One of the lasting economic effects of the COVID pandemic has been the wholesale change it has triggered in working practices across the world.
Businesses and their employees have realised that by adopting hybrid or remote working, they can still achieve as a team, but can also reap the rewards of a more flexible working pattern.
While it might be easy to assume that everyone would jump at the chance to work from home on a regular basis, that’s not always the case. Unless leadership, management and all employees are on the same wavelength, it can cause issues in the workplace.
So what happens when your company adopts a remote or flexible policy but meets cultural resistance from your managers?
Ensure you have the right systems in place
In order to work productively and communicate effectively, you need the right technology and systems in place. This includes providing employees with the right equipment such as laptops, phones and softphones. You should also ensure that you have internal and external IT support in order to give employees a point of contact should they need help.
In addition, make sure that everyone is trained on all systems. Don’t just assume they know it or if it is easy to pick up. If you’re introducing
Educate them on the benefits of remote working
Moving away from the traditional 9-5 office job has been shown to have numerous advantages for both companies and their employees. For employers, this includes:
- Lower employee turnover
- Higher employee engagement
- Reduced recruitment costs
- Fewer sick days
- Higher productivity levels
- Reduced office costs and overheads
Some organisations are even adopting a four-day working week in order to give their employees a greater work-life balance.
For employees, the benefits include:
- Improved work-life balance
- More control and autonomy
- Lower commuting times and costs
- Improved mental and physical health
Many managers assume that when employees work from home, it’s just an opportunity to slack off and not work. The truth is, if someone is determined not to be productive, for whatever reason, they can find a way to do it whether they’re in the office or sitting a home. This is where setting clear goals and lines of communication are important.
Remove proximity bias
In an organisation that allows employees the flexibility to choose where they work from, there can be the danger of proximity bias. This occurs when the people who are ‘seen’ more at the office, are selected for promotions, pay rises and other favourable treatment not based on performance.
This bias can be overt, based on the assumption that the people who show up are more committed and better at their job than the people who choose to work from home or can be subconscious.
Teaching managers how to make their decisions based on facts rather than feelings can create a more equitable workplace.
Work out why they dislike remote working
If you’re sensing that certain managers aren’t happy with the remote working setup, you need to treat this as a priority situation. Employees working for these managers can be made to feel uncomfortable and unsettled in their work and may feel forced to come into the office if that is an option.
There are a number of reasons that people may not think remote working is a good thing. Perhaps they are very old fashioned or have worked in a traditional office environment for a long time, and associate working from home with laziness or lack of commitment.
Some people aren’t at all comfortable with the latest project management and collaboration technology, and can themselves feel pressured and like they are failing or being forced to work in ways they don’t want to.
Managers who rely on discipline, micromanagement and pressure that can only be applied when overseeing people in a physical environment will worry that their failings as a leader will be exposed through their teams working remotely.
Give them the training to manage remote teams
Leading and managing in today’s hybrid workplaces require a lot of different skills. If you’re expecting your managers to just sink or swim, you really are doing them a disservice. Sure, some people might take to it naturally, but the ones that don’t aren’t necessarily bad managers, they just need some help in adapting their skills, and you should be the one to do it.
You have a responsibility to your managers and their teams to provide this training.
Offer alternatives to remote working
For a lot of people working from home some or all of the time is great. Providing you have the space, it can be a lot easier and fit into your life. But some people don’t have the right environment in which to work. Perhaps there are other family members, young kids or roommates there, or there isn’t space to work. Other people want that delineation of work and home life and thrive on being around other people. They may feel that it is better for their mental health to work outside of the home. These are all valid reasons, but you can’t reverse your hybrid working policies solely based on this. Instead, come up with a working alternative. This could be renting out hotdesking space they can use, or giving them extra money to find a space of their own local to them.
It’s important you don’t dismiss their concerns out of hand. Your human resources department should be able to address any of these issues with them and work out the best way forward.
If your organisation has moved from a traditional work pattern to a remote or hybrid one, then there are still many challenges you have to address. While there are many benefits to this style of working, it isn’t the answer to everything and companies and their employees have to work hard to see reap the benefits of it.
By ensuring you have the right tools for the job, you’re setting yourself up for success at the outset, but you must also concentrate on your people. Managers need to believe in the process and learn how to manage teams that are dispersed. Failure to train your leaders can lead to an extremely unbalanced workforce, who do not feel psychologically safe in their roles and as such can suffer from stress and reduced productivity. You must invest in their training and development so that they can thrive in this type of environment.