Remote working, video meetings recast attitudes on best ways to do job

Kakapo Consulting director Sarah Cross. PHOTO: EMILY FRITH
Kakapo Consulting director Sarah Cross. PHOTO: EMILY FRITH
In recent weeks, we’ve existed under conditions never experienced in our lifetime — in the history of our nation, even.

Some of us have thrived, some of us have struggled, and most of us have done a bit of both.

Now we are moving back to a more normal situation. Businesses have reopened and many employees and business owners who were working from home are going back to their workplaces.

Many people are looking forward to a bit more normal in their lives. However, just as the transition into lockdown was difficult, the transition back to normal-ish will also be challenging for employees.

There will be things people have been able to do — or not do — that they will find hard to let go of.

For example, a manager I know has loved working from home because she is able to completely control all social interactions.

As a result of this, her anxiety is greatly reduced and her productivity is higher. Staff with children would have seen a lot more of them during Levels 4 and 3, and those who have relished this will need to get by on much less contact with them again.

During this messy transition period, business leaders can speed up the settling-in process and front-foot the inevitable teething problems by putting time aside for employees to reconnect with each other.

Taking time to discuss everyone’s experiences of lockdown, wisdoms gained and lessons learned will go a long way to restoring a collegial, collaborative team environment.

Many employees will have gained valuable insights into how they work best, their optimal working environment and how to proactively manage their wellbeing.

Unless there is a space to share these, the risk is the insights will be lost and not able to be applied to the new normal.

People may also be reassessing their priorities and work-life balance. As one meme that has been circulating on the web puts it: ‘‘In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.’’

Leaders who provide a space to talk about this and who really listen to what their people are saying will be able to craft a working environment that enables all employees to thrive and are less likely to be surprised by a resignation.

There are more quantitative gains to be made too; Covid-19 has accelerated the digital revolution and the flexi-work revolution, and there are no doubt many savings and innovations that can be made permanent, having a positive impact on the bottom line.

In a recent New Zealand Herald readers poll, only 12% of respondents were keen to get back to ‘‘the office’’; 49% wanted to keep working from home and 39% said a mix of both would be ideal. If 87% of employees don’t want to be in the office all the time, there are huge potential savings in overheads.

Now that virtual meetings have been normalised and people are far more comfortable with the technology, there are also big savings to be made in time and travel expenses as well as carbon emissions, by moving more meetings and seminars into the virtual space.

As a learning and development consultant, I’ve had to step outside my comfort zone and run workshops with clients using remote technology.

In one recent team workshop I was facilitating, one of the team members who had a community liaison role said she’d realised she could now touch base with her stakeholders remotely and was planning on connecting with more of them much more frequently in future.

An upcoming workshop that I was to travel to Wellington for has been moved to Zoom, saving me a day’s travel.

Much change has been forced upon us by this momentous global event. Virtual meetings is the most obvious example, but if leaders really listen to their people’s experiences, and ask the questions, ‘‘what is no longer necessary?’’ and ‘‘What opportunities can we see that weren’t obvious before?’’ the potential to craft a new normal that is better for businesses, employees and customers is boundless.

■Sarah Cross is director of Kakapo Consulting.

Comments

What this lockdown has proved is how much middle management we have that is not required, how much time they all waste on 'meetings' is scary. They are not useful, they bring so little to the table how are their jobs justified? If there not then gone...

 

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