September 2020

Remote work is reinventing ways of working and managerial models

With remote work turning from an exception into the norm for many companies, it is imperative that they embrace this change and support it accordingly: not only regarding to tools, but also with regards to the human and organizational level.

Where do we stand today?

According to the latest studies, almost 40% of the employees in the private sector in France have worked from home during the confinement (against 30% at the end of 2019). For some of them it was the first experience with this kind of working. Even though each employee experienced it differently depending on their personal situation, it is very likely that employees in general, as well as companies, want to generalize it and make it last in the long-term. As a matter of fact, under certain conditions and for certain populations, remote work can increase productivity, concentration, flexibility and reduce the stress linked for example, to the commute.
The use of remote work will thus slowly become the norm and turn into a key decision criteria for new talents. Companies therefore need to be careful not to miss the opportunity.

However, we should not underestimate the extent of the change that comes with the implementation of remote work for managers, executives, teams and the whole organization. Remote work affects managerial practices, the relationship each employee has towards work, and more broadly his/her engagement towards the company, its project, its values.

Remote work puts into question certain practices or beliefs that have been very persisting in the past, for instance:

  • The manager needs to be there to control and distribute the work and the ones managed need a clear framework to work.
  • The highest recognition is attributed to the person who stays the longest in the office.
  • It is necessary to see each other all the time to work together…

The risks of remote work if it is not well organized and facilitated.

  • With remote work, the barrier between professional and personal life is thinner, professional topics invade the private sphere and for some people the risk of a burn-out is increased
  • With remote work, certain behaviors can emerge within the team: an employee who takes advantage of the team by doing less, an employee who takes up too much space and draws all the attention towards him, an employee who does not dare to ask for help …
  • For some, if the time spent apart is too long, a feeling of isolation and rupture with the team and the organization may appear. In remote work, it is more difficult to maintain links between managed and manager as well as with the company in general.
  • Some teams may lose their collective dynamic and therefore become less efficient.
  • Some managers will tend to reassure themselves by compensating remote work with micro-management …

This is why the generalization of remote work must be accompanied: the 6 key success factors. According to studies, more than 50% of people, who were working from home during the confinement, feel that they were not supported sufficiently. Proving the point that remote work is not only about rules but more importantly about the men and women affected by it.

But what kind of support helps to achieve successful conditions for remote work for both, employees and the company? It is essential to:

1. Improve the skills of managers who need to act more like coaches or leaders in terms of team leadership, team building and information sharing and who need to learn how to manage ‘hybrid teams’ (not all of them will work remotely) and to use the communication tools adapted to each employee…
2. Improve the skills of the managed who need to learn to manage their priorities, their working hours, their communication, learn to identify which tasks are the most relevant in remote work… and who need to develop certain “soft” skills such as understanding the others’ needs and identifying the right people to contact in case of problems…
3. Make sure that the team takes the time to collectively define its ways of working in an adequate manner: how to communicate, how to talk to each other, what day(s) to spend together in the office, what rituals to put in place…
4. Make sure that the manager takes the time to discuss with each employee what remote work means to him/her: fears, expectations, difficulties, preferred ways of communication while working remotely…
5. Ensure that the whole organization aligns on the required processes (HR…) and establishes a culture of trust
6. Gradually generalize remote work, without forcing it (as has been done during the confinement), but by carefully considering not to weaken the engagement and commitment of employees

What should be the priority post-confinement? Formalize the best practices encountered.

If you decide to integrate remote work in your organization in the long-term, it is essential to first build on what you have experienced during the confinement by:

  • sharing together how everyone has experienced the remote work in confinement,
  • establishing a list of practices used during confinement in terms of working remotely to collectively identify what works well, what doesn’t work, key success factors, practices to avoid…,
  • identifying managers and teams who can share their experiences.

Some learnings from the quarantine period that apply to all types of organizations and that could be the starting point for your best practices:

About WHAT. Not everything can be done at a distance, especially moments of conviviality or certain key stages in the life of an employee in the organization.
About HOW. Spontaneity is becoming difficult; more planning is needed. To compensate for the distance, it is necessary to set up more collective rituals (remotely and face-to-face). Communication tools and modes must be adapted to remote work.
About WHEN. Certain moments are less favorable to working remotely: launching an activity or a project…

And now it’s up to your organization and your team to define your own best practices and implement the 6 key success factors for a successful remote work!

In order to support you in deploying an efficient & sustainable remote work, Alixio Change Management, specialist in transformation and change management, can help you align the management and operating modes of your teams and organizations. Moreover, being part of the Alixio group, you can benefit from the group’s HR, legal and social expertise as well.