Shifting to a remote work environment permanently for the foreseeable future has become a reality for many organizations. The rapid shift to remote work occurred because of the pandemic. It was a necessary response to a crisis situation that occurred quickly and without much warning. Because of that, we and our team members quickly found ways to do our jobs from our dining room tables with kids, dogs, and doorbells in the mix. It’s what we needed to do in the face of a crisis. We accepted the challenges, frustrations, and extra work as ‘just what we needed to do’ to do our jobs.
We accepted the challenges, frustrations, hardships, and extra work as ‘just what we needed to do’ to do our jobs
Though the pandemic is far from over, there is now a level of permanency in our remote work worlds. However, this new level of permanency doesn’t mean calm or acceptance. For some, there’s an enhanced level of frustration because there is no end in sight. For others, there’s a sense of assurance they can continue to operate in their new normal work environment. Regardless of whether our team members are pleased with this ‘new normal’ or not, this more permanent remote work environment is raising new issues we as leaders need to anticipate and address. At a bare minimum, how do we make it fair?
This more permanent remote work environment is raising new issues we as leaders need to anticipate and address. At a bare minimum, how do we make it fair?
- How are we going to ensure equity in what we expect of our team members when the physical environments they’re now working in or from are not equal?
- How are we going to ensure equity in what we expect of our team members when the equipment they have to work with remotely is not equal?
- How are we going to ensure equity in what we expect of our team members when the family care obligations they have to continue to manage for the foreseeable future are not equal?
There is no single answer to assure equity, but there are steps we can and need to take to support our team members in the most equitable ways possible.
There are steps we can and need to take to support our team members in the most equitable ways possible
- First, we can provide work location flexibility to our team members. With proper safety protocols in place, we can make their work environments available to those who choose to not work remotely but to work in some portion of their traditional environments. This may well require us to limit the number of team members who can access facilities at any one time, but it does provide a sense of normalcy, efficiency, and camaraderie for some.
- Second, we can assess the equipment needs of our team members and provide those with needed equipment or equipment upgrades, the resources they need to do their jobs. Providing laptops, computer cameras, lumbar pillows or other basics, go a long way in not only enhancing productivity but in showing team members you are trying to support them in doing their jobs in less than ideal circumstances.
- Third, we can give our team members more flexibility in scheduling when they work so they can be most productive given their family care obligations. Let’s be real, if a team member is supposed to homeschool two children at the same time they’re supposed to be working on a project, that’s an unrealistic expectation to have of them. If the work this team member is doing is not time sensitive, why do we need this team member to do it at a certain time?
- Fourth, we can move towards an organizational focus performance based on outcomes instead of the time clock. A Remote Only Work Environment (ROWE) methodology works for some environments and not others. For it to work, leaders need to be ready, willing, and able to support team members who may work longer, shorter, or ‘odd’ hours but achieve the production goals or outcomes needed when they’re needed. The focus is on achieving outcomes not on the amount of time spent or when it was performed. This shift in focus alone is huge and takes a lot of time for leaders and team members to internalize, establish processes around, train, implement effectively, and support.
- Fifth, we can anticipate and proactively communicate the real versus perceived inequity in how team members will work going forward. For those who choose to continue to work remotely, what will be expected of them? For those who choose to return to the physical work environment, what is expected of them? By communicating the various working formats and the specific expectations associated with each, you are making it transparent and clear to all the pros and cons of each working modality. If your team members choose to continue to work in their current mode, given the jobs they currently have, they now know the new expectations. If they want to work differently, they understand more clearly the realities of each, and they can choose to apply for one of those positions. The choices are theirs.
Working remotely is not fair to all employees, but neither is or was working in the same physical location.
Working remotely is not fair to all employees, but neither is or was working in the same physical location. In traditional work environments, some employees have workspaces with windows that open, some have a great desk or work station set up, some can wear whatever they want to work while others have to wear a uniform, some are able to come and go as they please, while others can’t given the customer-facing nature of their jobs. The work world is never fair. It’s never equal. As leaders, we can mitigate the inequities by better communicating job expectations, more proactively supporting our team members in meeting their job expectations, and then letting team members decide if the job, with its expectations and requirements, is a right fit for them.
As leaders, being clear, transparent and fair is the most equitable thing we can do.
Copyright MMXX - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about Liz on LinkedIn!