Working remotely is something every company should have been experimenting with for the purpose of attracting young talent, providing options to retain existing talent, and developing resiliency. Prior to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak, in the Pacific Northwest there have been talks about business interruption from events such as a pending Cascadia earthquake, as well as other emergency scenarios. These scenarios should have sparked remote work conversations and preparations, yet many organizations are playing from behind.
The world is changed and your only path to success is forward
This pandemic is changing our lives and our economy. Life will not be the same once we flatten the curve and develop solutions for COVID-19. So many companies are making bad press for themselves through their haphazard actions. As a person in a position of leadership, you will never please everyone, but you must lead. This pandemic is exposing holes in systems worldwide that were not being tightened up because we were all prospering. Now that things are rapidly changing, it is time to make adaptations that should have happened long ago.
Communication is key. No one has all of the answers, and we are putting this puzzle together one piece at a time.
- What is your leadership team doing to protect employees?
- How can everyone play a part in developing solutions to keep critical operations online
- What are you learning as you make progress in the process?
If you aren’t listening to your employees, you may be missing out on some key opportunities for collaboration and ideas that could save your business.
Your concerns about remote work are with your systems not your people
There are companies that already have significant portions of their workforce working remotely. I know of one technologically savvy company that provides parameters as well as freedom for their agents. This company has “peak hour” requirements where employees are required to keep a certain amount of their day/week open in those time frames when clients have the most need for service. A process like this demonstrates that the company has a firm grasp on what their clients' needs and habits are, as well as a means to align their workforce with that business stream.
As a person in a position of leadership, you should be asking whether your current process aligns your workforce with your clients’ needs.
A common objection to working from home is that employees won’t be as productive. Somehow, people in a position of leadership believe that employees sitting at a desk where they can be observed are somehow more productive. This is like sleeping with the light on when you are scared. It’s ridiculous. If there really is a threat, the presence of a 60-watt bulb will not stop a monster, nor does the watchful eye of a manager increase worker productivity.
Setting your team up for success by creating a measurable process
If you feel strongly about working from home then you will find research that will support your position (confirmation bias) one way or the other. My contention would be that sitting at a desk is a poor metric for productivity. If you are that leader, my questions would be:
- What real benchmarks do you have for your employees?
- How often do you review their performance?
- What is your existing plan for improved performance?
In my experience, the same people who judge productivity by butts in seats are the same companies that have no real systems for performance evaluation or improvement. Now is the time to get real about what a productive employee looks like in your organization. Leaders need to lead.
Crisis has a way of exposing the flaws in our systems. If you are resting on what you accomplished in the past or how you did things even a week ago, you aren’t leading and your company will die. Embrace innovation. Changes must have a purpose, be measured against key performance points, and be an opportunity to increase employee engagement. With a little bit of thought, some clarity on expectations for this new world and a willingness to adapt as you all learn together, businesses can make some win-win scenarios that will keep talent as well as help them chart a path forward.
What are you doing to create clarity, consistency and accountability in these key areas?
- What were you doing as a leader, even before coronavirus, that needed to change?
- As a company, how prepared were you for long or even short-term business interruption?
- If you want to keep and attract good talent, how are you going to adapt to this current pandemic as well as move forward?
- Do you have real metrics, other than butts in seats, for performance and a process for improvement?
Jon Isaacson is a freelance writer, business coach, speaker and 17-year veteran of the property restoration industry. His organization, The DYOJO
- The Do Your Job Dojo
, specializes in helping individuals, teams and organizations to Develop Intentionally.
Jon also hosts the DYOJO Podcast which features discussions with insurance entrepreneurs and is available on Apple, Spotify, Anchor and Google.