Working from Home through the Coronavirus…

Or should I say muddling through!! It’s not easy working from home five days a week in normal times. For parents, male or female, it can be even harder! Personally, after working from home for around seven years, I have two rules: I put my shoes on to work and take them off when I finish; I don’t check email outside my office and I close the door when I finish. Two simple ways to keep work and home separate, you may find others.

Now teams are increasingly globally distributed and rarely see each other in person. Plus we have the additional challenge of most working from home unexpectedly and for the first time. Traditional communication methods will not necessarily work, not as effectively anyway. People may feel isolated, lonely and could be struggling to focus or working too much.

So I have some questions for senior leaders, managers and teams to consider:

What are the priorities for company culture in these unusual circumstances? How does it differ from normal? What are the needs of each individual, role or team during this period and how can working practice adapt to accommodate these?

How can we create a distributed culture across nations and different functions that works? What values do people have in this work environment? Does it vary by region and role?

What are the variables in work patterns that will ensue for individuals and teams? Working earlier or later? Breaks? Friendships and relationships?

What level of productivity are we striving for? How is this assessed? What measures encourage the best outcomes? What level of flexibility is important for individuals /departments /results?

Can we look at new or temporary workflows in information, processes and delivery, new ideas, and developing relationships in a workplace?

What tools would be most effective? Does it vary by team or function?

Does working from home affect productivity? If so, how? How can this be quantified or is it valued more as a benefit than the impact on productivity?

Practical reality often differs from written policy so how can organisations keep policies flexible enough to accommodate different circumstances?

What happens for an employee in crisis? What is fair? How do organisations assess severity of the issue? How can management teams identify an issue early enough to intervene and prevent further difficulties?

Why is this flexibility important to the company overall? What communication channels are required in these circumstances to maximise productivity?

How much confusion is there around objectives or misinformation due to the disparate locations? How much time is spent resolving these?

Within this framework of responses, each company will need to consider:

Company culture definition and aspiration?

Aspirational values and how these may need to change, temporarily or otherwise?

Actual values and ‘personality’ of each department.

Leadership styles and preferences – what style will or will not work?

Nature of team dynamics and desired changes.

Impact on budgeting and focus for priorities.

Current communication workflows and new mechanisms.

Perhaps highlight the top three priority issues and focus on solutions for these first…

Good luck to you all in adapting to current circumstances and new ways of operating. I know it’s tricky and the solutions will ultimately look different for every organisation. In my world, the keyword is flexible.

Love Ruth x

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