needed to implement seamless work-from-home setups.
On top of these challenges, leadership in hybrid work setup also poses a hurdle. If company leaders do not prepare for managing their teams through remote setups, chances are they will find the transition to this type of work arrangement downright scary.
That said, making the transition does not have to be overwhelming. Here are some tips on how to make "leading from home" work.
Forget the 'old normal'
The first step? Stop wishing that the "old normal" will come back. The disruptions brought by the pandemic are massive. It is highly improbable that business management style will go back to normal long after the pandemic clears. Bear in mind that transitioning to new work setups means letting go of old procedures that may have worked pre-pandemic but will most likely be no longer feasible in the new normal.
Don't get stuck
Learn to rely on innovative processes more than traditional processes. Post-pandemic, leaders will need to go beyond the usual work process. As heads of our organizations, the onus is on us to explore the advantages of digital transformation. The focus should be on understanding how technologies like automation and cloud technology can help us adapt better to changing work environments. The trick is to leave clerical tasks to technology and utilize manpower for more innovative workload.
In corporate settings, agility means being able to reshape existing road maps and technology to open new avenues for growth. A 2017 McKinsey survey shows that agile teams performed better because they were quick on their toes to restrategize depending on the circumstances they were faced with. These teams were deemed to perform well because although senior management still makes the bigger decisions, agile teams are allowed to make decisions for their daily activities. By implementing an agile strategy, companies can be more flexible and value-oriented in the way they operate. Being agile also means finding creative ways to deliver solutions by taking into account the specific needs of clients, which can change over time.
Practice situational leadership
The phrase "one size fits all" clearly does not apply to management style. Every company is uniquely structured. What may have worked for one may not necessarily work for the other. This is where the value of adopting situational management comes in. It refers to altering leadership styles to address work-related circumstances. It establishes rapport among employees and helps management address the needs of their employees better.
Encourage employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine
For companies aiming to have a considerable number of their employees back at the workplace, they must encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid-19. However, some employees are not too keen on receiving their vaccines and this can cause a real leadership challenge. Rolling out company incentives is a good idea. It is also a great plan to educate employees on the effect of getting vaccinated to protect not only themselves but also their families and friends.
While leading from home can be a massive challenge to hurdle, it is still surmountable. In the end, nothing beats infusing flexibility in leadership styles, recognizing the value of teamwork and prioritizing open communication in addressing challenges in the post-pandemic corporate setting. The future of work will indeed look different, but by moving out of our comfort zones in leading through example, transitioning to a hybrid work setup will be a lot less scary.
As published in The Manila Times, dated 07 July 2021