The introverts love it, the extroverts hate it, but how should we balance working options going into the future? As the conversation surrounding the return to the office grows, the balance of keeping everyone engaged in their work whilst simultaneously happy seems harder to strike.
When you make a decision that will impact your team or organisation, it’s important to consider the motivation behind the idea and its effect on your people. A return to the office may be your go-to option with the initial motivation being productivity, but the impact on culture may be the opposite of your intention.
Culture is embedded in the opportunities and respect you provide your team. Flexible working conditions aren’t a barrier to culture, in fact, they could be the baseplate to establish a positive and productive working environment. Just because other organisations may have a plan for all employees to return to the office, it doesn’t mean that this is the right thing for your organisation. It may be time to consider a remote work strategy instead.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the impacts of working from home and working from an office environment from the organisational, team and individual perspective so that you can best evaluate what works for your people. Remember that each business is different and there are no hard and fast rules.
It may be the case that some of your people are quite content working from home permanently. There are many reasons why this may be the case, ranging from the cost of public transport to their ability to focus on tasks without workplace distractions. Regardless of the reason, if your team members are anxious about returning to the office it’s your responsibility to catch up with them and go through the concerns that they have.
Evaluate how they’ve been performing while working from home, if they’ve continued to perform at their regular rate, or improved, then helping them continue this method or work may be beneficial for them and your team. A good work from home strategy will involve open and regular communication with team members and their leaders, where all can discuss opportunities and blockers. If your business is looking to get everyone back into the office, an alternative can be to have some regular work from home days and other days where everyone should work from the office.
Perhaps some of your team wish to work from home whilst others prefer to work from the office. If this is the case, you may need to think about the interactions between your team, would there be any blockers in the work funnel if the team is distributed? If there’s a work dependency with your team, would this be changed if they were working in one room, or is there still room for open communication when the team is distributed? A large part of this perspective comes down to trust. Does your team trust one another to get the work done to a quality standard and in a timely manner?
We’ve found collaboration works best when either everyone is in the room or no one is in the room. If your leadership team is looking to plan strategy or leadership days while restrictions are still in place, it may be worthwhile to run these events virtually so that all participants can contribute equally. This lessens the chance of some being excluded by working remotely and not having the ability to contribute as well as those in the room.
If there is room for improvement in your team, this doesn’t mean that flexible working conditions should be immediately off the table, but rather that there should be a balance between working from home and office days. Stagger the days in the office so that all members of the team can feel as though they are striking the right balance between collaboration and individual work. If some of your team members wish to work from home permanently, introduce a daily agenda setting meetings so everyone is on the same page. We have a daily stand up where each person outlines their top three priorities for the day, it helps everyone to understand potential blockers and opportunities. This could also extend to implementing a project management tool so that everyone can see what tasks are being completed and when.
Take another step back and look at the entire organisation for your remote work strategy. Just as the interactions inside your team are important, so too are the interactions your team has with other business functions. Collaboration is a fantastic way that organisations continue to grow and thrive, and the benefits of cross functional teams can be seen with new and innovative solutions to business problems. If your organisation has a culture that fosters these interactions, then preserving it should be something you strive for.
Though collaboration tools and video conferencing is useful to help mend this gap, you may want to consider having organisation wide collaboration days where you can workshop new ideas. Again, consider the individual level, if your people are happy working for your organisation, they will be more likely to want to engage in the betterment of it through collaboration. Let these interactions occur organically if your culture is one that supports an open dialogue, your team members will feel comfortable coming forward with ideas and know where to take them.
The organisation perspective is important for considering the future of your business and the capacity of your people. When you plan a working from home strategy, remember to balance the needs of the individual, and the team in their organisational context. The culture of your office doesn’t depend on where your employees are working, it relies on the trust you give your people and the opportunities you give them to succeed. Whether you encourage working from home occasionally or permanently, it’s important that you recognise your team and trust their ability to get the job done.