In response to technological advances in multiple areas – from cloud computing to the rise of numerous online connectivity platforms – the way companies, law firms and different types of institutions work has undergone a series of changes in recent years. As a new focus on different remote working arrangements and other job flexibility options emerged, many positions and roles that once required on-site interaction have been freed from that restriction.
Once a slow process available only for some positions, remote working became a necessity during the Covid-19 pandemic. Companies around the world were forced to roll out remote working systems using connection tools from Microsoft, Google and others, like Zoom. As corporations, companies and institutions were forced to make the flip to continue operating, the work-from-home (WFH) model took off almost overnight and around the world. This new type of connectivity at work has come to stay and has accelerated the productivity over presence phenomenon. To implement it effectively, we have needed to create new approaches and structure to work schema. Otherwise, the distractions of home life/children combined with lost communication and leadership roles inherent in virtual interaction can considerably deteriorate performance while working from home.
In “A blueprint for remote working: Lessons from China”, McKinsey identifies these three elements, among others, as most critical to achieving productivity in this remote working model:
– a work team structure that allows fluid decision-making;
– leaders that set targets and communicate effectively; and
– a culture of community and collaborative work.
Proper implementation, new routines, breaking some jobs down into their components and harnessing technology to virtualize others can make working from home an attractive option for many, including working mothers, post-retirement age workers, students, and Generation-Y professionals. As natives to socializing and collaborating online, the latter two groups find remote working and flexible schedules very natural. The growing demand for more flexible, independent work accommodates different lifestyles and new digital platforms are making it possible.
We will undoubtedly see the spectrum of mix-and-match, full-time, half-day, temporary, contingent and remote working arrangements expand to satisfy changes in demand. Companies that successfully manage these configurations will record cost efficiencies (overhead, office space) and faster response times from work teams.
There are more than a few implications for managers. Like any change management experience, this new work model requires significant leadership. Proper management of these mix-and-match work teams (full-time on-site, part-time and home office) requires the following skills:
Coordination: Organize mixed teams and be a good coach so that workflows between teams and colleagues share information. These steps are essential to overcoming isolation as well as fostering innovation and creativity between work teams.
Communication: Over-communicate to ensure that everyone understands his/her role and deadline.
Observe: Since remote working arrangements diminish control over employees, managers must remain attentive to developments in the teams’ identification with and commitment to the company.
Let go: Mixed work teams make the challenge of evaluating executives based on outcomes and performance, not hours, more complex. However, this shift in mindset toward setting targets and stepping aside becomes crucial.
Senior executives who are convinced that these changes (remote working and other job flexibility options) will improve team performance should encourage all managers to think big! These work arrangements offer new possibilities in terms of how companies define boundaries and organize the work structure. As tasks and routines happen differently in this modern era, innovation will occur under new parameters. Some industries will advance toward more flexible work arrangements more quickly than others. These industries will see a blurring of the separations between employers, employees, and clients. At Grupo Cinco, our search assignments consider this issue as well as the skills that corporate management positions need to effectively align, motivate and evaluate their teams under these new work systems.
The productivity pitfalls of working from home in the age of COVID-19, Stanford news, March 2020
Restarting Work Safely and Under Control, BCG, May 2020
A blueprint for remote working: Lessons from China, McKinsey Digital, March 2020
From thinking about the next normal to making it work, McKinsey & Company, May 2020
Preparing for a new era of knowledge work, McKinsey Quarterly, November 2012