In February 2020, Time Magazine highlighted our first trend – the rapid rise of the remote worker – with their headline: ‘The Coronavirus Outbreak Has Become the World’s Largest Work-From-Home Experiment’.
Since COVID-19 forced a large percentage of the workforce to work from home, many employees are saying that they would like to continue working remotely, at least part of the time. In this regard, we are already seeing international companies, like Siemens, announcing their decision to allow 140k of their employees in across 43 countries to work from wherever they want, for two or three days a week.
What really stood out about this announcement was the following statement by their incoming CEO, Roland Busch: “The basis for this forward-looking working model is further development [of] our corporate culture. These changes will also be associated with a different leadership style, one that focuses on outcomes rather than on time spent at the office. We trust our employees and empower them to shape their work themselves, so that they can achieve the best possible results. With the new way of working, we’re motivating our employees while improving the company’s performance capabilities and sharpening Siemens’ profile as a flexible and attractive employer.”
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, also announced that he anticipates half of the company’s workforce will be working from home by 2030. In fact, according to a 2019 study by TalentLMS, two-thirds of U.S. companies were already allowing employees to work from home before COVID struck.
While this is the ultimate work scenario for many employees, mobilising people to work remotely can be challenging for some companies that may feel like they have no control over the situation. Done poorly, it can leave teams feeling disconnected, disengaged, and dysfunctional. These changes require a different leadership style, one that focuses on outcomes rather than a ‘bum in seat’ mentality.
Leaders must now find new ways to foster spaces:
- for internal reflection;
- that allow their remote workers to ‘show up’;
- for deep connection; and
- to set their virtual teams up for success.
The crisis has also created a tsunami of uncertainty – Will I still have a job? Will my salary be impacted? Will I be able to pay my bills?
The second trend worth highlighting is an increasingly authentic commitment by many organisations towards the overall wellbeing of their employees to try and allay these fears. Leading with empathy has become more important than ever and there are several easy to implement ideas to improve the wellbeing of our remote workers. Some examples include:
- Physical wellness – implement a ‘get-moving’ policy in your lengthier online meetings or to kickstart your day. Find out how How kickstarting one CEO became an energising programme to support healthy remote work everywhere;
- Intellectual wellness – offer relevant online training like Instilling a coaching mindset whilst leading your virtual team;
- Emotional wellness – showcase how the leadership team is working to stabilise the business during this crisis;
- Spiritual wellness – have a company volunteer program where your virtual team can participate;
- Environmental wellness – share simple tips that your remote workers can apply at home like unplugging things when they are not in use;
- Career wellness – if you have had to reduce your staff complement, ensure that you provide adequate support to your now-lean teams; and
- Social wellness – create dedicated social spaces like a virtual happy hour.
A growing commitment towards the wellbeing of our workers and the ongoing rise of the remote worker, is the way of the future and we, as Leaders, are going to have to continue adapting, and developing agile workforce strategies, to make the situation work for everyone involved.