The pandemic, as we all know, has permanently changed the way workplaces function. Even when normalcy is restored, it is common knowledge that a hybrid model, instead of a fully in-office model will drive workplaces. There has been a lot of debate regarding the impact and consequences of the remote work culture, with views that are often clashing. However, the right approach would be to refrain from comparing pros and cons and instead focusing on the immense opportunity that remote work brings in when it comes to organizational culture.
As George Penn, VP at Gartner, stated in an interview: “Success in a hybrid work environment requires employers to move beyond viewing remote or hybrid environments as a temporary or short-term strategy and to treat it as an opportunity.”
It is important for leaders to see the changes brought in by remote work as opportunities and not obstacles, and make their organization better than before through various facets of the remote culture. Here are a few aspects in which remote work brings in the opportunity to improve company culture and employee satisfaction:
1. Embracing changes with open arms
Sure, there have been quite a few cons that the pandemic brought to workplaces, but one big plus was the acceleration of digital adoption and transformation. While digital tools were treated as an option pre-pandemic, they have become the norm now. As teams are distributed and scattered across geographies, digital tools have become a staple for organizations to function.
This leads to a much-needed move towards digital transformation in a lot of companies, especially the ones that were digital laggards. This is a unique opportunity for organizations to craft their digital leadership and give due importance to the digitization and automation of their processes. According to a study done by McKinsey across 1500 executives, addressing potential skills gaps related to automation/digitization was in the top 10 priority of 66% of the leaders. Here’s hoping that it is a top priority for you and your organization as well.
2. Improved transparency and accountability
One would think that being physically distant leads to problems with visibility and subsequently, transparency. However, that is not the case. Digital tools allow for never-seen-before visibility and accountability, as advanced HR tools and dashboards allow team leads to track what their team has been up to and check their progress. Remote work has also encouraged employees to be more vocal and communicative to make sure that their work does not go unnoticed.
While digital tools are a great way to continue an increased level of transparency and accountability, leaders should never replace them with face-to-face communication. Weekly catch-ups with employees regarding their professional and personal lives will lead to increased sincerity, encouragement, and accountability from their end.
3. Increased communication across hierarchies due to remote work
Most organizations have an open door policy on paper, but the reality is that things usually are not that open. Companies used to function under the limitations of hierarchies that were difficult to breach. However, these restrictions are getting erased with the onslaught of digital work. Every member of an organization, no matter their seniority, is just a text/e-mail away as that is the primary mode of communication. This opens up a ton of avenues for collaboration and team-building and reduces rigid structures that usually pull organizations down.
Organizations should fully utilize this opportunity to create a culture of open communication, where leaders become more approachable and create the foundation for friendly and flexible company culture.
4. Fostering a culture of innovation and self-sufficiency
Remote work can be a great stepping stone for encouraging employees to be digitally dexterous. Basically, a culture where employees are ready to work with existing technologies and are ready to embrace any disruptors that await them. This can be achieved with the right type of upskilling and encouragement from a digital-ready leadership.
An example can be the increased demand for software due to the nature of remote work. Instead of relying on overburdened IT departments (and consequently delaying the process) or outsourcing solutions from professional developers (leading to high costs), employees can be encouraged to build their own solutions. No-code has been an important disruptor in this regard, empowering business users to automate their processes and build perfect solutions to problems they understand best. Similarly, there are a lot of avenues to promote digital dexterity and guiding the organization towards a digital-first culture.
5. Focus towards kindness and compassion
Earlier, employees used to come to the office, work according to their role and go home once the day was over. That’s what their primary identity was, being an employee. However, as we have progressed into the world of Zoom meetings, employees are being seen as more than just their designation or responsibilities. We now have a window to their households, and employees can be anything from doting siblings to hands-on parents. This gives way to increased empathy and perceptiveness, as we learn to value employees in a way that’s more than their job title.
Any competent leadership should recognize the efforts put up by their employees in the middle of a pandemic and should take this opportunity to build a culture that is empathetic and kind more than anything. Knowing each other on a personal level has proven benefits on team building and collaboration. In a way, this is a chance to humanize workplaces in a manner which is equally beneficial to the organization and its employees.
The debate between in-office and remote work can continue forever. However, workplaces are at a junction where they need to add flexibility and innovation to ensure that their organization comes out of the pandemic better-equipped and with a culture that is better than before. By using these opportunities, leaders and HR executives are bound to see impressive results that reflect in employee satisfaction, retention, and overall productivity of their organization.
The future is hybrid and digital. It’s time for workplaces to catch up and make the most out of this disruption.